Good oral hygiene plays a crucial role in your child’s overall well-being. Conversely, neglecting oral health can lead to issues such as gum disease, infections, and tooth decay, which can affect chewing, impair speech in children and even lower their self-esteem. Your child relies on you to safeguard their oral health, at least till the age of 6. In this article, we provide you with tips for maintaining good dental hygiene for children from birth onwards.
Children aged 0 – 6 months
Do you know that your child’s dental care should begin within days of their birth? From birth, you can start to clean your baby’s mouth with a small piece of gauze. Wondering how? Firstly, wash your hands with soap. Dip a gauze-covered finger into warm water. Then use the gauze to rub your baby’s tongue in circular motion, followed by cleaning his gums as well. This helps to wash away any milk residues and keep your baby’s little mouth clean!
Tips: For your baby’s safety, use sterilised gauze moistened with warm water or ready-to-use baby oral wipes.
Children aged 6 months to 2 years old
For most babies, their first milk tooth erupts between 6 to 10 months. You can refer to the chart below for a full teething timeline. As soon as you see the first tooth, you need to start brushing your child’s teeth twice daily. Use a fine, soft-bristled toothbrush that is specially designed for babies. Remember to wipe the surface of his tongue as well.
When your baby turns 1, he or she will start learning to spit, make it a fun experience to show them how to do it! If you have an older child, he or she can be a little role model! At this age, toothpaste is not necessary, simply wet the toothbrush with water for brushing. If you want to use toothpaste, opt for non-fluoridated toothpaste specially formulated for babies. And, only a small grain size of toothpaste is needed.
- Let your child play with a toothbrush for short periods while you are supervising them. This helps them to become comfortable when holding a toothbrush.
- To make brushing your teeth a fun and relaxing activity, playing music or singing a song while brushing is a good idea!
Children above 2 years old
For children who can spit well and are not likely to swallow toothpaste, a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste can be used. Using fluoridated toothpaste is vital for preventing tooth decay however it is not meant to be swallowed. Continue to monitor your kids while they are brushing their teeth and help them make a routine for brushing their teeth every morning and night.
If your little one doesn’t cooperate during the routine. Here are some tips for you:
- Bring your child to purchase his toothbrush and toothpaste. Show them an assortment of toothbrushes and toothpaste, and let him or her choose the ones with their favourite colour, cartoon and flavour.
- Show them videos about the importance of oral hygiene and how to brush properly.
- Tell them stories about tooth decay, read books on brushing do’s and don’t’s and keep reminding them of the importance of brushing teeth twice a day.
Well, good oral care is more than brushing teeth! There are other things we need to take note:
- Bring your child to the dentist by the age of 12 months. A dentist will assess your child’s risk for tooth decay and tailor a preventive programme for him.
- After your little one first’s birthday, wean him off the milk bottle and switch him to milk in the cup so that he has no chance to fall asleep with the milk bottle which can increase the chance of tooth decay.
- Avoid putting juice or sugary drinks in a bottle or sippy cup.
- Eat a nutritious and balanced diet. Limit candy, sweetened food or beverages.
- Encourage your child to drink more water, especially after meals.
- Rinsing the mouth after a meal helps to remove food residue stuck between teeth.
- Children above 6 years old need to use alcohol-free mouthwash and floss their teeth every day.
A bright smile with healthy teeth not only makes your child look good but also enables them to speak, learn and chew food properly. Use the above tips to inculcate good oral habits in your child from a young age, they will thank you for the lifelong benefits!!
Also, read our article on tips to get rid of teething rashes in babies here.