It’s crucial then that the environment be well managed and the teeth properly cared for to help avoid the need for professional interventions, such as fillings or sadly, early extractions.
This is why Cathy Boyce (Oral Health Therapist) recommends that your child’s first dental visit is scheduled within the first few years of their lives. This will enable parents to:
- collect the correct information from a dental professional about their child’s oral health,
- feel confident and educated on healthy habit tips to share with their children,
- discuss the issues that may impact a young child’s oral growth and development, and
- begin a positive experience of visiting a dental practice regularly as part of a lifelong routine.
IDENTIFY TROUBLESOME HABITS SOONER RATHER THAN LATER
In young children, the early identification of potential problems can really help with the long term oral health. These include:
- Thumb sucking and extended or overuse of a dummy. Both can change the formation and development of the dental arch and may lead to ongoing orthodontic problems.
- Dietary habits, which may have a detrimental effect on enamel.
- Early detection of high risk teeth, some of which may benefit from preventive ‘fissure sealants’ to block the bacteria, and sugars or carbohydrates from settling into these difficult to clean deep grooves.
BRUSHING IS A DEVELOPED SKILL
Dental decay is caused by bacteria living within the dental plaque, which grows on dental enamel and therefore shouldn’t be left for extended periods of time(over 24 hours). Brushing and flossing is necessary to ensure dental plaque is thoroughly removed, but this can’t be achieved by children who are still developing their fine motor skills.
However, practice makes perfect and young children need to ‘practice’ the skill of brushing in the early years, but shouldn’t be given the total responsibility for cleaning until they’re competent. Therefore, it’s recommended that parents actively help with their children’s brushing until the age of eight! Their competence to go it alone can be assessed at their regular dental check-ups.
FLOSSING IS A HEALTHY HABIT EMBRACE IT EARLY!
It’s important that kids learn healthy habits for long term health benefits. The earlier they learn what they are the more likely they’ll embrace them.
We should all be flossing daily. For children, flossing should begin when teeth touch each other and parents usually find it easier to use a flossing ‘tool’ with their children.
The removal of plaque from the enamel surface between the teeth by flossing makes a huge difference to the rate of dental decay in children. This is because enamel in first teeth is much softer and will decay more quickly than adult teeth.
Cathy’s three favourite tips for parents:
- At the age of one or two years of age, present your child’s first dental visit as a ‘help mum and dad keep your teeth healthy’ type of visit – keep it positive, informative and fun!
- Make sure enough time is allocated, so that you or your child will not feel rushed (30 minutes is ideal). With the extra time, you’ll be able to ask a lot of questions!
- Two year old molars don’t fall out till the average age of 12. Molars are important as they hold the space open for the correct placement of permanent adult teeth. Molars are needed to chew – be sure you and your child look after them!