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dental care of the child

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Alternative Names 
paediatric care of the mouth and teeth

In recent years, the way that dentists care for children's teeth has changed. There is now a greater emphasis on prevention. Many of the problems of oral disease have been greatly reduced because individuals have been educated about proper oral hygiene.

What is the information for this topic? 
Regular brushing and regular flossing by children can reduce or eliminate plaque, a bacteria-rich deposit that grows on the teeth. Through regular teeth cleaning, the dentist or hygienist can remove the remnants of plaque missed through brushing and flossing. These plaque remnants adhere to the teeth as tartar or calculus.

Proper dental hygiene that removes bacterial residue will keep breath fresh. Periodic examinations and dental x-rays are also important. Dental x-rays can spot dental disease at an early stage when it is easily treated.

A child's first visit to the dentist should occur when the first few baby teeth appear. This is usually around 6 months of age and the first visit should be a "get-acquainted" visit. After most of the baby teeth have erupted at about 3 years of age, the child should begin regular dental visits. Most children who go to the dentist at this young age do not develop a fear of the dentist. The dentist will show the parent home methods to care for the very small child's teeth.

Specific advice regarding the care of children's teeth may include:
  • not letting a child go to bed with a bottle. Milk and juice can cause severe cavities when the child takes a bottle to bed. If a child needs a bedtime bottle, it should contain plain water with no sweeteners or flavouring.
  • discouraging sweet snacks. Too much sugar will damage the teeth, even in small quantities.
  • discussing a possible need for fluoride supplements. This will vary depending on the local water supply, which may already contain fluoride. Fluoride supplements should not be used unless prescribed by a doctor or dentist. Too much fluoride can damage developing teeth and bones in children.
  • using a soft toothbrush to gently clean baby teeth. In this way, the child can get used to the feeling of oral cleanliness and instill good hygiene habits early.
  • teaching the child how to brush his or her teeth twice a day as soon as the child can handle a child-size toothbrush.
  • having an adult dispense the child's toothpaste when the child is very young so that the child does not swallow too much toothpaste.
  • trying to protect the child from playtime injuries to the teeth. Baby teeth are important and every effort should be made to maintain them in good health.
With proper care, baby teeth will set the scene for a lifetime of natural teeth.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 7/1/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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