This is the second part of ‘Baby Teeth – Tiny in Size but Big in Importance!’, to read part 1 of this article and for information on babies and younger toddlers, click here
At around the age of 18 months – 2 years of age, you can start using a tiny smear of baby fluoride toothpaste with an age appropriate baby toothbrush on your toddler twice a day. Help and supervision is needed until about 8 years of age as they do not have the manual dexterity yet to clean all areas of their teeth. Make tooth brushing time a fun time and part of their daily routine. Singing brushing songs to their favourite tunes such as Twinkle, twinkle Little Star will encourage them to make this a habit. Regular 6 month visits to your dentist should be scheduled from now.
- Brush in front of a mirror
- Angle their soft brush towards the gums and move the brush in gentle circles to clean the outer and inner sides of the teeth
- Lift the lips to reach the gum line
- Gently brush the chewing surfaces
- Encourage them to brush without swallowing and to spit out the toothpaste.
School age children
At this age your child can be using regular adult fluoride toothpaste, albeit only a small amount! Some supervision is still required until the age of around eight even if it is just finishing the clean for them. Regular dentist visits are important. The dentist may recommend fissure sealants which are thin plastic coatings that bond to the chewing surface to stop plaque forming in the grooves of teeth to prevent decay. They are simple and quick and cause little discomfort or pain to your child.
Tooth decay, or ‘caries’ is to be avoided or, at the very least, treated immediately. Plaque on teeth is bacteria and it feeds on sugars in food and drinks. It produces an acid that damages the surface of the teeth. The longer the tooth decay is left untreated the more likely your child will develop pain and discomfort. Anxiety at dental visits can happen as they will associate going to the dentist with pain, and more expensive treatment may be required. The first sign of tooth decay is discolouration, with brown spots on the teeth or a dull white band along the gum line. The gums can also appear red and swollen. A visit to the dentist every six months in addition to brushing and flossing at home, and drinking only water between meals goes a long way to avoid this problem. Prevention is better than a cure!