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How should I best care for my child's teeth?

It is vitally important to start a good oral hygiene routine long before your baby’s first tooth had emerged. Using a soft damp cloth to wipe your baby’s gums after feedings will help prevent the build-up of bacteria, when teeth start appear, use a soft bristled children’s toothbrush and children’s toothpaste twice a day.

For children who are at preschool-age, start introducing them to a fluoride toothpaste, with only a small pea-sized amount on the brush, as young children tend to swallow much of the toothpaste, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause permanent stains on their teeth.

By encouraging your children to brush when you do, they will lean it is a normal daily routine and will establish good long-term oral hygiene.

What are tooth caries?

Often referred to as cavities, when we eat, bacteria present in your mouth react with the sugar and starch in foods, this creates an acid that attacks tooth enamel for up to 20 minutes after eating. This acid causes tooth decay and becomes small holes called caries.

Everything your child eats and drinks will affect their body and teeth. With good tooth care, reducing the amount of foods high in sugar and starch, including sweets and soft drinks, as well as reducing snacking between meals, will help keep carries from developing in your child’s teeth, reducing the need for fillings. Teeth-friendly snacks include fresh fruits, vegetable sticks, cheese and crackers.

Babies who are put to bed with a bottle containing milk or juice can develop dental problems with gums and newly emerged infant teeth.

When liquids, including milk, or juice which has a high concentration of citric acid and sugar, are in constant contact with their teeth for a long time, the sugars cause tooth decay, and can lead to a condition known as bottle mouth. Your baby’s teeth can develop cavities and become pitted or discoloured.

Although putting your baby to bed with a bottle is a good way to settle them for their nap, instead of their bottle containing juice or milk, it is advised for them to have plain water to limit their teeth’s exposure to decay causing sugars and plaque build-up.

What age should be my child’s first dental visit?

It is recommended that you introduce your child to your general dentist at around age one. Many people like to include their child’s first visit with their own appointment to help them relax and see that there is no need to be afraid.

Their first appointment will generally consist of a quick oral examination to ensure there are no gum problems or early signs of tooth decay. A dental therapist specialises in treating children’s dental health and they will review with you information about diet, bottles, tooth brushing and fluoride use. Visiting the dentist from a young age will help your child become comfortable with their dentist, allowing them to establish a trusting rapport and the good habit of regular dental check-ups.