Proper Care for Children’s Teeth

Proper Care for Children's Teeth: Tips from a dental hygienist.

With so much conflicting information when it comes to dental health, we spoke to an expert to get advice on the proper care for our children’s teeth.  We interviewed Chantal Pannell, a dental hygienist who owns her own practice and here are some answers to the questions we had about the best way to take care of our kids’ teeth.

At what point should parents start brushing their children’s teeth?

Start brushing as early as possible! It is important to get your child used to brushing their teeth and more importantly comfortable with you helping them. Wipe baby’s gums with a clean, soft washcloth after every breastfeeding or bottle. Once that first tooth arrives, you can switch to an infant size brush and gently brush the tooth with water only.

How often should we be brushing our children’s teeth?

Starting at a young age will help create a routine, which is extremely crucial.  Brush 2 times a day, morning and night.  Bedtime brushing is the most important as the mouth is at rest and typically dryer which gives bacteria the opportunity to flourish and multiply.

Can a child see a hygienist instead of a dentist?

A child can see a dental hygienist for their first visit because a dental hygienist is the primary educator on oral hygiene. Registered Dental Hygienists working in traditional dental offices or in independent clinics work closely with dentists to ensure a healthy mouth.

Not everyone can access care through a traditional dental office though, so the government passed legislation in 2007 allowing the public to receive care from a dental hygienist. The fee guide is traditionally 30% less than a dentist. There are also several programs offered to children under the age of 17 through Health Units in every community throughout Ontario. This program is based on the family’s income.

Are there foods that are harmful to teeth?
  • Sticky foods such as raisins or fruit roll-ups should be avoided, especially in school lunches because they do not have the opportunity to brush afterwards.
  • Healthier choices such as apples and cheese tend to help cleanse the teeth between cleanings.
  • Avoid any juice that is not 100% pure juice. Any juice container with the words “drink” or “juice beverage” will have a higher content of sugar. If your child drinks juice, try to dilute the pure juice with water and offer it at meal times to ensure the saliva can help cleanse the teeth.
At what age should parents start letting children brush their own teeth?

You can encourage your child to brush on their own at an early age with parental supervision.  Once they have finished brushing, it is recommended that the parent go over the areas to ensure a proper brushing is done.  There is no set age as every child is different and some may need help with their dexterity.  By observing their child’s brushing technique, parents can decide when their child is ready to brush their teeth independently.

What are the signs of unhealthy teeth?
  • Discolored brown/black spots on the teeth are signs of unhealthy teeth.
  • Children’s teeth can often suffer trauma from a fall or collision with objects. Look for abnormal signs like grayish discoloration and check their gums for any redness or blister like abscesses.
  • If you suspect your child is showing signs of unhealthy teeth or gums, be sure to see your dental professional as soon as possible.
Any other dental tips to add?
  • It is recommended that kids brush for 2 minutes, 2 times a day in a circular motion reaching the gums.
  • Use a favorite song or timer in the brushing routine. This will create a healthy habit for your child’s brushing regime.
  • Use a floss pick between your child’s teeth once a day so they will get used to flossing regularly. Cleaning between your child’s teeth is as important as brushing. This is an important part of their daily care to help prevent decay between the teeth as well as reduce the amount of debris and inflammation.
  • Once your child is able to spit, you may apply a small (pea size) amount of toothpaste to help reduce the chance of decay.

Thank you Chantal for this great info on proper care for children’s teeth!

Chantal has been practicing as a dental hygienist for 19 years and has worked abroad in Switzerland as well as several offices in Ontario before opening her own clinic in 2011. Having her own clinic allows her the time to personalize her client’s needs and give back to her community! You can find her at www.hilltopdentalhygiene.com

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