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A child’s smile can melt their parents’ hearts, however getting a child to look after their teeth can be a parent’s nightmare. From making up nursery rhymes to showing cartoons of dinosaurs brushing their teeth to tales of the tooth fairy – ensuring your little one has perfect pearl whites is no easy feat.  Here are the three key dental health factors for children that all mums and dads need to consider…

DIET

Sugary food and drinks create an acidic environment for bacteria to thrive on. The bacteria then start to demineralise the tooth’s surface, in other words, the tooth starts to decay. If consumed in high amounts, fizzy and citric drinks, such as lemonade, can also erode your child’s teeth and alter their shape and height as a consequence. This happens especially with children who tend to hold the drink in their mouths for a few seconds before swallowing it. Drinking through a straw can help protect their teeth from eroding.

 

So does that mean you should not feed your child any sugar? No, it does not! It is the frequency of sugar rather than the quantity of sugar that parents should worry about. The more frequent the sugar attack the higher the chance of tooth decay. For example, if you give your child five Mars bars to eat, it is better that he/she eats all five Mars bars in one go than to spread them out during the day because the latter causes five sugar attacks, whilst the former causes one sugar attack. Though we don’t recommend giving them that amount at all.

Any snacks or drinks between main meals should be non-sugary ones. So don’t deprive your children from sugary foods/drinks, just be clever about the timing!

Here’s a list of food/drinks which are sugary:

1)     Fizzy drinks such as Coca-cola and Sprite

2)     Any juice (yes even fresh juice causes tooth decay if consumed frequently)

3)     Smoothies

4)     Flavoured water

5)     Milkshakes

6)     Biscuits & cookies

7)     Chocolates, sweets, cakes

8)     Muffins and pastries

9)     Cereal bars

10)  Dried fruits such as dried raisins

11)  Flavoured yoghurts

12)  Honey

13)  Fresh fruit

 

ORAL HYGIENE ROUTINE

Children should make it a habit to brush their teeth twice a day, everyday with fluoride toothpaste. This keeps their teeth clean as well as maintains the health of their gums. The fluoride in the toothpaste plays an important role in remineralising and strengthening the enamel, which is the first outer layer of the tooth. The quantity of fluoride present in toothpastes is a small amount and will not harm your child if they swallow small amounts of it by mistake.

Children up to six years of age should use children’s toothpaste and their  brushing should be supervised by their parents. Children aged six and above can switch to using adult’s toothpaste.

What about flossing? A good time for your child to floss is when all his/her adult teeth have come through. This will vary from one person to the next but the average age is 13.

Easy tips on brushing teeth:

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes
  • Use a small headed toothbrush (the smaller the head the easier it will be to reach all corners of your mouth and teeth)
  • The bristles of the brush should be soft to medium
  • Apply gentle pressure when brushing your teeth to avoid abrading your teeth
  • Brushing twice to three times a day is sufficient, do not over do it to avoid tooth abrasion
  • The best technique for tooth brushing is by holding your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and making small circular movements as you go along from tooth to tooth. Brush the outer and inner tooth surfaces, back molars and your tongue

 

REGULAR DENTAL CHECK-UPS 

Bringing your child regularly to the dentist from an early age has many benefits:

–        It reduces anxiety as the child grows up

–        It enables the dentist to monitor and maintain the health of your child’s teeth and gums

–        It allows the dentist to advise the child and parents on diet and oral hygiene

–        It enables the dentist to spot problems early on and so prevent extensive or more complicated treatment in future

–        It allows the dentist to spot the need for braces

–        It allows the dentist to apply concentrated fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth to reduce the risk of teeth decay

 

Words: Dr. Maysoon Abdulmajeed, Clinical Director and lead General Dentist at Just White Dental Clinic

Image: Okiadi S/S14