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Consensus Statement on Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks are no longer a looming public health crisis, but a very real one. By working together, and acting now, we can prevent not only oral health damage, but obesity - a leading risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

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When should I start brushing my child's teeth?
Start brushing the baby teeth as soon as the first tooth start to come through the gums.

What type of toothbrush should I use?
Use a soft, small-headed brush.

At what age should children start using fluoride toothpaste?
Start using fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first tooth comes through the gums. Only a smear of fluoride toothpaste should be used for children under 6 years old.

What is a good way for parents to encourage children to brush their teeth?
Start brushing your child's teeth as soon as their first tooth starts to come through the gums. This will help your child get used to this routine at an early age. It is difficult to start this habit with a toddler as it is common and normal for them to be fussy and difficult in many situations.  Try using a reward system - offer a sticker or stamp for each day of brushing. You can even try making a game out of it by starting a brushing chart. Adult modelling - an older person brushing their teeth regularly in front of the child might work. This will help them know both how to do it and the importance of doing it.

Why is it so important for children to maintain good oral health?
Baby teeth are important and need proper care as they can cause lots of problems if they are neglected. Poor dental health can affect growth and development by interfering with nutrition, speech production, school participation, self-image and also social functioning. Dental problems in early childhood increase the risk of future dental problems. The first set of teeth is also important in saving space for permanent teeth and helps them from being crooked. They are also important for the proper growth of face and jaws.

When will my child's teeth come through?
Primary or baby teeth are usually developed before your child is born and will start to come through at around 6 months. All 20 baby teeth will be through by about 3 years of age. And they will start to fall out around 6 years of age, with the last ones falling off around 12 years of age.

Will teething cause pain?
Most children do suffer some pain during teething. Their cheeks may appear red and warm to touch. Using special gels and teething rings can help reduce the pain. Sometimes, paracetamol based medicines can be helpful but remember to follow the instructions on the bottle.

At which age should I enroll my child at a school/community dental clinic?
It is recommended that you enroll your child before their first birthday and thereafter any time up to the end of their Year 8 schooling. However early enrolment provides the best opportunity to meet your child's oral health needs at the outset. For exact enrolment age contact your local DHB, as this may vary between district health boards.

What is dental plaque?
Dental plaque is a soft, sticky coating of bacteria that forms on teeth every day. If not removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria in dental plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is the gradual destruction of the tooth. The bacteria in the dental plaque in your mouth turn sugar on your teeth in to acid. This acid attacks the enamel of your teeth and after repeated attacks creates a hole or cavity.