Young children’s oral health care the responsibility of their parents

2017-10-18 06:03

Babies and young children cannot be expected to accept responsibility for their oral hygiene.

Here are some tips for parents to keep their children’s teeth healthy and strong:

0 to 2 years

  • Exclusive breastfeeding up to six months is best for baby;
  • never allow the child to go to sleep with a bottle;
  • start cleaning baby’s teeth from the age of six months when the first tooth erupts – wipe clean with gauze to get rid of sticky coating called plaque;
  • brush teeth twice a day with water and a soft bristle toothbrush;
  • schedule the first dental appointment before the first birthday; take your “Road to Health” clinic booklet along;
  • try to break thumb-sucking and pacifier habits by age two; and
  • give fluoride supplements as recommended by your dentist.

3 to 5 years

  • Start using fluoride toothpaste at age three; and
  • take your child along to the dentist with you – this accustoms the child to the dental environment and makes him less scared.

What causes nursing bottle caries?

Nursing bottle caries can be the result of prolonged and frequent exposure of the teeth to ­sweetened liquids, for example formula milk, fruit juice, cold drinks or any other sweetened drinks in a bottle.

The prolonged exposure to sweetened liquids is the main cause of the disease.

If your child goes to bed with a bottle, the tongue creates a seal around the teat and front teeth.

The sweetened liquid is converted to acids by bacteria which then decalcify (demineralise) the teeth, leading to the development of caries (rotten teeth).

6 to 9 years

  • Begin flossing as soon as teeth touch;
  • fissure sealants can be done on permanent molars to prevent decay; and
  • until children are able to practice proper oral health habits alone, parents should help their child to brush and floss twice a day.
  • Source: Teeth: An Owner’s Manual, Dr A.M. Dippenaar, August 1995, OralB.
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