​Dental Care for Your Child

​Your baby’s first teeth be​​gin 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.​

Why Looking After My Child’s Teeth Is Important 

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.​

Early loss of baby teeth due to tooth decay may result in misalignment of adult teeth.

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.​

Daily Care 

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 thorough when brushing their teeth. It is crucial to supervise your child until he has the dexterity to do so independently, roughly 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.

How To Brush Your Child’s Teeth

Systematically brush the surfaces of your child’s teeth: outer, inner and chewing surfaces. 

  1. Start by brushing the outer surfaces of the top and bottom row of teeth by getting your child to bite together, instead of opening wide.  Start from the back, move to the front and then to the other side. Stretch your child's cheek to better position the toothbrush when brushing the outer surfaces of the back teeth.
  2. Ask your child to open his mouth to brush the chewing surfaces of the top and bottom row of teeth.
  3. Lastly, brush the inner surfaces of the top and bottom row of teeth, starting from the back, moving to the front and then to the back of other side. To do so, place the toothbrush on the chewing surfaces of teeth and tilt it inwards a little so that the bristles reach the inner surface of teeth.  
  4. Brush for about 10 counts at each segment.

​Tools for Teeth 

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.​ 

Tool Tips 

• Electric or manual, which is better? 

An electric toothbrush can be helpful for children with less manual dexterity, for example, children with special needs.

• Toothbrush tag 

Change toothbrushes every 3-4 months, or when they become frayed. Worn-out toothbrushes do not clean the teeth well, and may injure the gums.​ 

​• Toothpaste 

Fluoride in toothpaste protects your child’s teeth from tooth decay by strengthening it. Fluoridated toothpaste containing at least 1000ppm fluoride prevents tooth decay. 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.

By the time your child turns 1, bring him to visit a dentist who can advise you on the appropriate use of toothpaste.

Due to the concern for dental fluorosis, the recommendation for use of a smear amount (size of a rice grain) of 1000ppm fluoride (F) toothpaste for children below 3 years old should be limited to those at high-risk for dental caries. At the first dental visit, the dentist can determine your child's caries risk and make the appropriate recommendation for toothpaste use.

For children 3 years old and above, who are less likely to swallow toothpaste, use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

• Dental Floss 

Flossing is an important step in dental health. It is the only thing that can effectively clean in-between the teeth. 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 every day. Watch a video on how to help your child floss his teeth here.

Related: Paediatric Dentistry: Child’s First Encounter

A Dental Check-up: What Happens? 

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, 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.​

Sealants To Prevent Tooth Decay 

Dentists use dental 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. A layer of sealant can shield these pits and fissures from bacteria and food debris to lower the risk of tooth decay occurring. 

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. 

​Student Dental Centre 

If your child requires basic dental treatment, you can consider bringing him to the Student Dental Centre. This is located at the Health Promotion Board, Level 4, 3 Second Hospital Avenue, Singapore 168937. 

Ways to make an appointment: 

  • By email: contact_YPS@hpb. gov.sg 

Please book your appointment early. 

Bring the following documents for verification and registration on the day of your appointment: 

  • ​​Birth certificate (for Singaporeans) 
  • Passport/entry permit (for permanent residents and foreigners)​ 

Opening hours are: 

  • 8.00am to 5.30pm (Monday to Thursday) 
  • 8.00am to 5.00pm (Friday) 
  • 8.00am to 12.30pm (Saturday) 

Parent-Child Activities​: Get Active!​ 

Bond with your child while enjoying these tooth-some activities.

Sort Your Food 

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.

Brush Your Teeth 

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.​

Junior’s Adventure

Let your little one watch this short animation on Junior’s adventure to learn about the harmful effects of eating too much sweets and how to protect his teeth from tooth decay.

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.

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