Our own behaviour often influences that of our kids’. This is the first of a two-part blog series, outlining the importance of oral care through every phase of life, so you know how best to care for your and your loved ones’ teeth and mouths, as you grow and age. Here’s how you can inspire your kids to be proud of their mouths.
Little teeth matter
Little teeth means little need for oral care, right? Wrong.
85% of toddler to preschool age children in the Western Cape already have dental decay.
Oral care should begin at a very early stage of your baby’s life, even before their first teeth emerge.
Caring for your child’s teeth
- Wipe your newborn’s gums and inside their mouth daily, after their last feed, using a warm and wet washcloth or a piece of wet gauze wrapped around your finger.
- Look after milk teeth. They preserve space for the permanent ones and help babies to chew and talk.
- When the first teeth emerge (between 6 and 12 months), take wet gauze or a soft infant toothbrush and gently brush with water twice a day. Introduce a very small amount of low-fluoride toothpaste (between the size of a grain of rice or a pea) from around 18 months
- Schedule their first dentist appointment by the time they are 1 year of age. This not only familiarises them with the dentist, but also allows a thorough check of the mouth.
- Avoid giving your baby a bottle before bed or during the night. The liquids (aside from water) in these bottles can sit on the teeth, causing erosion.
- Wean them off a dummy (pacifier) as soon as possible. Continuing to suck dummies or fingers after the age of 1 may affect the development of their teeth and jaws, or even their speech.
- Encourage them to eat healthily – limit sugary foods. Squeezable food pouches may be harmful to growing teeth, as they contain loads of sugar. A balanced diet gives children more of the vitamins and minerals they need to support healthy teeth and gums.
- Make sure the toothbrushes your children are using are the correct ones for their age. The size of the toothbrush head and handle and softness of bristles are all things to consider when choosing the best toothbrush.
The Dental Wellness Trust is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the general health and well-being of young children through dental wellness, especially those most in need.
One of their outreach programs entails educating members of disadvantaged communities on the correct way to brush and care for the teeth, with a special focus on the kids.
Contact them to find out how you can get involved.
Teens and teeth – oral care in adolescents
Introducing oral care to your kids at an early age is simple enough. As a parent, you are (largely) in full control of your child’s oral health. As they enter their teen years, it’s an entirely different ballgame.
However, there are simple habits and helpful tips you could encourage, that would significantly benefit their oral health.
Speech, the ability to concentrate and learn, nutrition, and self-esteem are directly tied to the condition of the mouth. And we know how important appearance is to teens.
- Make sure they actually brush their teeth! Encourage setting a timer on their phones, so they know how long they’re brushing for.
- Get them to ease up on energy drinks. They’re high in sugar and colourants, and actually not that good for them. Instead, encourage a healthy diet and adequate sleep, to help them stay ahead of the game.
- As kids get older, their bite and the straightness of their teeth can become an issue. Aligners are gaining increasing popularity, but metal braces are still quite widely used. Make sure they know the correct way to clean and care for their teeth if they’re undergoing orthodontic treatment, wearing traditional metal braces. Chat to us for some guidance on maintenance, cleaning, and post-treatment whitening.
- Accidents happen, especially amongst adolescents (bless them!). Ensure they are wearing a mouth guard during contact sports and when engaging in any activity that could cause injury to their teeth.
- If they do happen to go through the unfortunate experience of breaking a tooth, though, all is not lost! If the broken part of the tooth is kept, your dentist can glue it back on. Our team has successfully achieved this, so we know what we’re talking about.
- Tooth fissures (deep pits and grooves on the surfaces of the teeth) are particularly common in the molars of children and teenagers. Toothbrush bristles can’t always reach inside these fissures, causing a build-up of bacteria, and eventually, cavities. A sealant is a clear, plastic material we place onto the surface of your teeth to help protect it and prevent any bacteria from entering the fissures.
Encourage oral care in your kids from a young age, so it’s already part of their daily routines as they get older. This includes 6-monthly dental checkups and hygiene appointments.
Contact us at Enamel Clinic if you’d like some advice on your teen’s oral care.