Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service oral health educators and promoters work with schools, families and community groups to encourage people to make healthy oral health choices. 

Here are their top tips to protect your family's smile.

 

Baby teeth matter

  • baby teeth are important for eating, nourishment and speech development
  • a healthy smile helps build a child's self-esteem
  • baby teeth 'hold the space' for the permanent adult teeth waiting to come through
  • start brushing baby teeth as soon as the first tooth appears (at around 5-6 months old)
  • brush baby teeth twice a day with full-strength (1450ppm) fluoride toothpaste
  • don't let baby fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth
  • if your baby has a bottle at bedtime it should contain only water
  • help babies drink from a cup once they are six months old; no bottles after they turn one year old
  • don't dip dummies in sugary drinks or put sugary drinks, fruit juices, sweetened milk or soy formula milk in bottles or pacifiers

 

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Know how to brush your teeth properly

  • brush teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, after breakfast and before bed
  • use adult-strength (1450ppm) toothpaste with fluoride; tap water in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough water is not fluoridated so it's very important to use protective fluoride toothpaste
  • for babies and children under 6 years-old, use a smear of toothpaste on a clean, soft cloth if baby dislikes a soft toothbrush
  • for children 6 years of older, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and a small, soft toothbrush
  • use a short, scrubbing motion to brush
  • spit the toothpaste out but don't rinse it out with water
  • make brushing the last thing done before bed, with nothing to eat or drink after this other than water 
  • be a good role-model; let children watch and copy you brush your own teeth
  • children under the age of 5 need to have their teeth brushed by an adult
  • children aged 5-8 should have their tooth-brushing supervised by an adult

 

Choose healthy sugar-free snacks & drinks

  • water and plain milk are the healthiest drinks for teeth
  • tap water is free
  • avoid sugar-sweetened drinks such as fruit juice, fruit-based packaged smoothies, fizzy drinks, sports & energy drinks and flavoured milk
  • choose and prepare snacks and meals that have no added sugar
  • read food labels: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon (children should have less than three teaspoons of sugar a day).

 

Have regular dental checkups

  • dental care is free for children from birth until they turn 18 years old 
  • to enrol your child with a community oral health clinic, either call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583) or contact your local clinic directly
  • in between oral health clinic appointments, check your child's teeth for signs of decay by lifting their lip to look at their teeth

 

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