Need help convincing your kids to brush their teeth? Are they scared of going to the dentist? Dr Paul Wong of T32 Dental Centre shares his tried-and-tested tips for teaching kids about healthy teeth and calming their nerves in the clinic
Teaching children about brushing their teeth and establishing good habits for dental health is so important. Helping them to banish any fears about going to the dentist is the next hurdle… but it doesn’t have to be a big challenge. Picking the right dentist in Singapore for your child goes a long away in making sure your kids’ gums and teeth stay healthy for life. We sat down with Dr. Paul Wong of T32 Dental Centre at Camden Medical Centre to find out the basics of dental care for your kids, how to prep them for visits to the dentist, and his secret weapons for getting kids to brush their teeth more (hint: gross them out!).
What are the rules of a good toothbrushing session?
For babies, aim to brush each tooth back and forth at least three times and use a smear of children’s low-fluoride toothpaste with the smallest infant toothbrush you can find. As your babies grow into toddlers, they’re going to want to do it by themselves. Make sure to brush their teeth again after they’ve had a go at it.
Around seven years old, kids develop the dexterity to brush their own teeth. Teach them a system to take them through a lifetime of good toothbrushing: Start by brushing the outsides of the upper teeth, then the insides, then the tops of the upper teeth, before doing the same for the lower teeth. If they do this right, it should take at least two minutes. Remember – like adults, children should brush their teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed.
Electric toothbrushes: Yay or Nay?
If your child is doing a good job of toothbrushing (as confirmed by your dentist), an electric toothbrush is not strictly necessary. However, it may help a child who’s struggling to brush well or simply doesn’t like brushing their teeth.
What is the major culprit of tooth decay?
In the Singaporean context, a common problem is bottle decay – where a child has developed the habit of falling asleep with a bottle of milk still in the mouth. This leads to cavities quickly developing in almost all their teeth! Never resort to this – no matter how much you want your baby to fall asleep.
Any tips for parents to get their kids to brush their teeth more?
Keep your babies distracted with brief screen time, a song or toys. For the older kids, make toothbrushing a family activity or use a reward system. Truthfully, grossing them out is the best method sometimes – tell them that germs eat their teeth or poop in their mouths while they sleep so it’s necessary to brush well before bed! If that doesn’t work, sometimes all it takes is a toothbrush with a favourite character, different flavoured toothpastes or a powered toothbrush to make things more exciting.
Taking your kids to the dentist
Dr Wong’s secret weapons for keeping kids cool, calm and collected
A lot of times, kids don’t know what to expect at the dentist, so I use the Tell-Show-Do technique to ease them in. First I tell them what I am about to do- for example blow air on their tooth. Then I show them how I’ll do it by blowing air across their arm – if you do it right it should tickle a little bit. Finally, I blow air on the tooth – warning that it might tickle the tooth a little bit too. Plenty of praise, encouragement and playing cartoons on the overhead TV also helps keep things light and playful.
The first trip to the dentist: what to expect
The purpose of the early visit is to detect children at risk and to be familiarised with the dentist. The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry recommends that parents take their babies when the first tooth appears, or by the first birthday at the latest. The first trip will involve a quick examination and a chat about your child’s eating and toothbrushing habits.
How can parents prepare their child for the first visit?
Avoid the words ‘pain’ and ‘hurt’ at all costs – even saying ‘it won’t hurt’ places negative connotations into their heads. Instead, mention that you’re taking them to the dentist, who will count their teeth.
What’s the most important thing parents can teach kids about caring for their teeth?
Make toothbrushing a really strong habit and something your kids will never skip, no matter how tired they are.
About Dr. Paul Wong: Originally from Perth, Paul graduated from the University of Western Australia in 2003 and has lived in Singapore since 2007.
T32 Dental Centre has branches in Camden Medical Centre, CapitaGreen, Marina, Bedok and Jurong; www.t32dental.com.
This article is sponsored by T32 Dental Centre.