Questions parents ask about kids’ teeth

Questions parents ask about kids’ teeth

We get a lot of parents bringing their kids in for the dental treatments here at Myers Street, and because there are so many variables when it comes to children’s teeth – as opposed to adult ones – a lot of people seem to be asking the same questions. Which is fine – it’s good to be curious about this stuff because how else are you going to know?

Daily flossing and twice-daily brushing are important habits for preventing childhood tooth decay and gum disease. Most parents have a fairly good idea about good oral hygiene. Yet, where we get a lot of questions surrounding the finer details. Is fluoride safe for babies? When is it okay to start using toothpaste for kids? 

There are a lot of questions to answer in terms of dental care for the little ones, but I thought I’d just address the five most frequently asked ones so that you can have a place to find them the next time one of these questions springs to mind.

What toothpaste should I use for my child?

For children aged 3 and younger, use a children’s fluoride toothpaste in doses about the size of a grain of rice. You can use a non-fluoride version, as long as they don’t swallow it. For children 3 to 6 years old, the amount should be pea sized, and by this age they should be ready for adult toothpaste.

As for the toothpaste’s fluoride content, check the packaging. The labels should tell you about fluoride parts per million. The recommendation is between 1350ppm and 1500ppm fluoride, and no less than 1000ppm. After brushing, your child should spit out the toothpaste but not rinse with water.

What toothbrush should I use for my child?

A suitable toothbrush will look like an adult’s brush, with a slightly smaller head and a wider handle. Although a child can manoeuvre a manual toothbrush at this age, the Australian Dental Association recommends an electric toothbrush for an easier clean. By age eight, kids can brush their teeth themselves. We find that electric toothbrushes do a significantly better job than manual ones do, and recommend electric brushes with pressure sensors, such as the Oral B Genius. You can buy these from Shaver Shop. 

From a safety standpoint, with proper instruction and supervision, electric toothbrushes are safe for children 3, and even younger if they are actively supervised. Being a father to two lovely boys, I have used an electric toothbrush for them, ever since they had their first tooth. In fact they wanted to use the electric toothbrush when they saw me brushing my teeth.

Any tips for getting my child to brush?

Start good oral hygiene early. Start getting them to use a toothbrush when their teeth come in (usually around 6 months), and start flossing once teeth start touching (which is usually around them being 2 or 3). Schedule a visit to the dentist by their first birthday, no matter how many teeth they have. The key here is getting them in the good habit of looking after their teeth. Set a good example – show them that you do it, that you enjoy it, and they’re bound to emulate you. You could make a game out of it, such as having them try to beat a countdown clock (from the recommended two minutes), or while one of their favourite songs is playing. You could also incentivise their good dental behaviour with a rewards system.

How do I stop my child from eating the toothpaste?

The less tasty the toothpaste is, the less likely they are to swallow it. Use a children’s toothpaste that doesn’t necessarily come in appealing flavours, or any flavours at all. Some have minty and other tastes that may not be as appealing, meaning they’re less likely to want to swallow. Another way is to monitor their toothpaste use. The best way to prevent your child from swallowing toothpaste is to apply just the right amount to their toothbrush yourself. That way, if they do swallow toothpaste, you’ll be aware of how much they ingested.

Do I need to look after my child’s baby teeth? Aren’t they just going to fall out?

If children start brushing too late, they’ll start to develop plaque and tartar build-up on their teeth, which can lead to cavities, which in young teeth can be equally as damaging as they are in adult teeth. We do have to brush our kids’ baby teeth even if they are all going to fall out anyway. Toddlers are susceptible to something called ‘dental caries’, or rot that leaves small holes in their teeth. It’s a disease that can impact their whole body and can easily be prevented by brushing. If left untreated, caries can lead to infection and tooth loss. 

by Dr Gautam Herle