Healthy Smile, Happy Child

Healthy Smile, Happy Child

Good oral health is integral to overall health and wellbeing in children. Good oral health enables children to grow, eat, smile and sleep well. Poor oral health causes many problems including pain, sleepless nights and poor nutrition due to not being able to eat well. Good oral health starts early.

Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed and if bottle feeding, use only formula in bottles. Don’t get into the habit of putting your baby to bed with a bottle as this can lead to tooth decay later when the teeth have started coming through. A good practice if bottle-feeding is to take the bottle away before putting the baby into bed.

Teeth start coming through at around 6 months of age and are generally all in the mouth by about two and half years. The teeth start forming when the baby is still in the uterus and so it is great if mums can drink fluoridated tap water to assist in the growth of strong teeth.

Baby teeth are important. They enable children to smile, chew and help develop the jaw ready for the permanent teeth to come in at around 6 years of age. If children have tooth decay in their baby teeth, it often means that they will have tooth decay in their permanent teeth unless they can make some changes to diet and tooth brushing.

Tooth decay is the main dental problem in the early years. Tooth decay starts when bacteria in the mouth use sugars in food and drinks to make acid, which eats into the tooth surface causing a hole to form. In the early stage this can be reversed by fluoride from water, toothpaste or a professionally applied gel or varnish.

The first signs of tooth decay are usually along the gum line of the front teeth. This appears as white lines on the teeth near the gum. Parents are encouraged to lift the top front lip of their preschool children to look for any changes to the teeth and seek a dental professional’s opinion if they are concerned.


There are a few simple tips to keep children’s teeth healthy

Drink Well: Children should drink tap water rather than soft drinks, cordial or juice. Fluoride in the tap water helps keep teeth strong for both children and adults.

Eat Well: Give children healthy snacks. These can include fresh fruit and veggies, low fat cheese and crackers. Keep sugary treats for special occasions.

Clean Well: Brush teeth twice a day with a soft brush. Children under 18 months old don’t need toothpaste and low fluoride toothpaste should be used up to six years of age. Once a child reaches age 6 they should use adult fluoride toothpaste.

Dental check-ups are important. A child can have their first dental check with either a child health nurse or a dental professional as early as 12 months. The new Child Dental Benefits Schedule, which provides children with up to $1,000 worth of dental care over 2 years, has started across Australia. Families can check their eligibility with Medicare. However 2-17 year olds are eligible if they receive Family Tax Benefit A or other relevant Australian Government payments. Most public dental services are bulk billing Medicare, which means no out of pocket expenses. Families can check with their private dentist about whether there will be any additional costs.


As featured in Playgrouper Magazine – July 2014 issue

Christine Morris
Christine Morris

Founding member, Oral Health Advisory Panel Health, Promotion Consultant, Dental Service, Govt of South Australia

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