Your child’s baby teeth will start to appear, often with the central bottom teeth first, anywhere between 4 months and 10 months. Like every developmental milestone, the point at which your baby gets their teeth is an individual thing and you shouldn’t worry if their teeth appear earlier or later than other kids their age. If you have any concerns in this regard, your dentist will be able to answer any questions you might have.
When your child is teething it can be tough to make them comfortable. But a combination of loving attention, chilled but not frozen teething rings or washcloths, and dummies (don’t use honey or jam on them as this causes decay) often does the trick.
Your baby’s first dentist visit
Generally-speaking, it’s time for your baby to see the dentist for the first time when their first tooth becomes visible or when they reach 12 months of age – whichever comes first. While you might think it’s not necessary to book an appointment until your baby has a full set of teeth, which usually takes place by the age of 3, the earlier your child visits the dentist the better. Usually, your child’s first visit to the dentist will involve the taking of their full medical history, and possible discussions about:
- Brushing techniques
- Bite (how your children’s teeth come together)
- Habits such as thumb sucking
- The risk of decay and how to prevent it
- Prevention of traumatic injury to your child’s mouth
- Nutritional advice
Always be positive about these visits, never use the dentist as a deterrent for bad behaviour such as not brushing teeth, and remember that the dental team is well-trained in dealing with babies and young children.
Brushing your baby’s teeth
Dental health is an ongoing process throughout a child’s life and you should begin by modelling good dental health practices early on so your child sees them as a normal part of life. Even if your child only has a few teeth, bacteria can get in and start causing decay, so you should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. One great way to get your child used to teeth cleaning is to wipe their gums with a soft cloth twice a day.
As soon as the teeth appear, you can switch to using a soft children’s brush, with no toothpaste until 18 months of age, while your child lies on your lap or on a bed. And yes flossing is necessary; your dentist can show you the correct technique.
You don’t need us to tell you that there’s a lot going on in your body during puberty. But one thing you may not have given a lot of thought to is what happens to your mouth when your body starts producing all those extra sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This sends a lot more blood than normal to your gums, increasing their sensitivity to plaque, and causing them to become more easily irritated by food particles. It’s a condition you’ll hear referred to as puberty gingivitis and it’s hard to miss, leaving you with red, swollen gums that bleed more easily than usual.
If you take good care of your teeth and gums by brushing twice a day and flossing once daily, you probably won’t develop this form of gingivitis. But it can crop up if some plaque or gingivitis was present in your mouth at the onset of puberty.
The good news is that puberty gingivitis can be easily treated with brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleanings by a dentist. If you end up with a more severe case, you might need to have two or more professional cleanings in a year to keep on top of things. This is why it’s important that you keep seeing your dentist on a regular basis.
We get that eating healthy foods is probably not your first choice when you’re with your friends, but eating well goes a long way to keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
If you’ve got braces, you need to make sure you’re spending extra time to properly brush your teeth. This means taking out the removable parts of your braces such as elastics and bands, carefully cleaning around the wires and pins and brushing all the areas of your teeth. If you have any questions about the right technique you should use, you just need to ask your dentist.
You’ll no doubt be aware that brushing your teeth, which removes the plaque that causes tooth decay and gum disease, is important. What you may not know is that how often you brush, how long you brush for, the kind of technique and toothbrush you use all matter too.
To gain the maximum benefit from brushing your teeth, you should be brushing for at least two minutes morning and night, spending roughly 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth. Think that sounds like too much hard work?
Firing up your streaming service, playing your favourite three minute pop song and brushing until the end is one fun way to make sure your teeth get all the cleaning they need.
It’s all in the technique
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give too much thought to how you brush your teeth, beyond squirting on some toothpaste, and brushing back and forth.
But as your dentist will tell you, how you brush your teeth matters a great deal. You should be cleaning your teeth systematically, starting at the back with the toothbrush bristle at the gumline or at a 45° angle, brushing gently in a circular motion, and finishing with a spit, not a rinse. If you have an electric toothbrush, you should be guiding the moving brush head slowly from tooth to tooth following the contours of the tooth and the curve of the gums.
Regardless of the brush you use, try to avoid brushing with too much force as this can damage the surface of your teeth. And as for the toothpaste? You only need a pea-sized amount to get the job done.
Tools of the trade
You are always best using a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and a flexible neck because this will most effectively remove plaque and debris from your teeth, without damaging your teeth and gums and drawing blood. Try to replace your brush at the first sign of wear-and- tear or every three months, whichever comes first, and if you’ve just had a cold, replace your toothbrush so you don’t get reinfected by the germs in the bristles.
Here’s something you may not know – nearly half the surface area of your teeth lies between them. Why that particular information is important is because if you’re solely relying on brushing you’re not cleaning a large portion of your teeth, which in turn can affect how healthy your teeth and gums are. By removing the plaque from between your teeth, you’re helping to prevent gum disease, tooth decay and halitosis, otherwise known as “bad breath”.
So flossing, or interdental cleaning as it’s officially known, is an essential part of caring for your teeth and gums, and not some kind of “nice to have” added extra.
It’s all in the technique
It’s one thing to make flossing a part of your dental health care routine, quite another to do it properly. Your dentist is the most qualified person to instruct you on flossing correctly but there are some basic tips you can follow:
Tip 1: Wind about 45cm of floss around your middle fingers and rest it across your thumbs and index fingers.
Tip 2: Always insert the floss gently using a gentle side-to- side motion to avoid traumatising the gums.
Tip 3: To clean the “neck” of the tooth, which is the point at which it meets the gums, curl the floss and insert it gently under the gum.
If sticking your fingers into your mouth with a cord of thin filaments strung between them isn’t your idea of fun, then consider using either a less invasive floss threader or floss pick to do the job.
Make flossing a routine
Flossing should be an integral part of your dental health routine along with brushing. You should be flossing once a day, either in the morning or night, or even after lunch, for at least two minutes.
But it’s not just adults who need to floss. Kids should start cleaning between their teeth as soon as they have two teeth in contact but until the age of 10, its best if the parent does the flossing as younger kids don’t have the manual dexterity needed to floss effectively.