Establishing good oral care habits are essential for a family. This means leading by example and knowing which products and techniques to use, along with knowing when to go to the dentist.
Children should start brushing their teeth as soon as their first tooth comes through, as milk teeth need to be cared for in the same way as adult teeth. A child friendly toothbrush can be used which is safe in terms of size and dimensions, and the correct toothpaste should be used for the child’s age group. This is important as toothpaste for different age groups will contain varying amounts of fluoride, so children need to use the correct product for their age group.
Children should brush their teeth two times per day, once in the morning and once in the evening before bed. If a child has a bottle of milk or any other drink other than water, they should also brush their teeth again after, if they are going to bed. This is because milk contains lactose which is a type of sugar which can lead to the build up of bacteria, plaque, gum disease and tooth decay. Even though a bed time drink is comforting, it should ideally be phased in earlier prior to going to bed, and children must brush their teeth after.
Children can learn by being shown, or watching their parents. If a parent or carer stands behind the child, they can also help to show the brushing technique more effectively than from the front face on. Children need to spend a full two minutes, both in the morning and again in the evening. Flossing is best left until a child is older.
Children need to brush as soon as their first tooth has come through, and continue even when teething. Brushing can actually soothe teething pains by gently massaging the gums. An egg timer can be used to ensure the full 2 minute brushing time is completed, or playing a favourite song is an entertaining way to brush.
With regards to going to the dentist, a child should register at their parents dental practice once their first tooth has come through, or even earlier than this. They will then need to attend for checkups as advised by your dentist, generally every 6 or 12 months.
As children get older, the dentist will apply a layer of fluoride on some biting surfaces for added protection. Dentists can also evaluate the need for orthodontics by looking at spacing, crowding, crooked teeth and the size of the upper and lower arches. By attending regular checkups, any required treatment or orthodontic treatment can be planned and commenced at the optimal time, which will lead to the best possible results. Orthodontic treatment can be started at the age of 7 years old.
Children are entitled to free NHS dental checkups and treatment with an NHS dentist, including orthodontic care. If you attend a private dentistry practice, they may see children free of charge if you are registered with them, until the age of 11 or 12.