In an earlier post, we looked at the functions of baby teeth and why it is important to ensure they remain in the mouth until the adult teeth are ready to erupt. In this post, we’ll talk about how to look after baby teeth.
From the moment the first baby tooth appears in the mouth, parents need to take the responsibility to begin cleaning it. Initially, all that is necessary will be to take a damp wash cloth or piece of gauze to wipe the tooth. Once more teeth begin to appear, you can use finger brushes that are worn over your index finger and use them to brush your baby’s teeth.
When your baby is about 18 months to about 2 years old, you can purchase a child toothbrush and begin cleaning your child’s teeth at least once a day. Initially, it is not necessary to use fluoridated toothpaste, especially if the drinking water in your area is already fluoridated. If you aren’t sure whether your water supply is fluoridated, check with your dentist.
Remember, young children have trouble spitting out and usually end up swallowing the toothpaste, fluoride and all. This may expose your child to unnecessarily high levels of fluoride which can lead to fluorosis. Fluorosis, while not harmful, first appears as white spots on the teeth. In more severe cases, it can make the teeth appear brown and mottled. Although it is not harmful to the teeth, it is aesthetically unsightly.
If you are still concerned about tooth decay but want to minimise your child’s exposure to fluoride, there is a new range of children’s toothpaste that uses xylitol as an active ingredient. Xylitol also serves to prevent tooth decay and reverse the initial stages of tooth decay.
You can encourage your child to get into the healthy practice of brushing by offering the toothbrush to your child and letting him brush his own teeth but make sure that you perform at least one brushing for your child a day. Children have poor manual dexterity and will not brush adequately without your help. At most, they will chew on the brush and make a few cursory attempts to swipe the teeth if they are older.
As your child grows older, you can begin to teach him how to brush by guiding his hand. Once your child has mastered the art of tooth brushing, you can hand over the responsibility to your child to continue brushing, however, you may still need to keep an eye on your child to ensure the job is done properly. Tooth brushing is a task many children quickly get bored of and try to sneak out of. Some may comply with the task but do a poor job of cleaning.
It is not difficult to look after baby teeth. The challenge lies in teaching your child the process and helping him develop a healthy, lifetime habit. Knowing how important baby teeth are, it is important to ensure they last. Teaching your child to look after his primary teeth also sets the stage for healthy oral hygiene habits in future.
Oh yes, if encouraging your toddler to brush his teeth is something you have trouble with, here are some personal recommendations of mine that you can try.