By Dr Yao Xu DDS (Minnesota) General Dental Surgeon
Cavities can form at any age in our lives. That said, tooth decay is 100% preventable. At Pure NZ Dental, our focus on dentistry for kids is to keep your kids’ teeth healthy, starting with their first baby tooth. Our gentle, caring dentists, Dr Justin, Dr Ali, and Dr Yao, are big advocates of preventative dentistry. Not only do we keep your child’s dental visits fun, we spend time discussing your child’s diet and oral hygiene habits, because good diet, together with early exams and cleanings (before bacteria builds up) can ensure a lifetime of dental health.
According to the Society for Paediatric Dentistry Singapore, 50% of 5-6 year old children have early childhood caries, a chronic bacterial disease of the teeth. Whether you are 1 or 91, sugar is bad for your teeth. When you eat or drink sugar, bacteria in your mouth produce acid, which dissolve the minerals in the teeth. When this is allowed to occur over an extended period of time, too much mineral is lost from the tooth and a hole/cavity appears. It usually affects a child’s upper front teeth first and can occur as soon as the teeth erupt, leaving yellow/brown/black marks.
Healthy kids’ teeth starts with good parenting. If you are prone to tooth decay or gum disease, your kids might be at higher risk as well. Cultivating good oral habits from young will give your kids a greater chance at a lifetime of health!
1. Be a role model.
Kids like to imitate those around them, so be a good role model and demonstrate good oral health habits for them. Brush and floss with your kids, rather than sending them into the bathroom on their own.
2. Teach them to spit.
Show kids under age 3 how to use a smear of toothpaste. Once kids are able to understand how to spit, rather than swallow the paste (usually not before 2 years of age), they can use a pea-size amount. This is to prevent children from ingesting excess amounts of fluoride.
3. Keep dental appointments.
Keep a regular routine of visiting the dentist twice a year, and involve your children. By keeping your appointments, you make it a normal activity, and they will make it a ritual. Your child should have their first dental appointment within 6 months of their first tooth or their first birthday, whichever comes first, and then twice a year after that.
4. Eat healthy foods.
Avoiding sugary drinks and foods not only helps overall health but it can create a discussion about good diets. Scan labels for honey, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose and other sweets, formula milk contains high amounts of sugar, which the bacteria feed on.
5. Drink fluoridated tap water.
Swish water around your mouth after eating sweet, sticky or acidic foods to help remove the residue, as well as strengthen the enamel layer with fluoride. Singapore has fluoridated tap water.
6. Keep up your calcium intake,
With milk, yogurt, cheese and leafy greens. That can help rebuild enamel.
7. Consider Sealants.
For healthy kids teeth, talk to your dentist about the option of having your child’s teeth sealed. Sealants can help prevent cavities and resulting fillings.
8. Use Rewards.
Let kids choose their own toothbrush (within reason) and consider a goal chart to track their progress on a goal that leads to a reward such as going to a movie, or taking a trip to the toy store.
9. Don’t share germs.
Don’t share utensils, sippy cups, bottles, pacifiers or other items with your kids or allow them to be shared with others. Bacteria in our mouths can be passed to each other and isn’t healthy. Be sure to sanitize all items that may be in your baby’s mouth to prevent bacterial infections such as thrush.
As kids grow, plan on routine dental checkups anywhere from once every 3 months to once a year, depending on your dentist’s recommendations. Keeping sugary foods in check, encouraging regular brushing and flossing, and working with your dentist will lead to good dental health.
For more information on caring for your child’s oral hygiene, including making brushing teeth for your child more fun, please refer to our dentistry for kids blog post at https://www.purenzdental.com/child-good-oral-hygiene-infant-brushing/