We all know toddlers can be a handful – particularly for parents who might not have a lot of time on their hands. So we put this guide on children’s dental together to get you up to speed quickly.
Parents have to juggle many responsibilities as their children grow older, and the key to your child’s ongoing dental health is to remain consistent with your routine and to help them learn. As they develop, we recommend monitoring your child’s teeth and their brushing routine, while also taking the time to provide the opportunities for them to learn to care for their own teeth.
In a few years, with a little help from their loved ones, they may even be brushing all by themselves! We have put together the following age specific information to help.
To jump to information about a specific age group, use the buttons below –
Age : 2 to 3 Years Old
Brushing Twice a Day
By the age of two, your child should be brushing twice a day for a full two minutes (each time).
At a total of four minutes a day – did you know that’s around 24 hours of brushing per year?
If your child is struggling to build to two minutes, we find that entertainment can be one of the best ways to help them transition to longer brushing times, and you can try the following.
- Play their favorite song while they brush.
- Download a dental app or timer and challenge your child to beat their best.
- Buy a brush they like, such as one with a cartoon character.
Your child should also receive frequent encouragement, and it is always beneficial to let them know they are doing a good job. This helps build a positive relationship between your child and their brushing, and can set them up with a good habit for life.
Establishing Routine Dental Check-ups
Two years of age is a good time to bring your child in to BOH Dental for another “ride in the chair”.
From this point on, dental check-ups should be conducted at least once per year, during which your dentist will examine any new teeth and check that everything is developing in a healthy way.
This is also a great opportunity for us to check for any plaque or tooth decay, and to ensure that you are brushing and cleaning all the hard to reach places.
Remember to Lift the Lip & Take a Look
Lift the lip is a health initiative that has run across Australia with a simple premise –
Routinely lift your child’s lip and look for any signs of tooth decay or damage to teeth or gums.
Often the first place for tooth decay to appear is near the gum-line, and lifting the lip allows you to see the surface of the tooth and the gums in entirety. This tooth decay is usually visible to the naked eye, and the earlier it is spotted then the earlier we can start preventive strategies to help your child’s long term dental health.
The following are signs of decay to be wary of –
- Chalky white lines near the gumlines (early decay).
- Brown or dark spots that won’t rub off (progressing decay).
- Changes to the shape and texture of the teeth.
- Bumps, red areas or abscesses in the gums.
“Checking for these signs by lifting the lip ensures early-diagnosis of decay. If you notice any of these changes to your child’s teeth, it is a good idea to visit your dentist,” says Dr Alana Evans.
Age : 3 to 4 Years Old
Learning to Brush
Around the age of three your child is ready to start learning to brush their own teeth as a team with Mum and Dad!
At the same time, you should also start brushing twice a day, in the morning after breakfast and at night before bed. Teach them to start with a simple brushing technique – small, circular motions on all surfaces of their teeth.
Your child will need a lot of guidance and assistance from you, so we recommend that you supervise their tooth brushing right up to at least ten years of age. Your child will often need your help to ensure they reach all the way to their back teeth and adequately clean all tooth surfaces.
“Helping your child brush their teeth ensures a good clean. There are several ways of teaching your child to brush their teeth, such as letting them brush for the first minute, and Mum and Dad finishing,” says Dr Alana Evans.
“Alternatively, you may encourage your child to brush their own teeth in the morning, while Mum and Dad can thoroughly brush at night time.”
Age : 4 to 6 Years Old
Healthy Snacks & School Foods
Many of the foods that are defined as healthy for the body also provide essential nutrients for your teeth! This includes most of your main food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, meats – and dairy in particular.
However, a modern tendency to refine and process foods means that dental decay is a common problem, and our advice is to be aware of the amount of sugar in your child’s food. Particularly risky are sweets that stick to the teeth such as gummy lollies or candy.
Choosing the right foods for your child can be challenging, so we have put together a comprehensive article here at Top 5 Dental Dangers for Kids.
Quick Dental Tips for 2 to 6 Year Olds
The most important thing you can do as a parent, is encourage and motivate your child to understand the importance of good oral health. We have included some tips on encouraging a healthy smile below!
As your child grows, and learns to vocalize their needs and desires, you may find them wanting more juices or sweet drinks.
Citrus juices and flavoured milks are two items that often find their way in to cups and bottles. However, if these are left in contact with your child’s teeth for a prolonged period they can cause serious damage to teeth. Even milk, which is typically beneficial to teeth, can have a negative impact on teeth if left in contact for long periods, such as in a bottle at night.
Even in healthy foods, naturally present sugars and acids can have a negative impact on your child’s teeth. This doesn’t mean we should stop eating these foods, but rather, we need to implement strategies to avoid dental decay.
A good way to minimize these effects is to get your child to drink water after meals and before bed. This water will dilute any residual sugars and acids, and will help maintain a more neutral pH in the mouth. Also, after brushing at night, try to keep your child’s bottle a sugar and acid free zone – water is the best choice!
To read more about the impacts of acid on teeth, you can read our article here – Acidic Foods & Dietary Acids
Kids often like to climb trees, ride their bikes too fast, and playtime can even get a bit rough and tumble.
As outlined above, the opportunity for dental injury increases as your child reaches an age where physical activity increase.
Dental emergencies will always happen, and while they cannot be avoided entirely, precautions can always be taken (such as appropriate use of mouthguards as discussed below). Similarly, it is important to ensure that you have an Emergency Dentist contact on-hand.
“There are many dental emergencies that can require immediate treatment. These include teeth getting knocked out, fractured, or dislodged,” says Dr Alana Evans.
“In times of emergency, your regular dentist is a great first port of call. They can either treat you directly, or offer advice to help you find the required practitioner, and there are many dentists available that offer after hours care and emergency dental services.”
Do you think your child is too young for a serious dental injury?
We recommend mouthguards for any children that are engaged in regular physical activity, and generally around the age of five or six, children may start to play team sports such as soccer, football and basketball. This is a great time to discuss sport safety with your kids.
The earlier your child is introduced to their own mouthguard, the more accustomed they will be to using it, and the earlier good safety habits can be learned and developed. The use of mouthguards becomes even more important as your child’s permanent teeth come through around the age of six, but the use of mouthguards even earlier to protect baby teeth is increasingly more common.
“Only a custom-made mouthguard provides adequate protection for the teeth,” says Dr Alana Evans.
You can read more about custom mouthguards and dental injuries here.