It’s wise to introduce your child to the dentist as soon as their very first tooth appears (usually when they are around six months old). Even though there will be hardly any teeth for us to examine at this stage, early visits will help your child feel relaxed about attending dental appointments. You can also pick up plenty of helpful advice about tooth care for tots, including how to use dental tools and dietary advice.
For further protection, fissure sealant can be applied to your child’s permanent teeth as they emerge (usually starting around age six to seven). This is a clear plastic coating which covers the narrow grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to stop bacteria from entering and help prevent tooth decay. In addition, fluoride varnishes can be painted onto young teeth to help strengthen enamel and make them more resistant to decay.
As well as regular visits to the dentist, you also need to look after your child’s teeth at home. Check out the following oral health care tips for little ones:
- Start dental care early by gently wiping new teeth (and gums) with a clean flannel. As more teeth come through, you can start using a soft toothbrush and a smear of toothpaste, and at age three to six, you can progress to a pea-sized amount of paste.
- Brush your child’s teeth for around two minutes, twice a day, and especially before bedtime. Encourage them to brush for long enough by introducing a child-friendly timer.
- Supervise tooth brushing until children are old enough to brush properly by themselves (at around seven or eight years). However, even when they can clean their teeth alone, it’s probably a good idea to occasionally check they are still using an effective technique.
- When children are around three to four years old, introduce them to flossing as their teeth will be starting to touch each other and the resulting narrow gaps will need an effective method of cleaning.
- Keep an eye on how much sugar you child is consuming, in both food and drink, and avoid prolonged periods of bottle feeding, particularly at night.
A combination of regular visits to the dentist from a young age, developing a good dental care routine at home and encouraging a healthy diet will help keep your child’s teeth in great condition for life.