Almost every seventh three-year-old child already has tooth decay. How can parents prevent tooth decay? A dentist explains it – and reveals why a normal manual toothbrush is best
Even milk teeth should be cleaned regularly.
First the good news: Almost 80 percent of twelve-year-olds in Germany have caries-free teeth. Together with Denmark, Germany is the international leader with this figure. This was the result of a study commissioned by the Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Jugendzahnpflege (German Dental Association), for which more than 300,000 children were examined nationwide.
And now for the bad news: only 53 percent of six- to seven-year-olds have healthy teeth. And now for the very bad news: almost 14 percent of three-year-olds are already affected by caries – up to the dentin. For Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schiffner, dentist in Hamburg and training officer of the German Society for Pediatric Dentistry, this is a clear sign that prevention simply arrives too late with the youngest. Good dental care is not so difficult. We asked the expert what is important.
When do you start brushing your teeth?
“As soon as the first milk tooth has broken through,” says Ulrich Schiffner. So from six months on. But the matter of dental care can be tackled loosely at first? Schiffner says no. The same recommendations apply to the little ones as to adults: brush twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. “This allows you to establish a certain habituation at an early stage,” says the expert. The best way to do this is to introduce a ritual for brushing your teeth early, i.e. fixed times. For example, in the morning after getting dressed and in the evening before going to bed.
Fingerstall, cotton swab or toothbrush?
“Only the toothbrush,” emphasizes Schiffner. Because neither fingerling nor cotton swab would be able to remove the plaque sufficiently. The cleaning effect is almost zero. When choosing a toothbrush, one should only make sure that it is age-appropriate. Up to the age of 24 months that means: a particularly small head, very soft bristles and a large handle, so that the parents can hold the brush well. Even later, when a larger toothbrush is used to match the growing oral cavity, the main work of brushing is still with the parents.
How to brush your teeth properly
First, the chewing surfaces are cleaned at the top and bottom. From the back to the front and back again.
Then place the teeth on top of each other and paint large circles on the outer surfaces.
Finally, the inner surfaces are on. Open your mouth wide. Clean the toppings from red to white.
How do I brush my teeth?
“Best tooth for tooth with very gentle pressure and circular movements – and with a portion of children’s toothpaste the size of a rice grain,” says Schiffner. From about 24 months it can be a pea size. Whether for children in the first years of life fluoride >pediatricians and dentists disagree. Important: never give both together.
The dentist can instruct parents when cleaning. From the sixth month of life, when the first milk teeth break through, parents and their children can go to the dentist for advice on caries prevention. Between the sixth and the 34th month of life, health insurance companies pay for three early detection examinations and the application of fluoride varnish twice a calendar half-year. Between the age of 34 and the age of six, three early detection examinations and the application of fluoride varnish are also covered by health insurance.
How does my child brush his teeth?
In the first years of life, the toothbrush is used to scrub around uncoordinatedly in the mouth. This does not mean that the parents are better off taking care of their teeth completely. First the child “brushes” the teeth, then the parents brush them. And that should stay that way for quite a while. “We now recommend that parents brush their teeth up to the age of ten,” says Ulrich Schiffner. The children are simply not able to remove plaque from all the surfaces of their teeth.
Floss or no floss?
That depends on how close the teeth are to each other. According to Schiffner, milk teeth are very fragmentary for a long time, so that the gaps can be easily reached with a toothbrush. If the teeth are closer together, you can use floss holders to clean the interdental spaces – preferably only after the dentist has instructed you, as you can quickly injure the gums.
Electric toothbrush or not?
“There’s no strong case for an electric toothbrush,” says Schiffner. It does not remove plaque better or faster than a normal toothbrush. And there’s an argument for that: “It’s good for motor skills. The child does something in its mouth and feels something in its head,” emphasizes Schiffner.
Games for easier tooth brushing
Depending on the age also different games help. Rhymes distract younger opponents, for example:
- Brushing your teeth, brushing your teeth – that’s what every child has to do. Brushing teeth, brushing teeth – until they are clean.
- Ritsche, ratsche, back and forth, brushing teeth is not difficult. Circles, circles, all around, brushing teeth is not stupid. We sweep out, we sweep out, all the crumbs have to be removed.
- Or a toothbrush song (melody: A little man stands in the forest): We brush our teeth from red to white. We always keep our brush round in a circle. In the morning, when I get up early, in the evening, when I go to bed, I brush my teeth as white as snow.
Or: give the teeth animal names (“Let’s brush the teeth of the mice in the front, the bear’s tooth looks out in the back”). To do this, turn on your favourite song or let an egg timer run so that you really clean for two to three minutes.
Parents could also organise a competition with older children: Who can clean the longest without spitting? And when the family starts the caries fight together after the meals, this is of course particularly motivating.