Dispelling the myths (April Fool’s Edition)
It's April Fool's Day and I decided to share some common myths regarding children's dental health and what you really should be doing for your child. Information these days can be easily gathered from different sources like the internet, social groups and fellow peers...but how do we know what is true and what isn't? Read on.
Myth 1: I can start brushing my child’s teeth when he/she has most of her teeth erupted
You should brush your child’s teeth the moment the first tooth erupts, usually when your child is at 6 months old. Prior to that, you should start using a clean, damp cloth to wipe your baby’s gums and tongue to get him/her used to mouth cleaning. When the first tooth erupts, use a bristled brush to brush the teeth surfaces. A bristled brush works better than a cloth to remove the plaque and food debris more effectively form the teeth surfaces.
Myth 2: Children should not use fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride has long been scientifically proven to prevent dental decay (or dental cavities). Technically, dental decay can start anytime from the moment the first tooth erupts. As it takes a while to become visible in the mouth, most parents are unaware of their child developing dental decay until the child complains of a toothache or when the parents notice unusual brown/black/yellow spots on the teeth. Having one dental cavity means the child is at risk of developing more cavities in the mouth. Using fluoride toothpaste daily helps to prevent dental decay by reversing the early stages of the decay process. Therefore, dentists advocate the children to start using fluoride toothpaste at ages between 12-18 months old. For those below 3 years of age, use a rice grain size amount of toothpaste. For those above the age of 3, use a pea-size amount of toothpaste.
Myth 3: Children can brush their teeth on their own
The fine motor skill needed for the child to maneuver the toothbrush and brush all the teeth properly is usually achieved at about the age of 8 to 9 years old. Parents or caregivers will need to brush their child’s teeth and assist them up till then. As much as the child would want to hold the toothbrush and do the brushing by himself/herself, you will need to follow up with a proper brushing at the end of it. Inadequate brushing supervision has been shown to lead to higher dental decay rates and gum bleeding. Read this post to find out more about toothbrushing for children.
Myth 4: My child just needs to drink water after milk feed and skip the toothbrushing
It is just not good enough to get your child to drink water after having his/her milk feed without any toothbrushing before bedtime. The food/drinks remnants in the mouth do not get cleaned off easily with water. There must be mechanical cleaning to ensure plaque and food debris are removed effectively. Toothbrushing should always be the last thing at night before going to sleep. Children must be discouraged from being put to bed with a bottle. Nursing bottle decay is a serious problem in young children and we want to prevent that. Brushing the teeth at night before bedtime ensures that your child goes to bed with no food/drink remnants in the mouth. If these food/drink remnants remain, the bacteria in the mouth will have “ammunition” to produce acid throughout the night, which results in dental cavities.
Myth 5: My child’s first dental visit should be at about 3 or 4 years old when he/she can cooperate
Do not wait until your child develops dental disease or toothache before his/her first dental visit. Dental decay can start the moment the first tooth erupts. Therefore, most dental associations encourage the first dental visit to be at the age of one. Although the child is unable to cooperate at this age, the dentist will obtain a good history of the home care and examine the child’s teeth. The dentist will then be able to customise preventive advice and oral care for the child. The dentist should be able to advise on the dental development, what needs improvement in the home care, which toothpaste to use and any treatment that your child may need. Prevention is the most important factor in ensuring long-term success against oral diseases.