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How to Take Care of Your Child’s Oral Health?

Dental and oral health is essential for an individual’s health, the foundation of which is established right from an infant stage. Research shows that tooth decay is five times more common than asthma in young children, highlighting the lack of awareness surrounding this topic among parents.

The importance of good oral health for children

In fact, children’s oral health generally requires more attention as baby or primary teeth are prone to diseases which may have lasting effects into adulthood. Healthy baby teeth is important for the child to eat and chew food properly, which is essential to ensure his or her nutritional needs are met. In addition, they are also crucial for the child’s speech development, as well as the proper development of permanent adult teeth in the right positions at the right time. Improper care for baby teeth is one of the reasons for crooked and/or impacted permanent teeth, which may require for orthodontic or surgical treatment to correct in the future. Decayed baby teeth may also result in discoloured or defected adult teeth. As such, proper care of baby teeth is extremely important – probably more so than most of us previously thought!

What oral diseases are children prone to?

The main disease to look out for is Early Childhood Caries (ECC). Caries are decay caused by mutans streptococci bacteria acting on carbohydrates and sugar found in food debris. Many liquids which contain these fermentable carbohydrates are those that parents typically feed children, including juice, breast milk and formula milk!

Bacteria is easily acquired by infants from their caretaker’s saliva, which is transmitted from intimate contact of kissing, sharing of utensils and blowing of food. Caretakers or parents who have higher levels of mutans streptococci bacteria are at a higher risk of passing this decay-causing bacteria to their children. As such, parents and caretakers also need to have good oral hygiene to prevent the development of ECC.

ECC usually manifests through decay on the surface of the teeth – particularly the front surface of the upper front teeth, as well as in between the baby molars. Research has shown that having ECC puts the infant or child at risk of developing decay later in their adult teeth, and also impedes their overall growth.

Healthy oral health practices to adopt

That brings us to the following questions – what oral hygiene practices should parents adopt for their infant or child, or what habits should be inculcated in them to prevent ECC and maintain good oral health?

At early infant stage, before the development of baby teeth:

Oral health does not begin only when teeth appear. After breast feeding or bottle feeding your infant, it is helpful to use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe the baby’s gums. Try to remove food debris and plaque on the gums. Regularly wiping the infant’s gums helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria in the mouth and tooth decay.

At six months of age, when the first tooth begins to develop:

As soon as the first baby tooth erupts, parents can break out the first toothbrush. Use warm water and a fluoride-free toothpaste in the early years. While fluoride helps to build up teeth’s resistance to decay and cavities, it is generally not recommended up to 2-3 years of age, or when the child learns to spit. The ingestion of fluoride could cause fluorosis or mottling of the permanent teeth.

Toothbrushes should be changed every two to four months or once the bristles roughen, to prevent bacteria build-up.

Parents should also avoid putting babies to sleep right after feeding or giving them milk. Exposing teeth to food substances overnight increases the risk of cavity development. Be sure to brush their teeth before bed and have meals a few hours in advance.

By the baby’s first birthday:

Infants should visit the dentist by their first birthday, whether they have any dental concerns or not – not everyone has dental problems, but everyone has dental health! This also helps parents and children to build a good relationship and familiarity with their dentist, which helps to foster a comfortable environment at the dental clinic.

The first visit usually entails a discussion of oral hygiene and dietary habits with parents or caregivers, to ensure that the right practices are being done at home. The dentist will then check the baby’s teeth and gums to look out for signs of decay and assess the overall condition of oral health. The dentist will also examine the baby’s facial bones, cheeks, tongue and palate to see if there are signs of unusual swelling. Sealants may be applied to protect teeth against tooth decay.


It is important to emphasise the importance of oral health for your children and also maintain proper oral hygiene among parents yourselves. Children with a good set of teeth will be able to speak properly and have a good self-image, boosting self-esteem and confidence. Not to mention, improper management of baby teeth may result in the alignment of adult teeth. Instilling good oral health practices for your child goes a long way in creating a strong foundation for a lifetime of good oral health, all the way into adulthood.

What matters most to parents? Our most-read articles:

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Genesis Childcare 1989 (Playgroup to Kindergarten 2)

Blk 433 Tampines Street 43 #01-63/65 S(520433)

Nurture Infant House (2 to 18 months Infants)

Blk 433 Tampines Street 43 #01-61 S(520433)

Opening hours: Monday to Friday (7am to 7pm) & Saturday (7am to 2pm)

Public Bus services: 8 / 21 / 28 / 29 / 293



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