A child’s baby teeth will generally start falling out around the age of six, giving space for adult teeth to form and grow. However, just because these baby teeth will fall out doesn’t mean that we should treat them as temporary and not important to a child’s good dental health.
Tooth decay in baby teeth can cause pain, infection and may have serious impact of a child’s speech and jaw development. More worrying is that early tooth decay can lead to higher risk of new decay in adult teeth, setting up a bad start that may lead to years of dental treatment.
Teaching a child to brush and clean their teeth right is important, but just as important is what they are eating. The types of food and drink you give your child can affect development of tooth decay.
Just like adults, children, once weaned onto solids, should have a wide and varied diet, including foods from all the five food groups and time being put aside for regular meal times.
Settling babies to sleep with bottles of milk can lead to early childhood tooth decay, particularly if it happens often. The problem is that the milk contains natural sugars, which can build up around baby’s teeth at night. The germs on the teeth can turn the sugars into acids, which eat away at the enamel of the baby teeth.
Once your baby has finished their milk, remove the bottle so they do not continue to suck on the bottle all night. If you find your child still thirsty, a drink of water from a sippy cup is advised.
Toddlers and food can be a messy business. They are busy exploring everything, into everything, not too keen to sit and have a meal, instead content with grabbing and running, literally. It’s messy because when you do get them long enough to eat, they are desperate to prove independence and feed themselves.
Setting time aside for regular meal times is important to prevent a toddler simply grazing all day. The concern with grazing is that the longer food and drink stays in your child’s mouth, the more chance there is for acid to develop and cause damage to tooth enamel. This means that nibbling foods and sipping drinks over longer periods of time is more likely to cause tooth decay.
By having set meal times and a range of tooth friendly snacks already cut up, such as fruit and vegetables, you are setting up your child with the right approach to food and diet for life as well as good oral health.
Here is where is can get tricky. As you child grow’s and is gaining more and more independence, you are no longer the only source for their food and drink. They are likely spending with others, with friends at play-dates, childcare or pre-school and also have the independence to open a cupboard or the fridge.
It is generally accepted and well known that soft drinks contain high amounts of sugar and shouldn’t be given to young children. However less well known is that these drinks, along with fruit juices and cordials, often have high-acid levels, and can play a major role in the development of tooth erosion.
According to the Australian Dental Authority (ADA) Healthy Eating Fact Sheet, erosion is a silent epidemic. Soft drinks, high sugar fruit juices and cordials should be limited and encourage your child to drink fluoridated water as much as possible.
School Aged Children
Sending a child off to school for the first time can be daunting for both child and parent. Almost as much so for the parents as they are now part something much bigger than themselves as their children are encouraged to show independence.
Even if your child has been in pre-school or day care, generally there would have been someone making sure they ate their lunch and snacks at the right time. However now it’s up to your child if and when they want to eat their lunch. And they have more opportunities than ever to eat food outside of what you provide, swapping and trading lunches with friends and access to that glorious magical place, the canteen.
Sending your child to school with a healthy lunch box that they will eat and enjoy is a challenge every day.
According to the Australian Dental Association, typically foods that can contribute to dental decay include those high in sugar such as concentrated fruit snack bars, sweets, muesli bars and sugary beverages and juices. This is because the sugar feeds the destructive bacteria in children’s mouths, which in turn puts acid on your child’s teeth. Refined foods such as savoury, starchy crackers and chips can also have high carbohydrate (sugar) content.
A well-balanced diet is important for children to maintain healthy lifestyle and good oral health. Making sure you have on hand a wide variety of dentally healthy snacks and foods including nuts, vegetables, yogurt and fruit will help your children will make the right choices for their diet.