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Ask the dentist!

As adults it is a given part of our daily routine to brush our teeth, but when it comes to our babies everything is a new experience and there are so many unknowns when it comes to our children’s teeth. We had a chat with expert dentist Dr Joe Hooper from Rose Bay Dental and he answered some of our burning questions!

When do baby teeth start coming through (usually)?
“Baby teeth (typically the lower centrals) start coming through around 4-7months of age.”

When should I first bring my child to see a dentist?
“We encourage parents to bring their children to visit the dentist for the first time anywhere in between the emergence of their first teeth up until their first birthday. Often we are not able to accomplish much depending on the level of the child’s compliance, but it at the very least gets the child used to the environment so that it doesn’t serve as a potentially daunting experience if left too late in their life.”

How often should he/she see the dentist?
“I would say generally that it would be important for children to see their dentist on a semi annual basis. Keeping an eye on their teeth whilst they are developing is important to avoid potential problems that could arise and affect them for the rest of their life. Instilling good oral hygiene & dietary habits early and allowing for normal development should then be able to minimise their need for dental treatment throughout the rest of their life.”

When should you start brushing your babies teeth?
“You should start cleaning your babies teeth as soon as possible. Even if you just begin with a wash cloth rather than a toothbrush. The earlier you get them used to it, the easier it will become.”

What type of toothbrush and toothpaste should you use?
“Use a toothbrush with the smallest head you can find and soft bristles. You can always run it under hot water to soften the bristles as well. Use children’s toothpaste so that there is the appropriate level of fluoride provided.”

How do I prevent my baby getting holes in their teeth?
“Tooth decay occurs when the bacteria in plaque break down dietary sugars producing acid which in turn can create holes in teeth. This process can progress more quickly in deciduous teeth (milk or baby teeth) as their tough outer layer (enamel) is not as thick as that of permanent teeth. To avoid this you want to remove the plaque that builds up on teeth as discussed above and limit dietary sugars. Particularly refined unnatural sugars. These have the dual negative effect of a) being more concentrated and b) often not being accompanied by the associated dietary fibre that facilitates both their removal from the mouth and provides a cleansing action say for example as with a natural piece of fruit or vegetable.”

Do you have any recommendations for helping bubba manage the teething process?
“Babies teeth may come through without any drama at all, but conversely it can also be an uncomfortable experience for them (and you) if the gums become swollen and sore as they do so. No great tips here that I know of other than simply gentling massaging the area with a clean finger to distract from the pain, or giving them a clean cool object to chew on to similarly dull the discomfort (NB frozen vegetable block, perhaps?) And if need be use an appropriate analgesic at the correct dosage.

Fluoride in toothpaste for our children – issues/comments?
“The benefits of fluoride for a child’s developing teeth is critically important. There is no verified scientific evidence that there is any detrimental effects caused by the use of fluoride at an appropriate level. Thus I would say using a children’s toothpaste for the appropriate age that contains the correct dosage is a must. Having too little could lead to extensive tooth decay, having too much could lead to altered tooth development, the potential effects of either scenario could cause detrimental effects for the rest of that Childs life.

Key differences between children and adult toothpastes and how long your child should use one for?
Children should use a toothpaste with up to 500ppm (0.11% w/w) fluoride below the age of 6 and after the age of 6, 1000ppm (0.22% w/w). They should use a pea sized amount so not too much is ingested and once they are older and have better oral control and not likely to do so, spit it out and not rinse it out so they are leaving a little bit of fluoride in their mouth to help protect and develop strong teeth. It is often also a good idea to have them first brush without toothpaste so that it is not a distraction whilst they mechanically remove debris and then subsequently do so with toothpaste for the added chemical & medicinal benefits, this also has the advantage of prolonging the brushing time.

Joe’s top tips for keeping bubs teeth in tip-top shape:

  • Start early (both at home and visits to their dentist) to foster good oral hygiene practices that will put them in good stead for life
  • Use a pea sized amount of an appropriate level fluoride toothpaste
  • Be careful of refined sugar delivered in unnatural forms which is pervasive in modern processed food and drinks (particularly the frequency, which I did not mention above, sipping or chewing on a sugary drink/snack over an extended period of time never allows the mouth to get out of acidic state and can cause rapid destruction of baby teeth”)
  • Its often better to clean children’s teeth closer after mealtime rather than bedtime, when they are tired and may be less enthusiastic to say the least about it.

Dr Joe Hooper

About the Author
Dr Joe Hooper studied dentistry at the University of Adelaide and now practices out of the Rose Bay Dental clinic he shares with father and fellow dentist Dr Gerard Hooper.

Dr Joe Hooper & Dr Gerard Hooper
Rose Bay Dental / Hooper Tooth Conserving Dentistry
Level 2, 2 Norwich Road
Rose Bay, NSW 2029
02 9371 9250

“We have been in Rose Bay for over forty years. We love treating kids at our practice and I think this is probably because I learnt how to do so from my father who is and remains excellent at it. His enthusiasm and knack for doing so never fails to amaze me and I can only hope that having such a good teacher in this area has given me some skills to do so myself. Being a dentist who is extremely conservative treatment wise and where possible on the minimally invasive side of things nothing pleases me more than helping to set a child up for a life so that they will have no need for dental treatment other than routine maintenance.”
– Dr Joe Hooper