Oral Care and Health for Kids
1. When do I need to start brushing my child’s teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste?
As soon as teeth erupt. This allows for the setting of good oral habits from the word ‘go’. In addition, young children can be quite sensitive and non-compliant with tooth brushing so the earlier you start the better. In terms of toothpaste only a very small amount (a smear or half a pea size) is required.
2. How long do I need to brush my child’s teeth for, and what type of strokes do I use?
In an ideal world 2 minutes is recommended for tooth brushing. However, 2 minutes is an eternity for preschool and the toddler age group. Establishing healthy and regular habits is more important than the amount of brushing at this stage. A scrubbing motion may be used for the chewing surface and circular or up/down motion is best for the other tooth surfaces that face the lip, cheeks or tongue.
3. Is there a best position to brush teeth in? When we stand in the bathroom, my kid wants to wriggle away!
Under the age of 2 years a knee-to-knee position is best. This is where you sit in a chair facing an adult helper in the knee-to-knee position. Picture yourself (the ‘brusher’) with the baby’s head reclined and resting in your lap and legs resting in the helpers lap. The helper carefully distracts and controls the baby’s hands and legs while you brush the baby’s teeth from behind.
If only one parent/helper/carer is available – rest the baby’s head in your lap (e.g. sitting on the floor, on the bed or on the sofa), with the baby’s head on a pillow/cushion and brush from behind. A position similar to when you visit a dental professional and recline in the chair.
As children get older (2-3 years) you may prefer to sit them in a sofa, chair or semi-reclined so they ‘do not’ wiggle away. You should never leave a pre-school age child (3-6 years) brushing on their own and tooth brushing should be supervised at all times.
4. When is my child old enough to brush his own teeth?
You may start allowing them to do so from ages three to four however children will not acquire sufficient motor skills up to the age of 8-9 years on average. Therefore supervision is always encouraged and children should be brushing twice a day (every morning and before bedtime).
5. When should I start taking my child to the dentist, and how often should he go?
Well… in my case I am biased. According to our guidelines every child should be seen by the age of 12 months when sound dental and parental advice may be provided to parents/carers at a very young age. This approach would also allow for early detection for dental problems including early childhood caries, certain habits, oral hygiene practices etc. The dentist will then determine whether your child needs to attend the dentist once or twice per year, or more often depending on their individual needs. At preschool/toddler age a Paediatric dentist may be more beneficial given the fact we are more accustomed to younger children and often assess the child in a holistic approach. That is a paediatric dentists centres advice based on the overall needs of the child in terms of growth and development and not just assess the dentition at a given point in time.
6. What happens if one of a child’s baby teeth is knocked out by accident? What do we do?
Leave it out! However you should seek a dental consultation to ascertain that there is no other damage to the remaining dentition or other dental structures/soft tissues.
As featured in Practical Parenting – August issue.