Children’s Teeth - Good Oral Care From An Early Age

Getting children off to a good start can help to ensure healthy teeth and gums for life.

If we look back in our life, we will probably discover that many things that we do and that we take for granted, were instilled in us from an early age. Whether that is to say ‘thank you’ to people, or not to drop litter in the street, we probably don’t even think about it because our parents taught us that this was the normal and right thing to do.

The same thing applies when it comes to cleaning our teeth. Whether your parents supervised your brushing and made sure you did it correctly or whether they simply left you to your own devices, perhaps telling you to give them a ‘quick brush’ may well determine how healthy your teeth are today.

Some of you will now be parents of babies or small children, and, if you weren’t taught good teeth cleaning habits as a child, there is a real risk that you will pass this on to your own children, potentially setting them up to have numerous oral health problems throughout their lives.

In today’s blog then, we are going to offer some advice for parents to help you guide your children towards better oral health care.

Babies

You may think that because young babies have no teeth there is no need to worry about cleaning them. While this is true, you should clean their gums for them using a clean damp cloth. Ideally, this should be done after feeding and a gentle clean in this way can help to prevent bacterial gum problems.   At around one year old, you should also contact AR Smiles to arrange their first appointment.

Although it is highly unlikely any problems will be found, it is good to get them used to the smells, sights and sounds of a dental practice. Studies have indicated that people exposed in this way are less likely to develop a fear of the dentist.

Toddlers

From around two to five years old, you are still very much in control of your young child's oral health habits. There are many things you can do at this age to establish a good routine and hopefully set them up for healthier teen years.  During this period, they will almost certainly develop the taste for sweeter foods. While this is natural and ok to some degree, it is best to try to discourage excessive consumption of sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits etc. Try to keep these to a minimum and encourage other tastes to help them have a more balanced and tooth friendly diet.

From when the first teeth erupt, you should encourage their teeth cleaning habits. You will need to do this for them for most of this period. Using a soft toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, brush their teeth and gums gently using a child friendly toothpaste that they like the taste of. This might prove to be a bit of a challenge, depending on the child, but it is essential to get them used to the experience of having their teeth brushed from an early stage.

It is also essential that you make sure that, having visited our Eltham dental clinic from an early age, this is maintained every six months. Although their first teeth will eventually fall out, they should still be kept healthy, not only to avoid your child suffering with painful toothaches, but also because premature tooth loss can cause the adult teeth that follow to erupt incorrectly and they may become crooked and uneven.

Pre teens

From around six to twelve years old, you will probably be presented with new challenges as your child starts to develop more independence. New ‘tactics’ such as ‘bribery’ may be useful here. Offering them treats such as cinema visits or toys instead of sweets and chocolates can be an effective way of avoiding excessive sugar consumption. They should also start to brush their own teeth by this stage but we recommend that you still try to supervise to some extent, and especially if you suspect that they are not brushing them or doing so for a very short period of time.

This is also a good time to try to encourage them to introduce flossing to their daily oral health regime. Naturally, regular check up appointments should be maintained at this stage too.

Teenagers

Hopefully, if you have followed the above advice, your teenager should be conscientious about cleaning their teeth and will do so willingly and voluntarily. Teenagers often live in their own world though so don’t be afraid to remind them of the importance of cleaning their teeth from time to time. Hopefully too, they will keep their sugar consumption to a sensible level as you will have less control over them at this stage. You might need to ‘nag’ them to go to the dentist too as they may start to avoid doing this if they can get away with it. Orthodontic issues can often arise during this period and crooked teeth into their adult life is a real possibility if they don’t have their teeth monitored regularly.

Finally, new challenges may arise during the later teen years especially, with drugs, alcohol and smoking being habits that some teenagers may indulge in. Every child (and parent) is different and you will know how to do this best with your own child, but you should obviously discourage them from these habits. Not only do they come with very real health risks, but can have a devastating effect on their oral health too.

If you follow the above advice, there is a good chance that your young child will reach adulthood with a healthy set of teeth and gums and a routine of regular check ups at our Eltham dental practice. They may not thank you for it now, and it can certainly be challenging encouraging kids to look after their teeth, but there is little doubt that their adult selves will thank you for it later on in life.

If you would like to make an appointment for your child or need any advice on looking after your child’s teeth and gums, we are here to help you. You can call the AR Smiles team by phoning us on 020 8856 7759.

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