Tooth decay and gum disease is serious, but largely preventable. To maintain good oral health, you have to make the right choices across the dimensions of diet, oral hygiene, and dental check-ups. We’ll delve into these below.
Maintaining a healthy diet is a core component of the prevention of decay and gum disease in children. A crucial factor to look out for is frequency of sugar intake.
Bacteria (found in plaque) consume the sugar we eat or drink and produce acid. The acid forms holes in our teeth. The saliva in our mouth takes about 30 minutes to neutralise the acids that form. So when consuming sugar, frequency is more important than amount. E.g. it’s more detrimental to the teeth to sip on half a can of coke all day than it is to drink a whole can of coke within 30 minutes. That’s no excuse to start downing soft-drinks though!
TIP: Do not let your baby go to sleep with a milk bottle to avoid milk bathing their teeth during sleep. The sugar sitting on the teeth during sleep can cause aggressive and rapid progression of decay.
Often the biggest contributor to diet related tooth decay and gum disease is snack time. Here are some of the most common foods to watch out:
- Soft drinks
- Sports drinks
- Sweetened cereals
Consider these teeth friendly snacks as alternatives:
- Peanut butter or vegemite on crackers
- Rice cakes or corn thins
- Cut up vegetables with dips such as hummus
- Sugar-free sweets
One way of getting around the temptation to indulge in sugary foods is to limit them to special occasions. But in times where sugary food or drink is consumed, it’s always a good idea to rinse well with tap water. Sugar-free gum or a small square of cheese can also help neutralise the acids produced.
Oral Hygiene is absolutely crucial. You can start cleaning your child’s gums before their first tooth comes through. To do this, simply use a clean face washer or piece of gauze, and then dampen it before gently rubbing it along your baby’s gums.
At 18 months you can start using a pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste.
At about the age of 6, they can start using adult toothpaste, given they’re not prone to swallowing large amounts of toothpaste and spit out well.
Help your child with flossing their teeth a few times a week to help prevent decay developing between the teeth. When they’re a little older they can start using a ‘flossette’ (floss on a handle) or normal floss themselves.
Try to make teeth cleaning a routine. The harder you work to make your child’s tooth care a part of daily routine, the easier it will be for them to take control of their dental care later on in life.
It’s strongly recommended for everyone to visit the dentist every 6 months to make sure of their oral health. A bi-yearly professional clean is required for optimum oral health, and the opportunity for regular dental education and advice will allow you to make the correct decisions.
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