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Caring for babies and children’s teeth

February 8, 2013

Good oral health habits from an early age increases the chance of a healthy mouth in later years. It’s a good idea to begin cleaning your baby’s gums, even before their baby teeth begin to emerge.

To do this, lay your baby on your lap with their head close to your chest, then gently rub a clean and damp piece of gauze or flannel along the gums. It’s best to do this after breakfast and after the last feed of the day.

Generally, teething occurs when your child is between the age of 6 months and 24 months old. When your child’s first teeth begin to appear, it is recommended to clean their teeth twice per day using an infant toothbrush and a small smear of toothpaste. All 20 baby teeth should be developed by the age of 2.

As soon as your baby begins teething it is recommended to see the dentist. Encourage frequent checkups with the dentist, as this will get them used to the equipment, smells and feeling of being in the surgery, which should reassure them that visiting the dentist really isn’t a big deal. It is important to remember that children can sense fear in their parents, so try to be supportive if your child needs any dental treatment.

Children should begin to brush their own teeth by the age of four, but should be supervised until the age of seven. If you have a reluctant brusher, it may be a good idea to buy a novelty tooth brush with their favourite character or one which plays a tune for example to make the experience more fun.

Your child’s first permanent adult teeth should begin to appear around the age of 6 with the lower front baby teeth usually being the first to be lost. All permanent teeth should be through by the age of 13 apart from wisdom teeth which can erupt any time between the ages of 18 and 25 years.

You can drastically reduce the risk of tooth decay in your child by limiting their intake of sweets, sugary foods and drinks. Supposedly ‘healthy’ snacks such as fruit juice and dried fruit can cause problems, as they can attack your child’s teeth. It is best to limit these kinds of foods to meal times rather than giving them as snacks throughout the day. This is because frequency rather than quantity, it has been found, is the most damaging to children’s teeth long term.

Healthy eating and good oral health habits can be set very early in life, so from the first stages of your children’s development of teeth, it is important to introduce a good oral health routine and favour savoury flavours rather than sweet.