How to prevent dental cavities in children

With more than one third of Aussie five-year-olds suffering dental decay, it’s never too early to start teaching them good oral hygiene.

As well as having to have baby and adult teeth removed, there’s a number of physical and mental health problems linked to poor oral health in children.

These include issues with eating, speech, poor self-esteem, an inability to concentrate and extended absences from school.

“As parents, we need to break the cycle and educate ourselves about good oral health practices and pass these on to our children so they can thrive,” dental guru Dr Luke Cronin says.

Setting a good example

The experts say we should start looking after our baby’s teeth as a soon as they appear.

“Behaviours learnt young tend to stick throughout life,” says Dr Luke. “This is reflected in the latest statistics that tell us 90 per cent of adults suffer from some form of tooth decay.”

“Kids watch us in the bathroom and copy what we do. If they see Mum or Dad walk out the door without cleaning their teeth, or do a 30 second rush job, it creates a blueprint for how they’ll care for their own teeth.

He says children should brush twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea size blob of toothpaste for around two minutes at a time.

Around age six they can start using fluoride-based toothpaste ‘but make sure they don’t swallow it’.

Limit high-sugar foods

Swapping out high-sugar snacks and increasing the amount of water your child drinks can also have a big impact on teeth and gum health.

“Read the labels for sugar content per 100g and avoid giving children fruit juices and soft drinks on a regular basis,” says Dr Luke, also warning against dried fruit.

“This can be high in sticky sugars that coat the tooth’s enamel and get stuck in-between the gaps of little teeth, where the sugar-loving bacteria feed and rapidly multiply,” he says.

And resist leaving children with a bottle of milk to fall asleep. “Unless they drink water after the milk, the sugar content will stick to their teeth leading to decay-causing bacteria.”

Dr Luke’s top tips for good oral health in kids

  1. Make the time to clean your child’s teeth twice a day and help them floss.
  2. Take them to the dentist every 6-12 months for a check-up and professional clean.
  3. Limit high-sugar foods in their diet, and if they do have a sugary treat make sure they rinse their mouth with water afterwards, or clean their teeth.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Zoe, Ed, and the team.