I am frequently asked questions by new mothers and devoted parents about how they should be caring for their children’s teeth. So here are some suggestions to help keep those young teeth healthy during the holiday season when most children are reaching for candy canes and Christmas cake...

When should I start cleaning my child’s teeth?

The mouth should be cleaned even before there are teeth present. The gums can be wiped once a day with a moist cloth or washer.

Once the first teeth arrive, a small headed soft bristled baby brush can be used to gently massage the teeth and gums with some water. This should be done at night time after the last feed and is usually easiest with the child lying down.

At around 18months, a very small amount of low Fluoride children’s toothpaste can be introduced. Encourage them to spit out the excess but if spitting is initially difficult, wipe away the excess using a cloth or washer.

During their third year, a second brush can be initiated after breakfast.

How should I clean my child’s teeth?

The teeth should be cleaned methodically and systematically, ensuring that all surfaces are cleaned. Begin each brush by cleaning the cheek-side and tongue-side surfaces of each tooth using small circular motions with the brush angled in towards the gum. Then brush the biting surfaces with a back and forth motion. Aim to eventually have a brushing time of around two minutes.

When should they start brushing on their own?

At around 4-5 years of age they can begin to learn to brush their own teeth. However, at first they will not have the skills to effectively clean without guidance and should therefore still be supervised until around age 8.

Dr Laurence McCarthy BMedSci, BDent (Hon) is an honours graduate of the University of Sydney. He is a principal dentist at Gordon Dental and is a clinical tutor at the University of Sydney. For more information contact Gordon Dental on 9498-3811, or email drmccarthy@gordondental.com.au 

Teething Troubles:
• Using clean hands, gently rub the gums with a finger
• Give a cool teething ring or wash cloth for the child to bite on
• Give non-sweetened rusks to bite on
Brushing Tips:
• Make brushing fun by using music or making it a game
• Reinforce good brushing with verbal encouragement
• Go to the shops together to choose a novelty or battery operated toothbrush