AMN: What are the most important steps we can take to care for our children’s teeth?
DR SC: There’s no real secret to proper dental care for children’s teeth. One of the most important things is to ensure you are brushing your child’s teeth from the time they first emerge. Once the child is 18 months of age use a fluoride toothpaste. Consult your dental professional to ensure you use the right strength paste for your child. It’s also important that you brush the child’s teeth for them to start with and then closely supervise their brushing technique, until around the age of 8 years when children generally have enough dexterity to reach all the surfaces of the teeth.
AMN: What are the biggest causes of tooth decay in children?
DR SC: The main causes of tooth decay are a combination of poor oral hygiene and a frequent intake of sugar. Sugary food and drinks encourage the growth of bad plaque bacteria. These bacteria generate acids which harm the teeth and cause them to decay. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to serious issues, including abscesses and loss of teeth
AMN: How young can tooth decay start if we don’t take care of a child’s teeth?
DR SC: Tooth decay can start to form as soon as a child’s teeth erupt, hence the importance of starting a proper oral hygiene routine at that time. This is a habit that needs to be established early. Children are more likely to carry on with this routine through their teenage years and into adulthood if they are encouraged by their parents at an early age.
It is also very important to be sure that the child is never put to bed with anything in their bottle other than water. Tooth decay can be prevalent in children as young as 20 months.
AMN: At what age should we be taking children to their first dental appointment?
DR SC: Take your child to see a dental practitioner as soon as their teeth begin to erupt to be sure you have the best advice about how to care for their teeth. Tooth decay is a multifactorial disease and your dental practitioner will be able to assess these factors and give individualised care.
AMN: How can we encourage our kids to brush their teeth?
DR SC: While tooth brushing time can be difficult until the habit is established there are little things that parents can do to make it more fun. Purchasing a toothbrush with the child’s favourite cartoon character can help get them excited about brushing. An electric toothbrush (once your child is old enough) is another surefire way to have more fun in the bathroom. Colgate have also developed an educational app for iOS and Android called Brushing Adventure. It has two educational mini-games that teach kids the correct brushing technique and duration. Finally, you should consider brushing your teeth alongside your child to act as a role model.