1. Start them young
“We can divide the child’s dental development into two major age groups,” Dr Rashid Tahir, paediatric dentist with The Kids Dentist, explains.
“The first is three to six years old, which we call the primary teeth stage. Then comes the six to nine age group, which is called the mixed dentition stage. That’s when the first permanent molars erupt.”
That said, you shouldn’t wait until your child is three to start brushing her teeth; this should begin the moment she has her first tooth, he advises.
You can gently brush Baby’s gum pads with a soft, wet towel, even if she has no teeth.
2. Gaps are good
That perfect row of pearly whites may not be a good thing on a very young child, orthodontist Dr Poon Kee Hwang of My Braces Clinic says.
“Baby teeth are meant to reserve space for the subsequent larger adult teeth to emerge. So it would be ideal to have gaps between the baby teeth. Without them, there is a great likelihood there will be crooked teeth in the future.”
Talk to your dentist for more advice.
3. Hi, doc
It’s never too early for your toddler to meet the dentist. Dr Kenji Chin recommends that you take her along when you go, or when her sibling has a check-up. It’s important to “set the stage well” for this visit, he adds, because this will shape her perception of the dentist’s clinic.
Casually mention the visit. “It should be put across as no different from going to the supermarket, for example,” he says.
4. Don’t sleep on it
Children should stop falling asleep with the milk bottle in their mouths once they are 18 months old.
“The sugars in the formula can cause the teeth to decay,” Dr Rashid points out.
5. Hard to swallow
So what if your toddler has cavities, you think. But remember that baby teeth don’t all fall out at the same time.
The molars fall out only at 10 years of age. “So if the child gets his molars at three, he will have to live with the cavities for seven years. That’s a long time,” Dr Rashid says.
6. Sweet shock
Some 26 per cent of three- to four-year-olds here have cavities, while 49 per cent of five-to six-year-olds suffer from them.
Candy isn’t the only culprit, though, says Dr Rashid.
Look out for hidden sugar in cereals, juices, cookies, yogurt drinks and ice cream, too.
7. Tell, show, do
Look for a paediatric dentist or an experienced one who’s good with children.
Dr Chin explains what happens during a typical visit.
The dentist will first tell the child what he’s going to do, then show the child what it means with an external prop, and then finally do what he just described on the child.
“The first visit should be a fun, exploratory one, and the child must leave the clinic happy.”
8. Keep the pacifier
Get rid of the pacifier and put a stop to thumb sucking by age five, says Dr Poon.
These habits can push your kid’s front teeth out of alignment.
(Text: Young Parents / Additional reporting: Natalya Molok)