As a mum of twin daughters, I am very aware of the ongoing battle to keep a child’s teeth healthy. One of my biggest concerns is my children getting tooth decay. There is no excuse for me as I am educated in maintaining oral health. However, I am a mum and I have those constant tooth brushing battles too and the ‘I’m hungry’ comments when they arrive home from school.
Deciduous teeth, commonly referred to as ‘milk teeth’ are not permanent and will fall out naturally over time. However long they last, they should always be kept in good health. There is often the perception that they are replaceable. We often hear relief in a parent’s voice when they hear the decay is in a milk tooth.
The truth is, toothache can be excruciatingly painful and unfortunately, an increasing number of young children are being hospitalised to have teeth removed. This is largely unnecessary and with a bit of care, there is no reason why your child’s first teeth should give them any trouble.
We have followed advise from generations regarding caring for our teeth. When our grandparents were teaching our parents how to care for their teeth, they did not have the knowledge or information that we have available today. We learn how to care for our teeth from our parents and if they have not been educated in oral health, we have no hope in giving the correct information to our children.
It is not just to prevent decay and pain why parents should take good care of their children’s first teeth. These initial teeth play an important function in a child’s development. By the time the first teeth come through, a child should be eating some solid foods. Having poor quality, or painful teeth, is likely to limit their diet.
In addition to this, the loss of teeth can lead to speech impediments. When you speak, your tongue will touch your teeth several times, if these teeth are absent, your speech will be affected. This could cause potential longer-term development problems for your child.
Milk teeth preserve a space for adult teeth to erupt into when they are ready. If they have had to be extracted prematurely, there is a chance that the adult teeth will come through crooked, or, in some cases, may not come through at all, potentially causing infections and discomfort.
When your child is one year old, or when their first tooth comes through, whichever is sooner, you should begin bringing your child to see a dentist. This gets them used to their dentist and the environment.
If you are an anxious patient it may be best to book your child at a separate time to yourself, if you are anxious about your visit, your child will pick up on it.
Early monitoring of a child’s oral health will go a long way to ensuring that they have healthy teeth and gums. It is unlikely that any treatment will be needed at this time, but seeing a dentist so early in life will help to normalise the experience of a dental visit and we will begin to educate you on how to care for your child’s teeth.
Make sure that your children brush their teeth at home twice daily and supervise them whilst they do this until you are satisfied that they will do so correctly on their own (around the age of 10).
Limit sugary snacks to mealtimes only, saliva takes approximately 30 minutes to neutralise sugar in the mouth. If your child is snacking on sugary snacks regularly throughout the day, they will get tooth decay. Frequency is as important as quantity.
I use this analogy; if you were to give your child a box of chocolates and they had one every 30 minutes until the box was gone this would decay their teeth, they would be better to have that same box of chocolates but in one sitting, its still the same amount but only one exposure, it might make them sick and would be bad for their diet, but it would be better for the teeth than snacking throughout the day. If my children are hungry, I give them fresh fruit as a snack, fresh fruit contains sugar, but they are natural sugars rather than harmful artificial sugar. They love sweets and chocolate, but I limit these to mealtimes. Naturally, they can have a treat from time to time.
If your child has a drink by the bed at night, it should be water. Avoid giving your children sugary or fizzy drinks in general, my children have diet fizzy drinks but only occasionally as a treat with meals.
Do not give your child juice/milk in a bottle that they carry around with them all day, using a bottle like this causes decay in front teeth.
I hope the above tips help you, as a mum, I completely understand the pressures from the toothbrushing battles to the finding the balance between letting your child have a treat every now and then.
You can be assured that at Christchurch we will take good care of your child and help to educate you and your child in the importance of oral health.
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