With the both of us mothers of infants, toddlers and teenagers at home, it definitely feels like we’re in the throws of every life stage and change at the moment. We know what it’s like to try to balance curiosity, experimentation and independence with health.
We also know that the ways in which you care for your teeth can be seen in other aspects of your everyday life. That is why we are big believers in prevention at every age.
It’s never too late or early to start caring for your teeth, so we have put together our top tips for every life stage to help you and your family on your journey.
At this stage, young teeth may not be present yet but there are things you can do to help keep your child’s mouth healthy and developing properly.
Guard against baby bottle decay by ensuring they do not fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth, and only ever place milk or water in their bottle. Ensure your child is developing an adult swallow by providing them with the right foods and avoiding things that encourage sucking or inhibit the tongue from reaching the roof of their mouth beyond 12 months of age (e.g. dummies, teat style sippy cups etc.). A delay in development of the adult swallow can lead to problems in the development of the palate and surrounding bony structures, which will require extensive orthodontic treatment down the track.
For further information on this topic please read here:
Babies are born with an innate suckling habit. During suckling, the infant will place the tongue beneath the nipple or bottle teat, in contact with the lower lip. They then swallow with the jaws apart and the lips together.
Characterised by swallowing with the teeth together, the tip of the tongue in contact with with the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth and raised against the palate to create a seal and the lips closed and relaxed.
The change from the infantile to adult swallow is gradual and requires coordination of the lips, tongue and jaw. The suckling reflex usually disappears during the first 12 months of life. When infants start solids, they learn to coordinate the lips, tongue and jaw to bite, chew and collect food in a bolus and move to the back of the mouth for swallowing. The transitional swallow is commonly seen in children between the ages of 3 and 10. During this phase the lip contraction and tongue to lower lip posture may or may not be present. The full adult swallow can be observed as early as 3-4 years of age but is never achieved in 10 -15% of the population!
Toddlers and school-aged children
This is a wonderful stage in life where little ones are old enough to begin to explore and learn. That is why it is so important to start setting a routine filled with healthy habits as soon as possible.
Limit between-meal snacks, take them to see the dentist regularly (twice a year), and of course help your child to brush twice a day. Talk to your dentist about whether your child may need fissure sealants – a preventative measure taken to prevent decay in adult molars. This is also a great age for us to check your child has or is at least transitioning to an adult swallow.
If you’re finding this challenging, which is not uncommon, perhaps introduce or make up a game, song or story for some encouragement. Could your child be motivated by being a superhero fighting the bacteria monsters? Be as creative as you like, here are some ideas to get you started.
Also, if not done already, wean your child off bottles and dummies to give their young teeth enough room to grow and to allow their tongue to move freely around. This will help their mouths to develop correctly.
Teenagers and adults
This life stage will really benefit from the routines you set up in early years. But if these are lacking, it’s never too late to develop healthy habits either!
With baby teeth now a thing of the past, it’s important you brush your adult teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and visit the dentist regularly for professional cleans and check-ups.
Floss daily, limit sugary or starchy foods especially sticky snacks and don’t smoke. Be wary of fad diets, some are extremely bad for your teeth! Just like teeth are the gateway to keeping other parts of your body healthy, it’s a good idea to exercise healthy habits in other aspects of your life like your diet because this will shine through in your everyday smile. Your teeth will thank you later😊
Regardless of if you have a glowing smile, a full set of teeth or support by way of cosmetic of functional implants or dentures, it is vital you still take the time to keep your mouth healthy.
Brush your teeth and gums twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and see your dentist regularly for professional cleans and check-ups.
– Dr Kate and Dr Amy