Oral health—something to smile about

  • Oral health

    Healthy teeth and gums aren’t just nice to look at when you smile, they’re an important part of health and wellbeing. Beyond that winning toothy grin, a child’s oral health helps them to eat a full range of foods to get the nutrition they need, speak clearly to interact with their world, and more.

    In your role as an early childhood educator or early primary teacher, you can work with parents in their child’s first months and years to help them to establish simple diet and oral hygiene routines with immediate and long-term benefits. Even before baby teeth come through, there’s plenty that you can do.

    Reasons to smile about oral health

    Tooth decay is one of the most common oral health problems and affects almost half of Australian children. Many foods and drinks contain bacteria that, if left exposed to teeth, cause a sticky film known as plaque. Decay happens when plaque builds up on teeth and its acids break down the tooth surface.

    Also in this edition of Grow & Thrive:

    Supporting oral health—early childhood educators

    Supporting oral health—early primary teachers

    Looking after teeth and gums—parents

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    By working with parents to teach their children good diet and oral hygiene routines, this common problem can almost always be prevented.

    This really is something to smile about—preventing tooth decay and gum disease can help children to:

    • chew their food to get the nutrition they need for growth and development
    • develop clear speech to let them fully interact with their world
    • keep their baby teeth strong and healthy, which will play an important role in the adult teeth developing in the gums.

    Treating tooth decay and gum disease can not only be uncomfortable and unpleasant for children, it can be expensive for their families. In some more remote parts of Australia, it can also be very difficult to even get access to an oral health professional.

    When tooth decay develops

    When oral health goes amiss and tooth decay develops, lots of problems can arise and become more serious the longer tooth decay is left untreated.

    Tooth decay has a range of serious potential complications, including:

    • decay in other baby teeth
    • decay in adult teeth
    • discomfort and pain
    • early loss of teeth
    • excess spacing of adult teeth
    • incorrect tooth function
    • infection
    • jaw development issues
    • loss of time at school
    • overcrowding of adult teeth
    • self-esteem issues
    • slow growth through changing sleep and eating habits
    • problems with speech development 
    • anxiety.

    Did you know?

    Taking care of teeth and gums can help children to live well longer. Studies suggest that oral health may have a close relationship with diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. 

    Helping to make big smiles possible

    Healthy teeth and gums are essential for children’s immediate and long-term health and wellbeing, and can almost always prevent the common problem of tooth decay and its many related complications.

    Even though children might brush and floss their teeth at home each day, you can still do so much to help, by sharing information about oral health with families.

    By raising parents’ and children’s awareness of why oral health is important and the importance of simple diet and oral hygiene routines, you can make a big difference to children’s lifelong health and wellbeing.

    Also in this edition of Grow & Thrive:

    Supporting oral health—early childhood educators

    Supporting oral health—early primary teachers

    Looking after teeth and gums—parents

    Sign up to the Grow & Thrive newsletter