Dental Care for Children
Dental Care for Children
Tooth decay in children is rising in Australia, with children aged 5 to 10 having an average of one and a half-decayed, missing or filled baby teeth. So it’s more important than ever to teach your child good oral health habits that will stay with them for life.
Caring for children’s teeth is essential.
It is essential to look after your child’s teeth from the moment they start teething. Keeping your child’s teeth and gums clean will protect against infection, cavities and pain. Decayed baby teeth can damage the permanent teeth underneath.
If a child loses a tooth because of decay, it can cause crowding problems when their adult teeth come through later.
Dental care for babies
Many babies begin teething at around three months old, with the first teeth usually appearing at about 6 to 9 months. By the age of 1, a baby will usually have approximately eight teeth. However, babies develop at different rates, so this can vary.
You should begin cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as they arrive. To start with, you can clean your baby’s teeth by wiping with a soft cloth or brushing with a soft toothbrush and water. From the age of 18 months, you can start using low-fluoride toothpaste when you brush your child’s teeth.
You can buy toothpaste and small-headed toothbrushes at your local pharmacy or supermarket, especially for babies or children. You will need to clean your baby or child’s teeth until they are old enough to do it themselves. This is usually around the age of 7 years.
As soon as their first teeth arrive, babies can be affected by tooth decay. The first signs of decay often appear as white spots or lines on the front teeth. Your child needs to get into a regular oral hygiene routine to prevent tooth decay.
Take your baby to visit the dentist as soon as their teeth begin to appear so that the dentist can check their teeth are developing as they should.
Tips to keep your child’s teeth clean
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day, using small circular motions. Their teeth should be cleaned after eating and before bed using toothpaste with fluoride that is suitable for children. This can help to strengthen the outside of the teeth and prevent decay. Make sure they brush for at least 2 minutes, and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.
- Please help your child brush their teeth from when they get their first tooth until they are 7 or 8—after that, supervising them is still essential.
- Try to get into a regular tooth brushing routine, and give your child plenty of praise when they brush their teeth well.
- Replace toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every three months.
- Children should floss as soon as they have two teeth that contact each other. It would help if you supervised flossing until they are about 10.
- To develop strong teeth, make sure your child eats a healthy, balanced diet and avoids foods with a lot of added sugar, such as lollies, biscuits and soft drinks. Always choose fluoridated tap water.
Visiting the dentist
Regular dental check-ups are essential from 1 or 6 months of the first tooth appearing.
Always visit the dentist a positive experience. Never use the dentist as a threat for not brushing teeth or other behaviour.
As your child’s adult teeth grow, make an appointment with the dentist if you notice any teeth or jaw misalignment. They will advise whether corrective treatment is required.
When to seek further help:
See the dentist if your child develops any of the following:
- bleeding, red or swollen gums
- pus coming from the gums
- a bad taste in the mouth that won’t go away
- loose teeth (infected gums can cause this)
- abscesses (these can be under the teeth and will usually be very painful)
- You can find your nearest dentist in the National Health Services Directory.
Costs of dental care
About half of Australians visit the dentist every year. With tooth decay on the rise in Australia, it’s essential to make sure you’ll be able to afford a dentist if your child needs dental care.
The Australian Government covers the dental costs of some children through Medicare. You can check whether your child is eligible on the Child Dental Benefits Schedule website.
Some people use private health insurance to pay some or all of their dental costs. Most people with insurance will still have to deliver some of the costs themselves. This is known as the ‘gap payment’ – the difference between what the dentist charges and the insurer will pay.
The type of health insurance that pays for dental care is known as ‘General Treatment’ (sometimes called ‘Extras’ or ‘Ancillary’). Health insurance that only covers hospitals or ambulances does not pay for dental care. Policies vary widely, so if you have private health insurance, check what dental care you are covered for, the amount you will receive back from the fund, and the limit on how much you can claim in a year.
Dental care can cost several hundreds of dollars. Costs vary widely between dentists. You can shop around and check whether dental check-ups are offered at your child’s school.
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The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional personal diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a dental or medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site.
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