Many parents find it a battle to get their children to clean their teeth. For some reason, this activity more than any other leads to tantrums and tears. Dr Jaco Smith, founder of the first dental phobia clinic in Dubai, says this needn’t be the case.
Dr Jaco explains that by getting children used to a toothbrush from their first tooth will keep them decay-free and set them up with good oral hygiene habits for life. With three sons of his own, he knows what he is talking about. Here are his recommendations:
• Introduce brushing your baby’s gums with a soft toothbrush at bath time. This establishes teeth bushing as part of the washing routine.
• Make it fun. Use fun toothbrushes, music or tooth brushing charts
• Start using a child’s toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth comes through. Introduce fluoride toothpaste which is essential to prevent and control tooth decay, once second (permanent) teeth come through.
• Brush teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, either to music or with an egg timer. Guide your child’s hand to feel the correct movement.
• Use a mirror so that they can see where the brush is and what they are doing
• Use discolouring tablets as a fun and effective way to help them see the areas they have missed after brushing.
• Make sure tooth brushing is done in a controlled environment such as the bathroom, and avoid children running around with a toothbrush in their mouths as they may choke or fall over and hurt themselves.
• Supervise brushing until children are seven to eight years old. By this age they should have the hang of it, but it is still worth checking on them to make sure they brush properly for two minutes.
• Brush your teeth at the same time – children love to imitate grown ups.
First Dental Visits
Once you have established a teeth cleaning routine, Dr Jaco recommends a trip to the dentist. Take children when they are as young as possible and at least once before they are two years old. This will familiarise them with the environment and allow the dentist to identify any potential problems at the outset.
Dr Jaco says, “Make the visit fun and positive. Take your child along for your own check-up. Just having them open their mouths for the dentist is useful practice. This will help avoid anxiety in the future”.
To avoid early decay or cavities, Dr Jaco suggests limiting their sweet and sugar intake and avoid using these items as rewards. Encourage them to snack on fruit and raw vegetables, or breadsticks, crackers, rice cakes or plain popcorn. Stick to water or milk. Sweet, fizzy drinks and fruit juices should be an occasional treat as they contain acid that can damage or thin precious tooth enamel.
As an adult, your child will thank you for helping them to establish good oral hygiene and giving them a dazzling smile.
The Dental Studio is the only dental phobia certified practice in Dubai and located in Umm Al Sheif Road, Jumeirah 3. www.thedentalstudio.ae (04 395 5095).