It’s never too early to begin teaching good oral hygiene to your children. Behaviours learnt when they’re young tend to stick with them throughout life.
The need for this is increasingly important with tooth decay among children on the rise, with more than half of all 6 year olds having some decay in their baby and adult teeth, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Where to start
You should start caring for your child’s oral health from when they’re a baby and into their toddler years so by the time they reach 3 years of age or so, they are well-versed in what it takes to keep their teeth healthy. They will require assistance from you until about the age of 7 or 8 but even then, it’s a good idea to supervise them when they’re brushing and flossing their teeth.
There are a number of key things to keep in mind when it comes to keeping your kids’ teeth in tip-top condition.
They eventually fall out to make way for adult teeth but that doesn’t mean cleaning them isn’t important. If decay causes them to be removed, it can cause crowding problems with their adult teeth emerge. So ensure they brush their teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, which they shouldn’t swallow, remembering to brush for at least two minutes at a time. Try using an egg timer to make keeping time fun for your child. Flossing, with parental assistance until the age of 10 or when they are deft enough to do it themselves, should start as soon as children have two teeth in contact.
Regular dentist visits
Kicking off at the age of 1 at the latest, or within 6 months of the first tooth appearing, your child should see their dentist regularly and understand that visiting them is an important part of growing up. If you receive benefits such as Family Tax Benefit A payments, you can take advantage of government programs such as the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.
Good eating and drinking habits
To develop strong teeth, your children need a healthy, balanced diet made up of fresh foods such as vegetables, cheese and lean meats, minimal high-sugar foods such as biscuits and muesli bars, and fluoridated tap water.
Accidents happen! And when they do, your kids' teeth may get knocked out or damaged. Familiarising yourself with dental first aid means that you will be well prepared for handling dental trauma correctly.
The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) has been introduced by the federal government to make that task a little easier if you receive benefits such as Family Tax Benefit A payments. The CDBS helps you keep your kids’ teeth in great shape by providing you with up to $1000 that you can use over a two calendar year period on a range of dental services including examinations, routine cleaning, fillings, and root canals.
What the CDBS doesn’t cover, however, are orthodontic (the straightening of crooked teeth), cosmetic dental procedures (the restoration or replacement of damaged or missing teeth), or any work that might need to be done in a hospital. If you aren’t sure what’s covered, just ask your dentist.
Keep in mind that not all dentists perform services under the CDBS; it’s best to check with your dentist if they do prior to booking in for treatment.