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Kids' Corner: Make your little one a dental dazzler

Despite the importance placed on dental hygiene nowadays, many new parents struggle when it comes to tackle cleaning time

WE all want our children to have the perfect gnashers, but as much as those preposterous toothpaste ads would have us believe, there is no magic solution to sound dental hygiene. It needs a bit of good old-fashioned hard work and patience when it comes to kids. The key person in this situation is you, as your little ones need help if they’re going to achieve that dazzling smile.

As soon as your little bundle of joy’s first teeth begin to sprout they will require care. The first thing to do is buy a baby soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Back in your home country, there may be enough fluoride in the water to use the special kiddy toothpaste that is available but that is not the case here in Cambodia. Deborah Moore, formerly a dentist at Phnom Penh’s European Dental Clinic, recommends using adult toothpaste right from the off.

Using this soft brush and toothpaste twice a day as soon as teeth appear will help set a good precedent for dental hygiene for your child. Use a pea-sized amount of paste and don’t panic if you can’t brush for too long – at this stage it is just as important to get the little one used to tooth brushing as part of their daily routine.

As we all know, there are two sets of teeth that we need to take care of. The ones we are most concerned with for now are the milk teeth, which usually start coming through from the age of about six months. There are normally 20 milk teeth and these should all have appeared by the age of two or three, but there is no need to worry if it is taking a little longer. These teeth are vital for your child’s early development in areas such as speaking and eating so it is imperative you take good care of them. They also set the stage for the development of your child’s adult teeth.

When to visit the dentist?
It is a good idea to take your child to the dentist when their first teeth begin to sprout, or even before, as it will help your little one become familiar with the environment of a dental surgery and your dentist will be able to spot any early signs of decay. This should also help your child form a good early relationship with your dentist – which could be useful further down the road.

Children should have more dental check ups than adults as milk teeth are thinner than permanent teeth which means decay will spread more quickly and could cause toothache. Obviously, your dentist is also the ideal person to advise you on choosing toothpastes, diet and feeding bottles.

It seems infuriatingly obvious to most of us but you would be surprised how many times I see parents, both western and Khmer, giving their child completely unsuitable food and drinks. I recently witnessed a three-year-old girl guzzling a can of Fanta which had been supplied by her European father. The simple rules apply in terms of fizzy drinks and sweets – they should be avoided completely – but there can also be a surprising amount of sugar in “pure” fruit juices. As far as I am concerned, there is no reason for your child to drink anything other than water or milk.

Having problems?
Some children do take a dislike to having their teeth brushed but it is important you remain positive at all times and don’t let it turn into a battle. A great idea is to set a good example by brushing your teeth at the same time as your child. A few other tips to help things run smoothly: try to make it a fun time by coming up with a “brushing song” and encouraging them to make fun noises while you try to reach different areas of their mouth with the brush. Including them in the process of buying a brush may also help. Be sure to make it a positive experience by praising them for putting the toothpaste on the brush themselves and attempting to brush their own teeth. A bit of splashing around with the water after teeth are cleaned will also help make it an enjoyable time rather than an enforced, boring chore.



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