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Oral health

School-age children’s teeth should be brushed in the mornings and evenings, and children should be helped by an adult until they are at least 10 years old.

Teeth should be brushed systematically, ensuring that all surfaces are cleaned. The toothbrush is used to clean the surfaces of the teeth as well as the gums. 

New back teeth in particular should be brushed carefully, even if the tooth has not fully emerged yet. Emerging teeth are not yet complete in the way that other teeth are, and this means that they are particularly susceptible to tooth decay. 

A school-aged child is using an electric toothbrush.

The ideal toothbrush is small and soft. Electric toothbrushes designed for children are also recommended, as they make cleaning the teeth easier and get children interested in looking after their teeth. You can buy plaque colouring pills from a pharmacy to check how well the teeth have been brushed.

The child should start using a toothbrush intended for adults by the time they enter the 7th grade. Interdental cleaning must be started around the ages 10–12, either with floss or other between-teeth cleaners. If teeth are not cleaned regularly, they will decay and gums will become infected.

Toothpaste does not need to be rinsed out after brushing. Spitting out any excess toothpaste, when the child has learnt this skill, is sufficient.

Oral and dental health is a matter for the whole family. Good examples and choices are small, everyday things. The best way to protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay is to make sure their teeth are looked after well at home.

 

Brushing

Children’s teeth are brushed with fluoride toothpaste every morning and evening. An adult should help the child clean their teeth or at least inspect the result up until the child is in the upper stage of comprehensive school. Teeth should be brushed systematically, ensuring that all surfaces are cleaned. The toothbrush is used to clean the teeth surfaces as well as the gums. 

New back teeth in particular should be brushed carefully, even if the tooth has not fully emerged yet. Emerging teeth are not yet complete in the way that other teeth are, and this means that they are particularly susceptible to tooth decay.

The ideal toothbrush is small and soft. Electric toothbrushes are also recommended, as they make cleaning the teeth easier and get children interested in looking after their teeth. The child should start using a toothbrush intended for adults by the time they enter the 7th grade.  You can buy plaque colouring pills from a pharmacy to check how well the teeth have been brushed. Interdental cleaning (more information in Finnish) must be started around the ages 10–12, either with floss or other between-teeth cleaners. If teeth are not cleaned regularly, they will decay and gums will become infected.

Fluoride

Fluoride hardens the topmost layer of teeth, the enamel. Brushing regularly and using an age-appropriate fluoride toothpaste will provide the necessary amount of fluoride. Dental clinics may recommend additional fluoride, if necessary. Fluoride tablets can also be bought from the pharmacy, when necessary. Appropriate dosages are stated on the package.

Toothpaste does not need to be rinsed out after brushing. Spitting out any excess toothpaste is sufficient. You can find the fluoride recommendation here (in Finnish).

Healthy nutrition

During their school years, children start to become independent and their friends also affect their dietary habits. For this reason, it is important to maintain healthy dietary habits. Regular mealtimes help to maintain good oral health. A suitable rhythm for meals is 5–6 times per day, avoiding any extra snacks. The recommend meal rhythm for a school age child is breakfast, school lunch, snack at school or at home, dinner and an evening snack. Sugary products spoil the appetite and reduce the proportion of a person’s diet made up of more nutritionally balanced foods. Dinner and an evening snack eaten at home are important, so that the child does not need to try to get energy from sweets between meals or in place of meals.

Teeth are exposed to acid erosion every time we eat a meal or a snack or drink anything other than water. Teeth can tolerate 5 or 6 acid attacks during the day, but if they are more frequent than that, saliva does not have the time to repair the enamel erosion, and tooth decay begins.

The increasing trends of snacking and consumption of sweets and acidic beverages endanger the oral health of many school-age children and young people. The lifestyle and eating habits of teenagers may change, the amount of snacks increases and pocket money is used to buy sweets, fizzy drinks and sports drinks. It can be hard to intervene with these habits, but instead of setting restrictions, parents can offer tooth-friendly xylitol products.

Nutritional recommendations

Eating together – meal recommendations for families with children 2016 

Healthy eating habits, Finnish Dental Association (in Finnish)

Beverages

Selecting a beverage:

Get your child into the habit of drinking water – water is the best drink for thirst. Milk and sour milk can be drunk with meals.

Juices, fruit juices, flavoured sparkling waters, traditional home-made juices and ‘light’ beverages are harmful to teeth if consumed frequently. These kinds of drinks are acidic and many also contain a lot of sugar. Many soft drinks, ‘light’ beverages, sports and energy drinks and most flavoured waters and fruit and berry juices contain citric acid, which is harmful to teeth. Citric acid causes enamel erosion (more information in Finnish) . More information on recommended beverages is available in the nutritional recommendations.

Frequent consumption of freshly squeezed juices is also not recommended.

Juices are acidic and cause dental erosion more easily. Berries, fruits and vegetables should be eaten in a form where they can be chewed. Chewing increases the production of saliva, which flushes the teeth surfaces and protects the teeth. It is recommended that any acidic foods and beverages are included in a meal.

Xylitol

Regular use of xylitol helps prevent caries bacteria not only from taking hold but also from causing decay of teeth. Ending meals with xylitol chewing gum or pastilles is a good idea in order to stop the acid erosion. Using Xylitol product 3–5 times a day gives added protection to teeth.

Regular use of xylitol products should be started, at the latest, when permanent teeth grow in (more information in Finnish) , and it is recommended to 5–13-year-olds in particular. Xylitol is especially beneficial to teeth that are just growing in. Sweets should not be eaten every day. Instead of having a day when children are allowed sweets, allowing a treat after a meal once a week is recommended, followed by a xylitol product.

The most beneficial xylitol products are those recommended by the Finnish Dental Association. These products have a sufficient amount of xylitol and they do not include any ingredients detrimental to oral health. Full xylitol products are the best choice. Currently, full xylitol chewing gum or pastilles, 100% sweetened with Xylitol, are considered the best option.

Oral health check-ups

The dental clinic will send home an invitation to scheduled oral health care check-ups for school-age children (more information in Finnish), which will be performed by a dental hygienist in the 1st and 5th grades, and dentist in the 3rd and 8th grades. Those aged under 18 who have increased risk of oral illnesses will be invited by the dental clinic in accordance with their individual treatment plan

Orthodontic treatment

Orthodontic treatment can be started if a person suffers from malocclusion. Orthodontic treatment is not necessary if the malocclusion is insignificant or if the teeth are growing too densely. Dental clinics monitor how the children's teeth are growing at their scheduled check-ups. Malocclusions are graded based on their level of difficulty on a scale from 1 to 10, according to which the treatment needs are then determined.

Orthodontic treatment is a specialist treatment, and in order for it to succeed it is vital that the child is interested in their own teeth and the treatment. Orthodontic treatment can take several years, and without the client’s cooperation the treatment may not succeed. A permanent orthodontic device makes cleaning the teeth more difficult, which means that the regular use of xylitol is strongly recommended.

An illustration of a girl at the dentist.



06.08.2020 09:26