Boy toothbrushing

"Parents, don't let your children brush their teeth on their own"

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Interview with Dr. Chantal Kengo, Specialist Pediatric Dentist

One of the main causes of tooth decay in children is poor oral hygiene, more specifically inefficient brushing of teeth. What happens when we let our children do the brushing on their own? Find out from Dr. Chantal today.

You see a lot of children and parents every day. What do most parents say when it comes to brushing their children's teeth?

During consultation, parents would often say "My child knows how to do it", "My child does not want me to brush his/her teeth" or "I want my child to be independent." Most parents allow their children to brush their teeth by themselves. What happens then? The child does a very poor job of cleaning his teeth, and ultimately, the end result is cavities.

SEE ALSO: 8 Tips on Getting Your Child to Brush His Teeth

What can you recommend parents when it comes to their children's oral hygiene?

Every child is different but in general parents should brush their child's teeth until they are about 8 to 10 years old. Remember that it is very important that parents continue to supervise their children's brushing until the age 10 to 12. This is to make sure that they're doing it thoroughly. Brushing should be done for two minutes minimum twice a day.

What if the child insists on brushing on his own?

Brushing is a skill. Like many skills, it take years to learn it and be good at it. Young children usually do not have the manual dexterity to brush or floss properly. If your child wants to do it by himself, let him! It's a great way for him to practice but ALWAYS make sure that you brush his teeth before or after he's done it for himself. For older children aged 10 to 12 years, make sure that you supervise them. Be there when your child brushes his teeth and make sure that your child is doing it well. Reinforce whenever necessary.

Do you still see many cases of tooth decay in children?

I see a lot of cases. In fact, although tooth decay is preventable, the World Health Organization reports that around 60 – 90% of children around the world have tooth decay.

What other advice can you give parents?

Aside from proper oral hygiene and regular checkups, one other main thing that parents should focus on is their children's diet. I suggest a diet with very minimal intake of sugar to help protect your child from cavities. If you must give your child some sweets, give a small serving along with a main meal, or have a “Sweet Day”, one day in the week where your child can enjoy some sweets. Parents should also be wary about juices.

Juices, even those labelled fresh or sugar-free, are loaded with sugar and acids. Limit juices and encourage your child to drink more water instead.
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