Helping a child clean his teeth is fun and easy, right? Well, sure it is – if you happen to enjoy wrestling with an irate, bitey little octopus with attitude! (Just mine?)
Mum Central sits down for a chat with Sydney dentist Dr Amy Dempster to get all the know-how for ensuring your kid’s dental hygiene is tip top– without the daily battle.
A good routine starts young – as soon as that first tooth pops through, in fact! “Basically from the moment the teeth erupt you should be wiping them once per day with a soft cloth,” says Dr Dempster. “Even breastmilk has lots of sugar in it! It also gets them used to the idea of cleaning their teeth.”
GET HANDS ON
You should be assisting your child morning and night with brushing until they are four. After that, “You can let them do it themselves in the morning but make sure an adult cleans them at night,” says Dr Dempster. “I find it easier with my own kids to stand behind them when I brush their teeth and tip their head back a little so that you can see. Don’t be afraid to get your fingers in to hold their cheeks out of the way and give you good visibility!”
DON'T FIGHT THE FIGHT
What about those kids who scream the house down at the mere sight of a toothbrush…? “I think for kids who are refusing to brush it’s important not to make it a battle,” says Dr Dempster. “Lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement. I also find the cheap electric brushes from the supermarket are a great way to get them involved and interested. They can choose the character!”
CUT BACK ON FRUIT
We all know sugar is bad for teeth – but fruit is okay… right? “Never brush teeth and let them have fruit or milk – both of these have sugar in them and can lead to tooth decay over time,” says Dr Dempster, adding, “Don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s fruit it’s good for them. I agree that one to two serves of fruit is fine for most kids, however kids who snack all day on fruit and drink juice and cordial instead of water are the kids who often end up with holes and needing extensive work!”
And if you thought juice was bad, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that soft drink is a massive no-no. “Kids should not be drinking soft drinks, especially cola drinks,” says Dr Dempster. “A baby tooth if left in a glass of cola will completely dissolve in a matter of hours.” Yikes!
BUT THEY’RE JUST BABY TEETH – WHAT’S THE FUSS?
“I see a lot of decay in kids these days, and most of it is preventable. Important things for parents to realise are that baby teeth are critical to the development of the jaw and maintaining space for the adult teeth,” says Dr Dempster. “Other than the trauma to a child to extract a baby tooth, and the aforementioned purpose of them for jaw development, it can also have a really detrimental effect on function (chewing) and self-esteem if kids lose their baby teeth too early.”
So there you have it! Nothing beats a big toothy grin from your child – and it’s even better when it’s cavity-free.