Cleaning our children's teeth is a big task in itself. Especially for infants and toddlers. "My child doesn't brush his teeth and thus he has cavities!" Says a mother whose untiring efforts of making her child brush are futile.
So what's the fuss about kids not brushing their teeth?
Ever wondered, why 70 out of 100 infants and toddlers suffer from early childhood decay?
Why parents neglect children's teeth most of the time?
The answer to all this sums up this way... They are milk teeth and they tend to fall; so why to bother?
Just as we adults need our teeth for chewing and breaking down food and for speech similarly children need their set of teeth for these functions.
The most important part of maintaining milk teeth of kids is by proper brushing of their pearly whites. Yes, correct brushing is the key.
Now when we say kids, we divide them into categories as per their teeth eruption pattern. Starting with infants and toddlers and moving on to kids above 6 years to 12. There are two sets of teeth in children
Up to the age of 6 kids have milk teeth and 6 onwards till the age of 13 permanent teeth start to erupt. This phase is called as mixed dentition where both milk and permanent teeth are appreciated.
Cleaning the oral cavity and gums in infants
In infants, it is mandatory to clean their gums and tongue after every feed. This prevents germ build-up in the oral cavity and helps in keeping it clean often.
How to clean an infant oral cavity
A small piece of moist muslin cloth or gauze should be tied around our index finger and gentle strokes should be placed on infants tongue and gums.
Gentle is the word. Observe this after every feeding.
When to start brushing my child’s teeth?
The moment you notice a small tooth erupting in your child’s oral cavity it’s time to introduce a finger brush. This is approximately when your child is around 6 -9 months old.
How to use a finger brush?
A finger brush has to be sworn in by the parent in his/her index finger and the child has to be placed on the lap with the head well supported. Use half of pea size or a smear of kids toothpaste without fluoride. Try to clean all surfaces of the teeth as possible in a back and forth motion. Supporting your child’s head on the lap ensures minimal pressure on teeth while brushing. This practice has to be continued till the child attains the age of 2.
After the age of 2, a soft toothbrush meant for kids can be used. Non fluoridated toothpaste is recommended till the age of 6.While brushing your kids teeth stand in front of the mirror and hold your kids head steady. With the other hand gently apply minimal pressure and back and forth motions to clean all surfaces of the teeth until the last tooth in the oral cavity. Encourage spitting out the toothpaste if rinsing is difficult. Brushing before bed time can be observed with warm water and a tooth brush just to eliminate food lodged in between and around teeth in the child’s mouth.
When can my child start brushing on his own?
Brushing has to be under parental supervision till the age of 10. After 3 years the child can start brushing before bedtime on his/her own. This helps encourage good brushing habit and ensures the child observes proper oral hygiene. Various types of brushes for kids are available in the market, different and varied colours add to the fun. Use of a timer or playing a song in the background and asking your kid to brush through the time helps. An ideal brushing time should not be less than 2mins twice a day.
When should I introduce fluoride and why?
Fluoride in toothpaste helps prevents tooth decay. Ideally fluoride in toothpaste is recommended after the age of 6 but it is always best to visit your pediatric dentist and follow the dentist’s instructions when it comes to switching toothpastes. After thorough examination of the oral cavity and assessing the risk the dentist would be in a best position to prescribe a fluoridated toothpaste for your kid.
How should my child brush his/ her teeth?
Circular strokes on all surfaces of teeth are the technique to be observed while children brush their teeth on their own. As per child’s manual dexterity this can be further adapted to more circular and back and forth motions at the same time. Tongue cleaning is also important at this time. A good tongue scraper or back of a brush helps in cleaning your child’s tongue.
Some take on mouthwashes and flossing!
When it comes to mouthwash non-alcoholic and the one without essential oils wins the game. Ask your pediatric dentist about the same. Avoid alcohol-containing and medicated mouthwashes meant for adults. Flossing is a must for kids above 10 years of age. Ideally thrice a week is sufficient. Handy handheld disposable U flossers are available in the market. A gentle push and pull motion in between gaps of teeth does the trick. Avoid hurting the gum area be careful and try to make your child floss understand parental supervision.
Simple pointers on Child Dental Care
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day for at least 2mins
- Avoid sticky foods in between meals for children above 4 years, rinse soon after every meal.
- Visit a dentist every 6 months and as soon as you notice any black spots or decay in your child’s mouth
- Develop good oral hygiene habits in your children starting from an early age as old as 2.
To sum up, in a gist, brushing your child’s teeth should be a part of his/her daily routine and personal hygiene. Try not to break this habit and develop a positive dental attitude in your kids.