When was the last time you visited the dentist? Have you taken your children to the dentist?
This week is Dental Health Week, the Australian Dental Association’s major annual oral health promotion campaign. Its aim is to educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health in every aspect of their lives.
I asked The Toothy Fairy, aka Samantha Byrne, a former dentist who now lectures in Oral Microbiology at the Dental School at the University of Melbourne, all about our children's oral health.
At what age should we start visiting a dentist?
The Australian Dental Association recommends that children have their first visit to the dentist when their first tooth becomes visible, or by the time they are 12 months old. Your dentist will then be able to talk to you about how to clean your child’s teeth, and how to prevent oral diseases like tooth decay.
At what age should we encourage children to brush their teeth? Is it simply when they first appear?
Children’s teeth should be cleaned as soon as they erupt, but to get babies used to tooth cleaning it is recommended that their gums be wiped with a soft cloth twice a day. Making tooth cleaning a routine part of the day helps reinforce how important it is.
Any tips for Mums with littlies who are in pain with teething?
Chewing on a cool (but not frozen) water filled teething ring seemed to provide some relief for my two younger boys, although my oldest preferred a wooden teething ring. If babies are drooling a lot, the skin around their face can get irritated, so it is good to keep this dry with a gentle cloth.
I hear we should continue to help our children brush their teeth until they are 11 or 12, is this your recommendation too?
Children lack the manual dexterity to adequately clean their own teeth until they are around 7 or 8 however it is recommended that tooth brushing and flossing continue to be supervised beyond this.
Research shows our children’s dental hygiene is dropping. Why is this?
Tooth decay is a major problem amongst Australian children with approximately half of all 6 year olds having tooth decay in their baby teeth. This is very concerning, as tooth decay is largely a preventable disease, and tooth decay rates appear to be increasing in recent years.
Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in our mouths turn sugar that we eat into acid which dissolves the hard tooth material. The biggest factor contributing to tooth decay is sugar in the diet. It is not only the total amount of sugar, but the frequency of consuming that sugar. And it is not just refined sugars in the diet that cause tooth decay. Sugars in fruit juices, smoothies and dried fruits for example can all be turned into acid by bacteria in the mouth.
What are your top 5 tips for encouraging good dental hygiene amongst children?
August 7th to 13th is Dental Health Week and the Australian Dental Association has a number of key messages for encouraging good oral health in children.
- Brush for 2 minutes twice a day; after breakfast and before bed.
- Children should floss once they have two teeth that touch.
- Limit sugar as it is the single biggest cause of tooth decay. Choose water for drinking and read food labels as many foods have hidden sugars.
- Choose teeth friendly foods such as cheese, nuts and vegetables.
- Visit the dentist regularly, at least once a year.
Samantha Byrne is a former dentist who now lectures in Oral Microbiology at the Dental School at the University of Melbourne.
She has 3 little boys aged 9, 6 and 3 who all enjoy listening to Little Rockers Radio!