Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Teach your child tips to take good care of his teeth
Your baby’s first teeth begin to appear when he is about 6 months old. By the time he is 3 years old, the whole set of 20 baby (or milk) teeth will be fully erupted.
From the age of 6, these will gradually be replaced by adult teeth. Practising proper dental care will help your child keep his adult teeth permanently.
Some parents might ask: “Why is it crucial to look after my child’s teeth now, since the baby teeth will drop out anyway and they will be replaced by adult teeth?”
Healthy habits start young and will carry over to adulthood. A child who does not want to brush his teeth or go to a dentist will likely continue to do so in adulthood. Not unless parents guide him and instil good health habits from young.
A child with bad teeth might also face the problem of crooked teeth when the adult teeth erupt to take the place of the baby teeth, which are lost early due to tooth decay.
It is good to know that a child with a good set of teeth will be able to speak properly and carry off a good self-image, which can boost his self-esteem and confidence.
Consistently guide your child on how to care for his teeth and this healthy habit will stay with him for life.
Your child needs to brush his teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once before he sleeps at night. Most young children are not detailed when brushing their teeth. It is crucial to supervise your child when he brushes his teeth till he is 7-9 years old.
You can make tooth-brushing a happy affair every day. Find a way that works for both you and your child. Do try out some of the suggested activities at the end of this chapter to encourage daily toothbrushing.
Systematically brush the surfaces of your child’s teeth: outer, inner and chewing surfaces.
1. Be systematic
2. Divide the upper and lower jaws into three segments each
3. Brush all surfaces of a tooth
The toothbrush section of a supermarket or a pharmacy is a confusing place. There are so many different types of toothbrushes available, how do you choose the right one?
For children, choose a toothbrush with a smaller head and soft bristles. The mouths of children are not as large as those of adults; a smaller-head brush will be able to reach into the back sections better. Soft bristles are gentler on the gums.
An electric toothbrush can be helpful for children with less manual dexterity, for example, children with special needs.
Change toothbrushes every 3-6 months, or when they become frayed. Worn-out toothbrushes do not clean the teeth well, and may injure the gums.
Fluoride in toothpaste protects your child’s teeth from tooth decay by strengthening it. However, children can get fluorosis on permanent teeth from swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste. Fluorosis results in a change in colour or texture of the teeth.
To prevent fluorosis, ensure that an appropriate amount of toothpaste according to your child’s age is dispensed and that your child does not swallow the toothpaste.
Use a fluoridated toothpaste containing at least 1000ppm fluoride twice a day to prevent tooth decay. For children below 3 years old with high risk of decay, a smear amount (size of a rice-grain) of fluoride toothpaste is recommended.
Visit a dentist who can advise you on your child’s risk of developing tooth decay and on the appropriate use of toothpaste. For children 3 years old and above, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.
Flossing is an important step in dental health. It is the only thing that can effectively clean in-between the teeth. Too many people ignore it. Start your child on this path early and let him develop it as a good lifelong habit. Young children do not have the dexterity to carry out flossing. You can help your child floss his teeth once a day.
Many parents think that children do not need to visit the dentist, but you are encouraged to arrange regular dental check-ups for your child from his first birthday. Your child needs to see the dentist 6 months after the first tooth has erupted, or by the time he/she turns one year old.
Your child could have a dental problem even if he does not have any symptoms, and this could eventually lead to pain and swelling that will affect eating, speaking and even sleeping. A visit to the dentist can help to detect problems early, fixing them before the condition worsens. The last thing any parent should do is to introduce a child to a dentist when he is already in pain.
First, the dentist will discuss oral hygiene and dietary habits with you to ensure that you are doing the right thing for your child at home.
The dentist will check your child’s teeth and gums to look out for things like decay or cracks, and whether the gums are healthy. Bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease.
The dentist will also look at your child’s facial bones, cheeks, tongue, and palate to see if there are any unusual swellings. If there are any problems, or if your child requires further treatment, he will discuss follow-up options with you after the examination.
Dentists use special materials called sealants to protect teeth against tooth decay. The chewing surfaces of molars (the teeth at the back of mouth) have deep grooves called “fissures”.
Tooth decay often starts in these areas that toothbrush bristles cannot reach. A layer of sealant can shield these pits and fissures from bacteria and food debris so that tooth decay will not occur.
Sealants are very effective. Best of all, they are painless! After the tooth is cleaned and dried, the dentist applies the sealant on it. Once the sealant hardens, it forms a protective covering over the tooth. If a sealant is worn down or defective, it can be easily repaired or replaced.
Together with proper brushing, flossing, regular dental check-ups, and a balanced diet, sealants can help to ensure that tooth decay is kept at bay.
The Preschool Oral Health Promotion Programme reaches out to preschool children in Singapore. This is carried out in kindergartens and child care centres by dental therapists and dentists from the Health Promotion Board.
The programme introduces your child to dental care in a fun way. Through stories, games and songs, your child will also learn about the cause of tooth decay and how to prevent it. Teachers in the childcare centres are taught to conduct daily tooth-brushing exercises while children in kindergartens are taught the importance of teeth and how to maintain a healthy set of teeth.
If your child requires basic dental treatment, you can consider bringing him to the School Dental Centre. This is located at the Health Promotion Board, Level 4, 3 Second Hospital Avenue, Singapore 168937.
Ways to make an appointment:
Please book your appointment early.
Bring the following documents for verification and registration on the day of your appointment:
Opening hours are:
Bond with your child while enjoying these tooth-some activities.
Cut out a large white tooth and a large yellow tooth from construction paper. Cut out different types of food from magazines. Have your child sort out the food according to those that are good for teeth (place these on the white tooth), and those that are harmful to teeth (place these on the yellow tooth). Talk to your child about eating more of the food on the white tooth.
Draw a picture of a mouth with teeth. Shade the teeth using a pencil and have your child erase away the black stains with an eraser, to highlight the effects of tooth-brushing.
Read these next:
This article was last reviewed on
Monday, December 23, 2019
Raising healthy kids
Children see, children do
Is My Child Developing Normally?
Keep Germs Away
Smoke-free Environment for a Healthier Family
Books for your growing child (Toddler and Preschooler)
View More Programmes
Browse Live Healthy
Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.