Recognising and treating problems with your child’s oral health is difficult if you’re not trained, but there are things you can do to ensure you’re looking after your children’s teeth
Post by Dr Tiffany Kenton, dentist
Many parents feel anxious about looking after their children’s teeth, because they don’t always know what problems to look for, and whether something is a problem that should be referred to a doctor or dentist. What’s apparent to a trained eye is not always apparent to an average person too, but there are things you can do to give yourself a couple of clues.
Firstly, you have to look in your child’s mouth. Use a torch, because it will be dark in there. If you see any brown spots on the gum, then that’s something that indicates there may be a problem, and that a dentist should have a look at them.
Another very easy clue is if your child isn’t eating properly. You know best your own child’s eating habits, but if he or she is off their food, that’s something you should discuss with a medical professional, and it’s possibly the case because the child has a dental problem.
Other than that, there’s lots you can do before baby’s first dental visit that will get them used to the feeling of cleaning their teeth, and to counter some of the most common problems faced by young patients. As soon as the child gets their milk teeth or baby teeth, parents should start to brush the child’s teeth with just a soft tooth brush. At that age you don’t need to use any toothpaste at all. When the child is older you can look at using a children’s toothpaste (and there’s a few on the market), and after the age of six years they can use a pea-sized amount of adult toothpaste.
Even before the teeth erupt, I would recommend using a face cloth or something similarly gentle just to wipe the gums which will, in turn, get the child used to the oral hygiene procedures as well.
But really, the main issue with little ones is when you come to bedtime, never give them the bottle with milk or anything else that’s high sugar. There have been many studies done into the rising rate of tooth decay in Australian children, and most professionals agree that one of the key reasons it’s happening is because of processed foods and sugary drinks being given to children. If you send your child to bed with a bottle full of milk, formula or juice (let alone soft drink!), that will end up causing major problems with tooth decay.
Those oral health problems can continue with them for years if they’re a result of poor dietary habits. It’s a shocking statistic, but the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare tell us that half of all 12-year-olds have tooth decay in their permanent teeth, and that is a tough reflection of the diet being fed to children.