Blog series: Good habits for life

Posted 16 May 2016

Dr James Russell

It is never too early to start caring for our children’s teeth. As soon as their deciduous or “baby” teeth have erupted they need to be looked after.

It’s a common misconception that baby teeth don’t matter so much as they will be replaced by adult teeth. The truth is that they are important to help guide adult teeth into position. Also, baby teeth are weaker than adult teeth and decay can spread rapidly which can lead to infections. These infections can be detrimental to the child’s general health. Finally, we want our children to have only positive experiences of the dentist so good dental health will avoid invasive procedures such as fillings and extractions.

So how can we ensure we give our children’s teeth the best start?

Brush twice a day. I know from brushing my own children’s teeth and also from seeing toddlers in the clinic that it’s not easy. The key here is perseverance as it will get easier. Brushing twice a day is still important, even if you can’t be as thorough as you’d like.

As children get older you can start to make brushing fun. Maybe play a song for two minutes or use an app such as www.brushdj.com. You can offer rewards, maybe use a star chart so they can track their brushing over the week. Ultimately, this all helps to form the good habits they need. The importance of acting as a good role model can’t be underestimated.

You also need to think about what your child eats and drinks, not only for their general health but also dental health. It is best to eat the majority of food at meal times rather than snacking through the day, as this restricts the amount of time teeth are exposed to the acid produced by the bacteria on teeth.

For toddlers, you need to be very aware of the frequency of eating and drinking as many children love to snack, between meals. Try to limit drinks outside of meal times to water and choose “tooth kind” food such as cheese for any snacks. Remember, no drinks other than water after the nighttime brush!

These habits become so important as our children reach their teenage years when compliance to parental rules can often be challenged. Their new found freedom and ability to make their own choices can lead to dental problems unless good habit have been formed. I also think this is why being too strict and having a total ban on treats can lead to a “rebellion” in teenagers. It’s all about teaching them how to make responsible decisions.

Whatever age you are, just remember these simple steps

  1. Reduce frequency of food and drink
  2. Brush twice a day
  3. Visit the dentist regularly

I hope this helps explain that how as adults and parents, understanding how to look after our teeth can not only benefit us but also our children.