The top 4 myths about baby teeth, busted

Milk teeth are vital for your child's health and development.
Milk teeth are vital for your child's health and development. Photo: Belinda Pratten

Like many other parenting topics, mums and dads get a lot of conflicting advice about their baby's teeth and dental care, so it's easy to see why there are so many myths out there on the subject.

From when to take your tot to the dentist for the first time, through to the importance of baby teeth, let's separate fact from fiction and bust some baby teeth myths once and for all.

Myth: Milk teeth don't matter

Dr Mark Psillakis of Bexley Dental says he's shocked by the number of times he has heard people say that milk teeth don't matter. "This simply isn't true," he says. Rather than being a 'practice set' of teeth, as some parents believe, milk teeth are actually vital for your child's health and development.

"Milk teeth are very important. Children need them for speech development, as well as for critical functions such as chewing food," says Dr Psillakis.

Dr Psillakis also notes that if milk teeth are not taken care of children might need fillings or extractions, which can be painful procedures for little ones. Aside from not brushing regularly, one of the main causes of tooth decay in children is regularly consuming fizzy drinks and foods containing high levels of sugar, "so ensure that you are monitoring your children's' diet, both for their milk teeth and beyond," Dr Psillakis continues.

Myth: You don't need to take babies and toddlers to the dentist

The Australian Dental Association recommends that parents should take their child to the dentist by the age of one. "Help your children to instil good oral health habits from an early age," Dr Psillakis says.

By taking your child to the dentist at an early age, you will help them to become comfortable in attending the dentist. It doesn't need to be a 'big event', take your child with you to your regular appointment and make it part of the outing. "During your visit, your child can take a seat in the chair. The dentist may have a look in your child's mouth, checking jaw alignment, existing teeth health and will chat with the parents about diet, brushing and general oral health," says Dr Psillakis.

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Many clinics have a kids' area, with colouring books and sometimes even tablet computers, helping to create an attractive and comfortable environment for people of all ages.

Myth: All dental products are the same

Your child should be using a kid-friendly toothbrush to brush their teeth, and letting them choose their own brush can be a great way to get them involved in the activity of brushing their teeth. Dr Psillakis has young children of his own and has had great success in letting them select their own toothbrush.

"Child-friendly toothbrushes have softer bristles than adult versions, making them far kinder to your kid's mouth," Dr Psillakis says. "They come in a variety of colours and even cartoon characters, so let them choose so that brushing their teeth becomes an enjoyable experience."

Myth: You don't need to worry about brushing until your baby has a mouthful of teeth

Dr Psillakis says it's important to start brushing baby teeth as soon as they erupt. Parents are advised to help their children's brush their teeth until they are seven or so, as little kids often won't do a good enough job themselves, but you should let them have a go on their own too.

"If they can hold a toothbrush it's great to get them to start brushing their teeth, but parents will obviously need to help and supervise." Encourage your child to brush their teeth to their favourite song: "You just need to make it fun for them."

Dr Psillakis also notes that it is really important for parents to role model good dental habits.

"As parents we need to look after our own teeth and set a good example for our children," he says. "Children tend to imitate their parents, so if oral hygiene and dental care is important to you it will be important to your child, too."