10 ways to prevent tooth decay in kids

June 15, 2017
  • 10 tips to keep your child's smile healthy
    1 / 11 10 tips to keep your child's smile healthy

    Have a young child who complains of toothaches?

    Your toddler is not alone – at least 50 per cent of pre-schoolers in Singapore have tooth decay, according to paediatric dentist Badrun Nafis from Thomson Paediatric Centre (Katong).

    In addition, 38.4 per cent of Singapore’s pre-schoolers suffer from severe early childhood decay.

    If left untreated, decaying milk-teeth can affect the development of children’s permanent teeth. Here are 10 tips on how to keep your child’s smile healthy and decay-free.

    Related: This is why 4 in 10 Singapore preschoolers have severe tooth decay


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  • Beware the bottle
    2 / 11 Beware the bottle

    Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle containing formula milk or any other sweetened fluids.

    As saliva flow tends to be reduced during sleep, the liquid from the bottle will pool around the teeth and stay there for a long time, which increases the risk of decay.

    During the daytime, do not use a bottle of milk or juice as a pacifier or let your child walk around with a bottle in his mouth.

    Related: 1-year-old baby has 5 rotten teeth: Mum’s guilt and regret

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  • Less sweet treats
    3 / 11 Less sweet treats

    The bacteria in one’s mouth interacts with sugar from food and drinks to produce acids, which dissolve and damage the teeth.

    Saliva helps to reduce the harmful effects of this acid.

    As such, limit your child’s sweet snacks and drinks to the main meal times, as this is when saliva flow is greatest.

    Additionally, since most children have a sweet tooth, parents should encourage them to consume less food and drinks containing added sugar.

    Related: 3 common teeth problems in children you should not ignore


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  • Formula milk may cause tooth decay
    4 / 11 Formula milk may cause tooth decay

    Formula milk tends to have a higher sugar content than breast milk and fresh milk, and is more likely to cause cavities.

    The regular intake of formula milk may result in tooth decay.

    Related: Read the label: Get to know these ingredients in baby’s formula milk

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  • Care, don't share
    5 / 11 Care, don't share

    Avoid sharing utensils with your young child, or “cleaning” a pacifier by putting it into your mouth.

    This is because your mouth may contain cavity-causing bacteria, which can pass from the saliva in your mouth to your child’s mouth.

    Related: Lazy kid won’t brush teeth: What you can do

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  • Begin brushing early
    6 / 11 Begin brushing early

    Begin brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a wet toothbrush as soon as the first tooth erupts.

    You should begin to teach your child how to brush his teeth with toothpaste once he is old enough to spit. This generally begins at around age two or three.

    Related: Baby teeth care: 4 things to know

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  • Let your child take over, but not too soon
    7 / 11 Let your child take over, but not too soon

    Continue to brush your child’s teeth for him until he has the dexterity to do so himself. This will generally occur at around age seven, or when your child is able to tie his own shoelaces.

    Even after your child begins brushing his own teeth, you should continue to supervise him and check areas such as the back and inner surfaces of the teeth to make sure those areas are properly brushed.

    Related: When to start flossing your child’s teeth

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  • Brush up on good brushing habits
    8 / 11 Brush up on good brushing habits

    Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day – once in the morning and once at night. Children should spend at least three minutes brushing.

    When brushing teeth, the toothbrush bristles should be placed at the junction between the gums and teeth.

    All three surfaces of the teeth – the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth – should be brushed thoroughly.

    Related: Healthy teeth for kids: 5 common problems


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  • Choose the right toothbrush
    9 / 11 Choose the right toothbrush

    Toothbrushes for children should have small heads and soft bristles.

    The toothbrush should be changed when the bristles are worn out, as such toothbrushes may injure the gums and will be less effective in removing plaque.

    Related: Is it safe to share toothbrush?

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  • Teach your child to eat right
    10 / 11 Teach your child to eat right

    Strong sources of calcium such as low-fat milks, cheese, yogurt, and broccoli are crucial in building strong teeth. Lean meats, nuts, and proteins also help to strengthen tooth enamel.

    Finally, crunchy fruits and vegetables with high water content such as celery, pears, and cucumbers, help to clean the teeth by removing some substances that adhere to the teeth when eating.

    Related: Healthy teeth for kids: 8 expert tips

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  • Visit the dentist
    11 / 11 Visit the dentist

    Start taking your child to the dentist when he turns one, or when he gets his first tooth.

    This will allow dental problems to be managed early, and will make subsequent dental visits less traumatic for your child.

    Parents who wish to access basic dental treatment for their pre-schooling children may bring them to the School Dental Centre located at Health Promotion Board (HPB), by calling HPB on 6435 3782.

    Related: Where to find dentists for babies and kids in Singapore

    Sources: American Dental Association, Health Promotion Board, KidsDental, Ministry of Health, Q&M Kids, Thomson Paediatric Centre (Katong)

    A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times 

    (Photos: 123RF.com) 

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