When should I take my child to the dentist?

It is recommended that children should go to the dentist with their parents as soon as possible. You should then take them regularly, as often as your dentist recommends. This will let them get used to the noises, smells and surroundings and prepare them for future visits. The earlier these visits begin, the more relaxed the children will be.

First trip to the dentist

Bringing your child for their first trip to the dentist by their first birthday is a good rule of thumb to help introduce good oral health and hygiene habits. In some circumstances, early diagnosis may be made of oral disease, developmental tooth defects or perhaps missing or unusual shaped teeth. All children should attend their dentist one to two times per year for regular check-ups; this way if anything does develop it is caught early so is easier to manage.

Good habits last a lifetime

Looking after your children’s teeth is vital to ensure they develop a healthy dental regime that will last them into adulthood.

Even though your child does not have teeth until they are about six months of age, we recommend that you clean their gums with a soft cloth. And as soon as your baby’s first primary or ‘milk’ teeth appear, you should start brushing them. With the first teeth erupting between six and 12 months, our advice is to get your child used to a cleaning routine. Use a clean cloth or a soft toothbrush with tap water to clean the new teeth and gums. Toothpaste is not recommended until your child is two years old, when they should use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. After breakfast and last thing at night are the ideal cleaning times. Try to make a game of it. Generally, kids under the age of six should be helped with brushing, which should last for two to three minutes. We can demonstrate this at their visit.

When the first teeth start to come through, try using a children’s toothbrush with a small smear of toothpaste.  It is important to supervise your child’s brushing until they are at least seven.  Once all the teeth have come through, use a small-headed soft toothbrush in small circular movements and try to concentrate on one section at a time.  Don’t forget to brush gently behind the teeth and onto the gums.  If possible make tooth brushing a routine; preferably in the morning, and last thing before your child goes to bed. Remember to encourage your child, as praise will often get results.

Tooth decay

A disease caused by specific bacteria or germs that live in the mouth. Damage starts as white or brown spots and gradually the surface enamel is broken down and a hole forms. Once a cavity is formed the spread is much more rapid as the under layer is softer and cleaning becomes more difficult. Many cavities start in the biting surfaces of the back teeth, she says, because these surfaces are uneven with fissures, resulting in food impaction and plaque build-up.

In Irish children, 80% of decay occurs on the biting surfaces of the teeth; this could be prevented by using sealants. A fissure sealant is a white varnish layer, which is applied to the biting surface of the back teeth. It flows into the fissures, creating a shallower, smooth surface. While fissure sealants may be recommended in primary teeth, they are more commonly used on the first permanent molars that erupt around the age of six or seven.

How can I prevent tooth decay in my child?

The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods to mealtimes only. If you want to give your child a snack, try to stick to cheese, vegetables and fruit. Try to limit dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to the teeth.

It is also worth remembering that some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients: the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Sometimes, these are shown as fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose. Thorough brushing for two minutes, twice a day, particularly last thing at night, will help to prevent tooth decay.

What sort of brush should children use?

There are many different types of children’s toothbrushes available, including brightly coloured brushes, some of which change colour, those with favorite characters on the handles, and some with timers. These all encourage children to brush their teeth. The most important point is to use a small-headed toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles, suitable for the age of your child.


Childrens brushing