Dental visits for kids
Seeing the dentist at an early age is important to make that the children's teeth and gums are healthy.
Around 30% of preschoolers have never seen a dentist with many parents realising the benefit of having their child's teeth checked with the dentist before they’re three years old. Around 25% of primary school aged children in Australia have tooth decay with 10% ending up needing a tooth extraction.
Some other data indicates that one in 3 children aren't brushing their teeth twice a day.
Tooth decay is preventable but is on the rise in Australia and affecting young children, even resulting in hospital admissions for dental treatment of severe infections.
When tooth decay is untreated it can result in chronic infection and pain, and can affect a child's growth, development and general well being. In the long term, dental disease is known to be linked with poor health, including heart disease in later life.
When a child should visit the dentist
It is recommended that children be taken to the dentist when the first tooth comes through or at around 1 year of age. Early visits are important to ensure that an infant's teeth and gums are healthy, and to offer support and education before tooth structure gets damaged, because it happens with time, and can not always be seen easily. Changes to routine or diet can be implemented to prevent toddlers from experiencing damage to their teeth. Some children around the age of two have been admitted to hospital with severe damage and infections in their teeth, requiring removal of their baby teeth, with statistics showing that the number in Australia is over 20 000 children requiring these kinds of treatments in a year.
Regular checks of teeth allow issues with the teeth to be identified and addressed, and allows a dental professional the opportunity to treat issues at an early stage and to prevent complex issues developing.
Some parents are concerned about the cost of seeing a dentist, however there are some free public dental care services available for children in Australia, and the federal Child Dental Benefits Schedule provides eligible families with $1000 worth of dental treatment over two years, which can be used for a child between the ages of 2 and 17, to see a private dentist. This is available for families who received a parenting payment or family tax benefit Part A.
When should children brush their teeth?
Brushing twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening before bed time, is the best way of reducing the chance of tooth decay in children.
When a baby's first tooth comes through, this should be brushed with water and a child's toothbrush.
From the age of 18 months, a tiny dab of children's strength toothpaste can be used. Adult strength toothpaste can be used from the ages of six. It is important to brush your child's teeth until the age of 8, because children don't do it thoroughly.
Most children lose the baby teeth around the age of 6, with the last baby tooth being lost around the age of 12. Even though the baby teeth do fall out, they need to be kept in a healthy and strong condition so a child can chew and eat properly. They also save space for the adult teeth and for the bite to line up properly.
Most children will begin losing their primary teeth, also known as “baby” or “milk” teeth, from around the age of six. The last falls out about age 12. One in five parents indicated they thought it didn’t matter if young children got tooth decay since their baby teeth fall out anyway.
Notes about diet
Putting a child to bed with sweetened drinks or milky drinks is strongly linked to tooth decay and allows sugar to pool around the teeth for long periods of time. From the age of one babies should be encouraged to drink from a cup and should be put to bed after their teeth have been brushed.
More than 90% of tap water in Australia is fluoridated, which helps to make teeth stronger and prevent tooth decay. Most bottled water in Australia has very little to no fluoride.
Most parents know that sugary food and drinks cause tooth decay, but more that 60% of Australian children exceed the recommendation from the World Health Organisation for sugar intake.
The recommended maximum daily intake of added sugar for children should be no more than five teaspoons.