Even newborns need to maintain good oral hygiene. A few days after birth, you can begin by cleaning your baby’s mouth and wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. This also trains the infant to get used to the actions of intra-oral cleaning. Continue with this method until the first tooth erupts. Use an age appropriate toothbrush to gently brush these newly erupted teeth. Use a smear or rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for children under age 3, and no more than a pea-sized amount should be used for children ages 3 to 6.
Even though it is highly recommended that an adult help brush for children until they reach 6 to 7 years of age, sometimes it’s easier said than done. For a very young child of around 1 to 3 years old, the “knee-to-knee” position is recommended. One adult (the stabiliser) hugs the child and sits in a chair while the other adult (the brusher) sits opposite them. The stabiliser gently lays the child’s head back onto the brusher’s lap, while holding the child’s hands and legs to prevent excessive movement. The brusher can proceed to brush the child’s teeth. Both adults should continue to interact with the child to distract and capture the child’s attention. Also, take this opportunity to have a good look in the child’s mouth. If you see anything different – such as a brown spot or a gum boil – arrange to visit the dentist for a proper examination.
Older children (3 and above) are bigger and stronger, making the knee-to-knee approach impractical. Instead, try using the participation of a role model – preferably an older sibling, cousin or friend who the child looks up to. Brush the older child’s teeth in front of the uncooperative child. Show that the older child is receptive toward brushing by an adult and that it is normal practice. Singing songs and nursery rhymes may also help distract the child.
For more tips, see the sidebar below – all the best in keeping your kids’ teeth clean!
TIPS FOR NEW PARENTS
- Start early
Make tooth brushing a part of the child’s daily routine. Visit the dentist early as well. Set an appointment with a paediatric dentist after the first tooth erupts (usually at 6 months), or latest by 1 year of age.
- Be positive!
Always refer to brushing as a fun activity. The promise of rewards may be useful – don’t use sweets, but maybe stickers or a few more minutes of play time may coax reluctant children to brush their teeth.
- Maintain a healthy diet
Prepare balanced meals, and snack on healthy food such as fruits and nuts. Cut down on sweet drinks such as juices and soft drinks, along with chocolates, candy and sticky, starchy food like biscuits.