Good dental habits begin early, and by caring for your baby’s mouth and teeth as early as you can, you will help baby develop good dental habits.
It’s never too early to start oral hygiene. You should actually begin cleaning your baby’s mouth in the first few months of life. Wipe out the mouth gently and massage the gums pads after feeds, and before bedtime with a damp gauze pad wrapped around your finger or a damp washcloth. Hold your baby so that their head rests comfortably in your lap, this will aid stability and provide better visibility.
Begin cleaning baby’s first teeth as soon as they appear through the gum. Continue to use a finger wrapped with clean gauze or you may use a very soft bristled child-sized toothbrush with a smear of mild toothpaste when the back teeth erupt. After teeth begin coming in, do not send your child to bed with a baby bottle unless it is water only. This can lead to a serious condition called Early Childhood Caries (baby bottle tooth decay).
Sometime around the first birthday, you should schedule your child for their first dental visit. This allows an opportunity to examine the mouth and check oral development. Most importantly, the teeth can be checked for cleanliness. Early dental visits ensures appropriate advice on prevention and the best care plan for your child are made.
To avoid plaque build-up it is important to thoroughly clean your child’s teeth and gums at least twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste.
Teach a toddler how to brush his own teeth with a fluoride containing toothpaste (6+ years) but supervise closely. After your toddler has had a turn brushing parents should then brush teeth again to make sure they are well cleaned – not many children have the dexterity to do an adequate job removing plaque! Make brushing time fun with songs, games and praise. Brush after every meal at home. If that’s not possible, brush every morning and night. Have your child spit and NO rinsing after, so a little fluoridated toothpaste helps to strengthen the enamel surface of teeth. We recommend parents help brush teeth for children until they are 8 years old.
Remember, each tooth has five surfaces - a front, a back, two sides and a top. The only sure way to prevent dental disease is to clean every surface. It is helpful to use disclosing solution to show areas where plaque is being missed. The toothbrush should be soft with a small head. Angle the bristles of the toothbrush towards the gums, place brush on gums and teeth, and brush straight across, using slight pressure. Do this for the front and back of the teeth. For brushing the tops/eating surfaces of the teeth, have bristles pointing directly at the surface and use the same straight across motion. NO FLICKS or CIRCLES!
Children should brush for at least 2 minutes. Teach proper brushing techniques to cover every part of the teeth. Be generous with praise. Children will learn to take pride in their clean teeth and sparkling smile.
It is easier to brush your child’s teeth sitting or standing from behind looking into the bathroom mirror. This way the motions of tooth brushing are similar to that in your own mouth. Alternatively you can have your child lying on your lap so their head is supported and then brush their teeth.
The easiest way to brush for very young children is lying them down with their head in your lap gives better access and vision to brushing, as well as keeping their head stable.
Use a soft bristled toothbrush with a small head. Lift the lip and angle the bristles towards the gums (at 45 degrees) and jiggle the toothbrush back and forward while moving down the tooth surface. Flicks and circles are less effective in removing plaque.
Electric or battery powered toothbrushes may also be used. Some children find these a novelty. Again parents should help with brushing and keep the toothbrush on each tooth surface for 5 seconds. A general guide to the time length of brushing is 2 minutes. This could be timed with a watch or even an egg timer.
Flossing is important to remove plaque from between teeth once two teeth are touching.
The easiest way to floss your child’s teeth is to firstly have them lying on the sofa or in your lap. Tie some floss (preferably dental ribbon or tape as this slides easier) into a circle. Gently slide the floss between the teeth with one finger in front and behind the tooth.
Placing a smear of toothpaste onto the floss will help deliver fluoride between teeth.
Ideally teeth should be flossed at least once every day. If this is not possible, even flossing twice a week is beneficial.
Avoid sweet snacks/liquids between meals. The sugars will damage the teeth.
After the night brush, give only plain water to drink. Don’t undo the hard work of brushing. Otherwise, make it clear that you have to brush his teeth again.
Baby should drink from a cup to prevent coating teeth and gums with milk or other fluids. Fruit juices are acidic and damage the teeth. Give only in dilute form or give water after every drink to rinse his mouth.
Milk and cheese have been reported as offering protective benefits and Professor Eric Reynolds and his team of researchers from the University of Melbourne have isolated one specific protein from milk, casein-phosphopeptide amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP). This has shown considerable potential for use in caries prevention and enamel remineralisation.
Casein-phosphopeptide is a sticky protein that binds calcium and phosphate irons and stabilises them in an amorphous state. When applied within the oral cavity CPP-ACP will readily bind to pellicle, plaque, soft tissues and increases the bio-availability of calcium phosphate on the tooth surface. CPP-ACP thus helps maintain a state of super saturation of minerals at the tooth surface depressing demineralisation and enhancing remineralisation.
CPP-ACP is recognised as a food additive and is safe for patients although it should not be provided to those with milk protein allergies.
CPP-ACP acts as a buffer for acid challenges, provides a source of mineral for remineralisation and acts to form a protective protein layer for the teeth. CPP-ACP works in synergy with fluoride.
Make sure that your kids get an adequate amount of fluoride.
Fluoride is the single most influential factor in the decrease in cavities among today's children. Fluoride incorporates itself into tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attack. Fluoride helps remineralise (strengthen) the enamel during early stages of tooth decay or white spot lesions (demineralization). Fluoride works best topically when applied in low doses frequently, such as, from water, or in toothpastes used twice a day.
Most children get adequate amounts of fluoride because it is added to the municipal water supply. However, if your city or town does not add fluoride to its water supply, consult your dentist or Paediatric Dentist about whether or not to give your child fluoride supplements.