Everything a child eats affects the health of their mouth, and that will in turn affect their overall health.
It's important to realise the connection between oral hygiene and overall health and not treat them as separate issues.
Once a child has developed his or her permanent set of teeth at around six or seven years old, there is no third chance. So it's important children learn how to look after their teeth properly, with regular attention from you and your dental professional.
Five steps to good oral hygiene
- The best things to eat are fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and cereals.
- If your children like sugary foods, try to have them eat these foods at mealtimes. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay and eating with other foods may help.
- Be mindful that orange, lemon juice and even some sports drinks contain acids that can erode the enamel surface, so it would be best to brush or chew sugar-free gum afterwards.
- Use a soft-bristle brush recommended by a dentist or hygienist. There are children's brushes available that are designed for the child's age group.
- Studies have found using an oscillating rechargeable brush removes more plaque and reduces gum disease more effectively than manual toothbrushes. Ask your dentist or hygienist at what age they recommend your child to start using a rechargeable brush.
- Brushing only reaches around 60% of tooth surfaces. Flossing is the only way to clean all surfaces to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, and an important part of daily oral hygiene to carry from childhood into adult life.
- Children should only use rinses under adult supervision as children tend to accidentally swallow mouthwash. Try to avoid alcohol-based mouth rinses as they may cause intoxication if swallowed or used excessively.
- The more alcohol content in the mouth rinse, the more shedding of mouth tissue (sloughing). Excess sloughing means more food for bacteria, which leads to higher levels of bacteria and increased sulphur levels causing bad breath.
- It's important children see a dental health professional on a regular basis – ideally every six months. This will get your children started on the right path to successful oral hygiene and a long-lasting smile.
- A dental health professional can show your children how to brush and floss correctly as well as give preventative treatment. The easier it is to clean, the greater the likelihood of your children being motivated to do it.
The importance of fluoride
Fluoridation of water supplies in New Zealand has significantly improved our dental health over the years, but surprisingly, water is still not fluoridated in many areas. It's worth finding out if the water you're using is fluoridated. If it isn't, you may want to look at using fluoride tablets for the sake of your and your children's teeth.
"Among the New Zealanders who receive water from reticulated water supplies catering for 1000 or more people, approximately 38% are not receiving fluoridated water.Source: http://www.newhealth.govt.nz