It is absolutely essential to remove your child’s plaque daily – starting from infancy to the age when they are self-sufficient in their oral care and hygiene. Plaque removal is important because it is the primary oral issue that determines their real-time and lifetime risk of serious oral complications. These include tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and tooth loss.
Plaque is the root cause of most preventable dental problems
Preventing serious child oral conditions is easier said than done.
In Australia, nearly half of all children aged less than 6 years have never been to the dentist. 34% of 5-6 year olds and 23.5% of 6-14 year olds have experienced tooth decay in either primary or permanent teeth. Also, about 1 in a 100 children are hospitalised for preventable dental conditions. These 2018 ADA statistics reflect the huge scale of preventable negative oral health outcomes that Australian kids have been experiencing.
But if you turn back the clock for almost every Aussie child with oral health issues, you’ll find that the root cause is dental plaque.
Child dental problems cause health & development complications
When a child experiences severe tooth decay as a result of long-term dental plaque, it can lead to other issues, including:
- Tooth pain and discomfort
- Stress, anxiety and poorer quality of life
- Impacts on emerging permanent tooth development under affected teeth
- Oral and systemic bacterial infection
- Expensive emergency and/or restorative dental treatment
- Preventable sick days taken on day-care, kindergarten or school days
- Potential negative effect on self-esteem and confidence
What is dental plaque & how does it form?
Plaque is that creamy, yellowish gunk that sticks to children’s (and adult’s) teeth, especially along the gum line. But it can accumulate everywhere – on teeth, over gums and the tongue, as well as deep in tooth fissures and crevices where mashed food debris gets deposited.
Plaque bio-films also develop down the back of the tongue near the nasal passages, in cheek pockets and the throat. So, it’s important to teach your child to rinse when they are old enough.
Pathogenic bacteria live and reproduce in plaque and feed on the regular influx of food residue that gets caught in these areas. The more bacteria there are, the thicker and tougher plaque gets until it hardens into tartar. As plaque accumulates, the continuous acidic by-products damage tooth surfaces causing further tooth decay.
Establish good oral care & habits at a young age
Oral care and hygiene for infants and toddlers can start before their first teeth appear.
At 3 months, you can start gently wiping their gums after meals with a clean, damp wipe or gauze. It’s also a great opportunity to instil gum care habits & awareness before those first teeth appear and steal the limelight.
When the first teeth appear, start using an infant toothbrush with water until 18 months and infant toothpaste afterwards. You can start gently floss when the first 2 side-by-side teeth appear. As your child grows and become self sufficient, ensure they maintain regular oral care and hygiene habits, regular dental checkups and a healthy lifestyle.