A baby’s first tooth usually appears at around six months, though it may be later or earlier. Whenever it may be, once your child’s first tooth erupts, it’s time to start your child’s dental health journey.
According to Dr. Nina Tayag-Atotubo, member of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society Inc., and consultant at the Pediatric Dentistry Center Philippines, the appearance of the first tooth should also signal the parents to bring their children for their first dental visit. “It should be done no later than age 1,” she shares, “or as early as when the first tooth erupts.”
Dr. Tayag-Atotubo emphasizes the importance of the first dental visit, because it is during that time when parents can be taught the proper care of their child's dental health.
“Do not bring them when there is already a problem or if there is already pain because they will associate going to the dentist with something painful,” she advises. “They will start to be fearful and it might create a traumatic experience for them. Prevention is always better than cure.”
Aside from an early start with dental visits, there are other things parents can and should do to care for their children’s teeth. Here are some of them:
1. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Contrary to popular belief, parents should use fluoride toothpaste — not the usual “kiddie toothpastes” — to brush their child's teeth, even if the child doesn't know how to spit yet.
“The important thing to remember is the correct amount of fluoride and the correct amount of toothpaste to be used,” Dr. Tayag-Atotubo — a mom herself, to two-year-old Miguel — shares.
“Look for a toothpaste that has at least 1,000 ppm fluoride. Most kiddie toothpaste brands have less than this amount, making them less effective compared to anti-caries toothpaste brands,” she adds. “Non-fluoride toothpaste is not recommended.”
As to how much toothpaste to place on your child’s toothbrush, Dr. Tayag-Atotubo says that a “smear amount” is enough for children 0 to 3 years old. “Using a minimal amount of toothpaste addresses the concern of children who cannot spit yet,” she explains.
For kids 3 to 6 years old, a pea-sized amount is sufficient, while a “ribbon” of toothpaste can be used for children above 6 years.
2. Don’t ask your child to rinse his/her mouth when brushing his/her teeth. If you’ve been asking your child to rinse his/her mouth with water after brushing his/her teeth, it’s time to stop doing so.
“No rinsing needed,” Dr. Tayag-Atotubo emphasizes. “Just spit out the excess [toothpaste]. You want the fluoride to stay in contact with the teeth for a longer period of time. Rinsing it off will prevent this from happening.”
3. Have your child brush his/her teeth regularly. This probably goes without saying but it’s still worth mentioning: Parents should make sure that their children brush their teeth often. “Brushing should be done at least twice a day, for at least two minutes each time,” Dr. Tayag-Atotubo says.
You should make sure, too, that toothbrushing is done or supervised by an adult as small children do not have the dexterity and skill to brush their own teeth yet.
4. Watch your child’s diet and fluid intake. According to Dr. Tayag-Atotubo, diet is an important factor in the development of dental caries. This is why she emphasizes the following points: - Stay away from soft drinks and foods that are high in acid and sugar. - Choose healthy foods like vegetables and those with calcium. - Nighttime bottle feeding is a major contributor to early childhood caries. Milk contains sugar and the teeth are exposed to it the whole time that the child is sleeping.
This is why it’s best to teach your child to drink from a cup or glass by age 2. “No more food or milk after brushing at night,” Dr. Tayag-Atotubo recommends.
5. After your child’s first visit to the dentist, schedule regular visits. Dr. Tayag-Atotubo says that children should visit the dentist regularly, i.e. every 3 to 6 months.
“Oral prophylaxis and fluoride treatment can be done as a preventive measure and for maintenance,” she explains. “Children who visit the dentist more often will be more relaxed because they are used to seeing the dentist regularly. They will look forward to the dental visits because it will be a good and pleasurable experience for them.”
Tips to prepare your child for a visit to the dentist Here’s what you can do to help make visits to the dentist more pleasant and less terrifying for children:
1. Bring them at an early age. Bring them regularly to develop the relationship between your child and the dentist. For the relationship to grow, time should be invested.
2. Never use the dentist as "panakot." Some parents make the dentist seem like a villain when they say, "Hala, dadalhin kita sa dentist, bubunutan ka ng ngipin!". Create a positive impression/image of the dentist. Always assure your kids that the dentist is their friend.
3. For older children, you can explain to them what to expect when they go to the dental clinic. Read them books about first dental visits and show them pictures of things to see. You can also view age-appropriate related videos online, plus use role-playing to introduce the concept of a dental visit.
Remember, our young kids depend on us for almost everything, so we need to do our best to take care of them — including their teeth. Hopefully, by putting these tips into practice, caring for your child’s teeth will be a less “painful” process — for both you and him/her.
Looking for oral care products for the whole family? Try these:
1. Close Up Diamond Attraction uses the revolutionary Blue Light Technology for visibly whiter teeth in just one brush. Available at Robinsons Supermarket for P95 (100 g)
2. Astring-O-Sol Ice Pure Mouthwash has a unique Tri-Defense formula that helps strengthen the teeth, protect the gums, and clean the tongue. Available at Robinsons Supermarket for P48.50 (60 ml)
3. Glister multi-action fluoride toothpaste fights cavities and promotes remineralization to help repair early cavities. Available at Amway Philippines. Call (02) 893-0571 / (02) 840-2209 for details, or visit the Distribution Center at ACE Bldg. G/F 101-103, Rada St. Legaspi Village Makati City
4. Dentiste Plus White Toothpaste contains herbal extracts such as Peppermint Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Sage Extract and Chamomile Extract that act as natural inhibitors of bad breath-causing bacteria. Available at Robinsons Supermarket for P238 (100 g)
5. Colgate Charcoal Deep Clean with micro-charcoal has the ability to absorbs toxins from the surface of the teeth, keeping it clean and bacteria-free. Available at Robinsons Supermarket for P126.50 (150 g)