Teaching Dental Care to Children

Caring for your teeth is an imperative task. There can be nothing more beautiful in this world than to see a child smile. Looking at those clean, pearly white set of teeth can make you forget your worries and tensions. But as a parent it is your job not just take care of your child’s teeth but also to teach them the importance of this too.


Teaching Dental Care to children


“Proper dental care begins even before a baby’s first tooth appears. Remember that just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.”


In order to maintain your child’s oral health you need to teach them hygiene measures. They should be simple and easy to follow. Do not be strict with them. Strictness might put them off the dental care regimen. You can try to make them follow the mentioned measures to keep their teeth clean.


  • Start with asking them to brush their teeth twice daily.
  • Teach them the correct method of brushing.
  • Ask them to brush teeth after every meal. Most of the times it is not possible to brush, so ask them to rinse their mouth after every meal.
  • Do not instill the fear of dentist in the young mind of your child.
  • Train your child to visit the dentist happily.


When such habits are instilled at a very young age, it remains with them forever. It is not possible for child to take care of their own teeth. Hence parents play a vital role in helping their children learn the right way of maintaining dental hygiene. Teach them the benefits of maintaining oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay as well as other problems related to teeth.


What care should parents take for their child’s dental care?


1)      Avoiding Sugar


Everyone knows that sugar is harmful for teeth. But not many know the precise reason and fail to explain it to their children. It is natural to fall for the temptation of sweets. But if parents communicate the disadvantages of sugar to the children, they can try to refrain as much as they can.


An article written by Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent for The Telegraph, reveals the acid levels of popular juice drinks consumed by millions of households – including one found to be more acidic than vinegar.

 Habits that can harm childrens teeth

* Image by The Telegraph


Sweet food and beverages have the quality to mix with the bacteria present in mouth. The bacteria quickly digest the sugar and produces acid. This acid attacks the enamel of the teeth. This leads to inevitable growth of dental caries or rotten teeth.


Sugar is present in almost every food. But the most damage is caused by the refined sugar. The food items which have high levels of sugar are:


  • Sticky sweets and lollipops
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Fruit juices
  • Soft drinks
  • Milk and yoghurts


Talking of childhood, it is impossible to stop children from consuming the mentioned food items. But as a parent you can ensure that your child has minimal or limited intake of such food items. Encourage them to consume fruits and vegetables that have natural sugar. Try to replace the oily, junk snacks with fruits. Do not forget that fruits are healthy but fruit juices have tremendous potential to damage the enamel of your child’s teeth as they also contain sugar.


2)      Clean Teeth


Maintain a cleaning regimen from the day your child is born. Even if he or she does not have teeth wipe the gums with a wet cloth. Once the baby starts teething you need to clean the teeth more often. If you maintain the cleaning regimen successfully, you child will grow accustomed to such habits. In the later years he or she will continue to take the efforts.


Natasha Habib is a qualified dental surgeon from Washington School of Dentistry and has a lot of experience in children’s dentistry. She offers the following advice “after 1 yr of age children should no longer be on bottle or breast. Even during the first year, never put baby to bed with a bottle of milk, though plain water is fine”


  • Make use of soft toothbrush. Dip the brush in warm water this will turn the bristles softer.
  • Till the age of six use children’s toothpaste. Such toothpastes have limited fluoride in them. Certain toothpastes are not recommended for children. Ask for suggestions from your dentist.
  • Brush or clean the teeth of your child every time he or she has meals.
  • Change the brush of your child every three months.
  • Do not let your child share his or her toothbrush with others.


3)      Dummies or Digit Sucking


The first action that comes naturally to any baby is to suck their thumb or fingers! It helps them relax naturally. This is what has led to the invention of pacifiers. But as a parent you need to ensure that you do not add either sugar or honey on the dummy. This will only help to create more cavities.


“Discontinue use of pacifier or thumb sucking by age 3 or 4. Prolonged habitual sucking will physically alter the anatomy of the mouth, creating a high palate and flared upper front teeth. If the habit is stopped early enough, these changes can be reversible.”


It is always better to put your child on a dummy rather than the thumb. However, it should be seen that the habit of sucking thumb or pacifiers should not be encouraged for a long time. This will only damage the shape of their mouth and the position of their teeth.


Potential problems caused by thumb/digit sucking:

  • Front teeth in the upper jaw will stick out
  • Front teeth in the lower jaw will tilt in
  • The jaws in the upper and lower section would misalign


Even if your child has grown use to this habit, do not be scared. You can ask help from your dentist to get rid of this habit.


4)      Prevent Early Tooth Decay


By early tooth decay it means the decaying of milk/first/baby teeth. This happens when the baby has the habit of sleeping with the bottle in the mouth. This bottle is usually filled with sweet liquid. As mentioned, sweet liquid can be harmful for the oral health of the baby. Once the baby has developed teeth the chances of cavities due to this liquid increases. Hence if you have such a practice, stop it. Replace the sweet liquid with water. Even milk, whether it is breast or formula, can cause rotten teeth.


According to Natasha Habib “parents should be reminded that keeping baby teeth clean and healthy helps prevent decay of permanent teeth. Early loss of baby teeth can also contribute to misalignment and crowding in permanent teeth. (You would not believe how many parents think baby teeth are throw-away teeth!)”


5)      Visit Your Dentist Regularly


It is believed that children should visit the dentist every 6 months. The moment your baby has their first tooth you can take to take him or her to the dentist. However it is fine to fix the first appointment when your child turns two. The earlier you begin with the dental practice, the quicker your child grows accustomed to it. This way you would eliminate any possible development of a dental phobia.


Practising the above mentioned suggestions will pay in the long run for your child’s oral health because:-

  • Habits formed in early years can last a lifetime.
  • Poor oral health can affect self-esteem.
  • Poor nutritional practice can affect general health as well as oral health.
  • Poor oral health can cause unnecessary pain and trauma.
  • Children can avoid the need to have teeth extracted particularly under general anaesthetic.
  • Baby teeth act as an important guide for permanent teeth.


I’m Dr. Priya Patel with over 10 years of experience in the dental industry. I qualified from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Dental Hospital in 2002 from London. I involve patients in their own treatment and enjoy seeing the improvement in a patient as their treatment progresses.

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