Dental hygiene and your toddler

Milk-teeth; the adorable, white little pearls perching in your toddler’s smile.  Neatly in a row, untarnished. We wouldn’t want them to discolour or be harmed in any way – because what can be more perfect than the smile and laughter of a child?

Mopani Pharmacy has heard the concerns of mothers, and consulted local dentist, Dr. Marike de Beer on paediatric dentistry.

Dr. Marike and her patient.

When should you start bringing your child to the dentist?

“This is a highly debated question, with some professionals saying that an oral health risk assessment should be done at the age of 6 months, whilst others say that children should be brought in when their permanent teeth start erupting”, Dr. Marike explained.

“Realistically speaking, it is good to bring your child once their first tooth has erupted. This will allow them to get used to dental check-ups from a young age, and will hopefully help them to create positive associations with going to the dentist”, she advised.

What are common causes of tooth decay in toddlers

The majority of childhood caries are due to the presence of at least one the following factors:

  • Newly erupted teeth in which the enamel maturation process has not yet been completed, resulting in thinner enamel surfaces
  • Enamel defects due to a calcium deficiency
  • Regular and prolonged exposure to:
    • Lactose through breast or bottle milk
    • Sugary and/or fizzy drinks
    • Drinking from “sippy cups” or bottles filled with sugar-containing drinks whilst falling asleep
    • Extended use of a pacifier
    • Diseases or illnesses that require the use of liquid medications that are high in sugar
  • Parental (especially maternal) history of rampant caries (tooth decay)

How can tooth decay in toddlers be prevented?

Develop and implement a consistent oral hygiene regime:

  • Children need to brush their teeth twice a day (after breakfast and before bed)
  • Children under the age of 7 should only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and must be supervised by an adult
  • Stop bedtime bottles once the first tooth has erupted
  • Stop using “sippy cups” after 12 months of age
  • Between the ages of 1 and 4 years, start restricting milk intake to ± 500ml a day, and juice intake to ± 125ml a day

“Talk to your dentist about fissure sealants. If placed at the correct time, fissure sealants are able to prevent up to 80% of tooth decay”, said Dr. Marike.

Supplements to make milk teeth stronger

Fluoride has the ability to remineralise carious lesions. It is able to halt, and in some cases even reverse, minor damage caused by dental decay. It is therefore so important that children should brush their teeth using an age-appropriate fluoride containing toothpaste”, Dr. Marike advised.

“I would be hesitant to take systemic fluoride such as tablets or drops. Children are exposed to fluoride through numerous sources such as drinking water, milk, swallowed toothpaste, black tea and grapes. At exceedingly high doses, fluoride can be toxic”, she warned.

Xylitol is able to reduce some of the bacteria responsible for the dental decay. It can be used by patients of all ages, but it is recommended that children start using it at least one year before the eruption of their permanent teeth, which will then be at ± the age of 5 years old. The first permanent tooth can be expected anywhere from the age of 6,” she said.

“Very small amounts of xylitol are required to reach the maximum benefits. The recommended daily amount is between 4-12g per day, and one piece of xylitol-contain gum contains about 1g. This means that results can be achieved by chewing as little as 4 pieces of gum a day. It is important to note, however, that the time of use is very important, and that a piece of gum should be chewed for 3-5 minutes directly after meals, and in between snacks”, she added.


  • The side effects of xylitol may be unpleasant, and include intestinal gas and diarrhoea, but they do decrease quickly as you will build a tolerance to this substance
  • If you are concerned about gum as a choking hazard, you may introduce xylitol as an alternative to sugar. Xylitol is available for purchase at Mopani Pharmacy, in-store and online

“GC Tooth Mousse has a gel-like consistency, and is applied after brushing your teeth at night. It helps protect teeth from decay. It can even repair tooth damage during its early stages, ask your dentist about it”, she concluded.

Making sure that your child has enough calcium and vitamin C will also help to ensure that they have healthy teeth and gums.

Mopani Pharmacy has a variety of multivitamins formulated for children, in tasty flavours!

How antibiotics damages your teeth

“Not all antibiotics cause damage to your teeth. The main one that does is called tetracycline, and it is able to cause damage to teeth whilst they are still under the gum line. It does this by binding to calcium that is present in teeth during the mineralisation process, thereby resulting in stains”, Dr. Marike explained.

Can this damage be prevented?

“Yes, it can. By avoiding the use of tetracycline in pregnant women and children under the age of 10 years, this damage can be prevented.”

If your milk teeth are damaged, will the chances of having damaged permanent teeth increase?

“Not necessarily, although the early loss of primary teeth can have numerous negative effects on permanent teeth. Primary teeth act as space maintainers for permanent teeth, losing them prematurely will result in mal-positioned permanent teeth that often have a crowded appearance - increasing the likelihood of needing orthodontic treatment at a later stage”, Dr. Marike concluded.


You can book an appointment with Dr. Marike de Beer at the Smile Factory dental practice: Regular appointments -  013 752 8512.  Emergency appointments - 082 957 1914; Room 107, Nelmed Forum, Cnr Nel & Rothery St, Nelspruit

You can shop a variety of dental hygiene products at Mopani, including supplements and teeth whitening products. Ask our knowledgeable sales team to direct you in-store or check out our online store!

We can deliver your supplements and other Mopani online shopping, nationwide! Contact us for info: | | Tel: 013 755 5500 | WhatsApp: 066 192 1703

Read more: Baby milestones explained: The first 3 years

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