Dr's Phoebe and Foley

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Is Your Child Old Enough to Brush Their Own Teeth?

  • By Janell Hatchett
  • 07 May, 2017

Do you let your young child brush their own teeth? Many parents see independent teeth brushing as a rite of passage during toddlerhood or early childhood, but letting your little one brush alone too early could be a big mistake for his or her dental health.

Why Shouldn't They Brush Alone?

Brushing your teeth may seem easy as an adult, but developing children can find it very difficult to brush correctly and keep their mouths healthy. In one study conducted for a dental journal, researchers found that 5-year-olds only brushed 25% of the surface of their teeth, while 11-year-olds only brushed 50% and those between the ages of 18 and 22 only brushed 67%. 

While brushing your child's teeth until they're in their 20s is certainly overkill, you can ensure they brush adequately in their later years by continuing to brush for them or closely supervising them until they're ready to do it alone.

When Can They Start Brushing Independently?

Of course, the question on many parents' lips is “when is a child old enough to brush their own teeth without supervision?” Unfortunately, there's no set age at which a child becomes magically competent at oral hygiene.

While many children reach this point at around 8 or 9 years of age, your child's ability to brush independently will depend on whether they've hit the necessary milestones that show they're able to handle all the aspects of keeping their teeth healthy without a parent's help.

Here are the three main milestones to look out for in your child's development. When your child meets these criteria, they're ready to start brushing on their own.

1. Developed Fine Motor Skills

“Motor skills” is a child development term that refers to your little one's ability to direct their own movement efficiently. Motor skills are split into two broad categories: gross motor skills, which involve large bodily movements, and fine motor skills. Fine motor skills involve smaller actions, often involving the use of a child's hands and fingers.

Holding a toothbrush, applying pressure, and moving it in the right way are all examples of fine motor skills. As a result, children need to develop and improve this skill area sufficiently before they can brush their teeth correctly.

You can tell if your child has developed fine motor ability by observing them in other areas of daily life. As an example, children who have learned to handwrite clearly, eat with cutlery, fasten bows and shoelaces and cut with scissors are probably developed enough to brush their own teeth. 

2. Interest in Hygiene

You've probably noticed that younger children are more likely to be dirty than older children, but it's not just because they're physically not old enough to clean themselves. Younger children also tend to be less interested in personal hygiene. Even if your child is old enough to keep themselves clean, do they care about doing so?

When you leave your child to brush without supervision, you need to trust that they're doing it properly, or even doing it at all. The best way to feel confident that they'll brush when you're not there is to make sure they're interested in keeping themselves clean at other times.

For example, does your child like taking baths or showers, or do they throw a tantrum when it's time to wash? Do they wash their hands after messy play or before eating without being told to? Do they remember to blow their nose into a tissue and cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing? Do they need to be reminded to change their underwear or put on new clothes after getting dirty?

If your child isn't being independent in other areas of personal hygiene, they may not be ready to start brushing their own teeth just yet.

3. More Responsible Behaviour

Brushing teeth twice a day requires a great deal of discipline and responsibility for a young child. Responsibility is another area where children mature at different rates. If you want to be sure your child will brush their teeth when they're supposed to, you'll need to ensure they're already showing signs of being responsible.

Some examples of responsible behaviour include finishing homework on time without being pressured and completing regular chores. Your child may also begin to take actions like getting their own snacks or drinks when they want them or choosing their own outfit for the day. Generally, when your little one is following instructions, managing their time, taking care of themselves and being trustworthy, they should be responsible enough to brush their teeth without your help.


Whether your child is handling their own dental hygiene or not, remember that brushing is only one necessary component of keeping teeth healthy. Your child should also have regular dental check-ups to ensure their oral health is in top condition. If you're looking for high-quality family dental care in South Penrith, book an appointment with  Drs. Phoebe and Foley .

By Janell Hatchett 18 Jul, 2017
As an adult, you know the importance of good oral hygiene and likely have the memories of receiving fillings as a reminder to maintain your healthy habits. Your child, however, does not have the benefit of this information, experience and context except inasmuch as he or she receives it from you.

In this blog, we provide you with a guide to understanding, preventing and treating any existing childhood tooth decay.
By Janell Hatchett 07 May, 2017
By Janell Hatchett 11 Jan, 2017
Getting older has its benefits. From retirement to cheaper public transport, there are countless reasons for working-age adults to look forward to their golden years.

However, every part of the human body faces new challenges as we age, and the teeth and mouth are no exception.

Here are four common dental problems faced by older adults and what you can do about them.

1. Dry Mouth

One in three seniors suffer from dry mouth, but contrary to popular belief, it is not a normal part of getting older. Dry mouth is a serious condition that results from a lack of saliva. This can be damaging to your oral health, as saliva production is essential for keeping teeth healthy and strong.

Most cases of dry mouth are a side-effect of prescription medication. Older people typically take more medicines on a daily basis, which is one main reason this condition is commonly associated with old age.

Dry mouth can potentially cause tooth decay and loss, so it is important to treat the condition as soon as it becomes evident. Chewing gum can help stimulate saliva production, and over-the-counter saliva substitutes are available to help moisturise the mouth.

Make sure you visit your dentist regularly for a scale and clean, as this will rid your teeth of the bacteria that build up due to a lack of saliva. If you are certain that your dry mouth is related to your medication, consult with your doctor to see if you can switch to another drug.

2. Periodontal Disease

Nearly one in five seniors aged over 65 suffer from periodontal (gum) disease, making it one of the most common conditions among older adults. Periodontal disease is caused by a build-up of bacteria on the teeth, and it commonly manifests in the form of swollen or red gums. More severe cases of gum disease will cause your teeth roots to become exposed, potentially causing your teeth to become loose.

The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to follow a strict oral hygiene regimen. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day and have your teeth professionally cleaned by your dentist on a regular basis.

In addition, smoking cigarettes can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease by up to six times compared to a non-smoker, so if you smoke, consider quitting.

3. Tooth Erosion

As you age, the enamel on your teeth gradually erodes as a result of normal wear and tear. Tooth erosion is a major cause of sensitive teeth, and the bad news is that worn tooth enamel cannot grow back.

However, there are a number of things you can do to prevent tooth erosion as you enter your golden years.

First, limit your intake of soft drinks, as these contain acids that can wear away your tooth enamel. Second, if you suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding), ask your dentist about getting a night guard to protect your teeth while you sleep. Finally, use a soft tooth brush and do not brush your teeth too harshly, as this can make tooth erosion worse.

4. Mouth Cancer

Thankfully, mouth cancer has a low prevalence, but its consequences are serious enough that you should be aware of this health problem. Older adults are more likely to develop mouth cancer than young people, and men are twice as likely as women to suffer from the disease.

Symptoms of mouth cancer include sore gums, lumps inside the mouth, bleeding from persistent ulcers and difficulty swallowing.

Aside from refraining from tobacco use, there is not much you can do to reduce your risk of mouth cancer. However, the disease can easily be cured if detected early, so next time you visit your dentist or doctor, ask for a quick check-up.

Old age brings a number of oral health challenges not often seen in younger adults. As you age, your oral health becomes more important than ever.

Dr's Phoebe and Foley have a wealth of experience in treating patients of all ages, so for a routine check-up or to discuss a specific issue, call the clinic foran appointment.
By Website Team Technicians 05 Jan, 2017

As a responsible parent, you do your best to ensure your children eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet. You limit their sweet intake. You watch their portion sizes. And you encourage them to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

But did you know that your loving efforts could damage your children's teeth?

Though fruits may seem like a delicious way to ensure your kids eat enough vitamins, they can also lead to cavities and dental decay in the following ways.

1. Dried Fruit Sticks to Teeth

Dried fruit and fruit leather extend the shelf life of your favourite fruit-based snacks, and the dehydration process concentrates some of the fruit's nutrients.

But before you stock up on dried fruit snacks, remember that a dried piece of fruit measures at a fraction of the size of a fresh one, yet it still contains the same number of calories and sugar. As a result, you and your kids may eat a much larger serving size before you start to feel full.

Furthermore, dried fruit tends to stick to teeth. The concentrated sugars stay on teeth for much longer, feeding the bacteria in your mouth and leading to plaque build-up.

2. Canning Syrups Contain Lots of Corn Syrup

Canned fruit lasts much longer than fresh fruit, so you can purchase an entire case of canned fruits without fear of mould growth any time soon.

But to extend shelf life, many manufacturers drench and package the fruit with corn syrups. Even 'light' syrup contains extra sugars, as the description usually refers to the consistency rather than the sugar content. You can bet that these sugars won't do your teeth any favours.

If you regularly enjoy canned fruits, check the label for 'no added sugar' or '100% fruit juice'.

3. Juices Have Lots of Natural Sugars

If you own a juicing machine, you may make your own juices for your kids. The juices come from fresh fruit, and you don't add any extra sugars, sweeteners or syrups to your personal mix. So you might feel safe feeding it to your hungry, growing children.

But even natural, fresh fruit contains a lot of sugar. One medium-sized apple may contain as much as 19 grams of sugar. And to yield just one cup of juice, you need approximately three medium-sized apples. When you add juice from pineapples, grapes or pears to the mix, you may have more sugar in your juice than you'd find in a typical bar of milk chocolate.

4. Citric Acids Eat Away at Enamel

To avoid the extra sugars, you may choose to skip the dried, canned and juiced fruits and simply opt for fresh, raw fruit. Surely, you can serve up orange slices and strawberry bites without hurting your teeth.

Unfortunately, most fruits include varying amounts of citric acid. This acid measures at a 2.2 on the pH scale. As your mouth needs a pH balance higher than 7.0 to resist cavities, anything lower than a 5.5 pH can eat away and dissolve your teeth's enamel, leaving them vulnerable to decay.

Experts have found that lemons and grapefruit, in particular, have high amounts of citric acid, so they tend to do more damage. But even non-citrus fruit, such as cherries, apples, peaches and plums contain small amounts of citric acid (100 grams of cherries have about 0.1 grams citric acid).

Don't Worry-You Can Still Eat Fruit!

Dried, canned, juiced and citric fruits can wreak havoc on your teeth when you or your children eat them in excess. However, you can still enjoy raw fruit without worrying about cavities.

Raw, fresh fruit has plenty of fibre to promote saliva production and scrub away harmful bacteria. Furthermore, fruit such as cumquats, blackcurrants, figs and blackberries all offer plenty of calcium, which improves tooth retention.

Just remember to brush and floss 30 to 60 minutes after you eat a serving of fruit, and encourage your children to do the same to minimise the damage. And don't forget to schedule an appointment with your dentist on a semi-annual basis.

By Website Team Technicians 29 Dec, 2016

When you go to the dentist, you may hear a lot of words you don't use in everyday life. But in order to keep your mouth healthy and your smile

bright, you need to understand the right terminology to communicate effectively with your dentist.

Below, we'll quiz you on the possible definitions of 10 common terms. Take the quiz to test your dental knowledge, then scroll to the end to learn

the correct answers. Parents, feel free to work through this quiz with your younger children to help them learn more about their dental health.

Dental Terms

1.   Cavity

A. A tooth's top

B. The space left by a lost tooth

C. A hole in a tooth made by decay

D. A crack in a tooth

2.   Enamel

A. The hard outside part of your teeth

B. The soft inside part of your teeth

C. The space between two teeth

D. Another name for a tooth

3.   Filling

A. A rinse that fills up your mouth

B. A small plug that repairs damaged teeth

C. The mirror your dentist uses to look at your teeth

D. The act of putting toothpaste on your brush

4.   Gingivitis

A. The pink tissue that supports your teeth

B. A condition that affects the connective tissue in your mouth

C. Professional dental floss

D. The bumps on your tongue

5.   Impaction

A. Tooth loss

B. The act of a new tooth emerging

C. A condition where a tooth faces the wrong direction

D. Removal of a tooth by your dentist

6.   Plaque

A. The tissue connected to your tongue

B. The coating on your dental floss

C. The precise tool your dentist uses to clean your teeth

D. Sticky food residue and bacteria that build up on your teeth

7.   Primary Teeth

A. Teeth that look discoloured

B. Your upper teeth

C. Your farthest back teeth

D. Your first teeth

8.   Sealant

A. A thin plastic coating used to prevent tooth damage

B. Another name for toothpaste

C. The polishing cream your dentist uses

D. The tool your dentist uses to collect excess moisture

9.   Secondary Teeth

A. Your bottom teeth

B. Your four front teeth

C. The teeth that grow in as you grow up

D. The biggest teeth in your mouth

10.   Tartar

A. Hard build-up on your teeth that can cause damage

B. Foods that are bad for your teeth

C. Any discolouration on a tooth

D. A name for teeth that haven't grown in yet

Answer Key

1. C. Bacteria attack the outside of your teeth when you don't brush. Over time, bacteria can create little holes known as cavities.

2. A. The part of your teeth you can see is called enamel. This hard outer layer protects the sensitive tissue inside your teeth.

3. C. To fix a cavity, your dentist 'fills' it with a small plug made of metal or ceramic.

4. B. Your gums, or the pink tissue that supports your teeth, can contract a condition known as gingivitis. Gingivitis makes your gums sensitive and


5. C. Before your teeth grow in, they sit under your gums. Sometimes these teeth face the wrong way, which is called impaction.

6. D. When you don't brush, residue from food builds up on your teeth. This residue is known as plaque.

7. D. Your baby teeth, or primary teeth, come in first.

8. A. To decrease the risk of cavities, your dentist may put sealant on them. This creates a barrier between your teeth and harmful bacteria.

9. C. When your primary teeth fall out, your secondary teeth replace them.

10. A. If you don't get rid of plaque, it becomes tartar. This build-up feels hard and can't be removed through brushing alone.

Your Score

How did you do?

1 to 5 Correct - Beginner: You have more to learn about your teeth and their health. Luckily, your dentist or parents can help explain any

terms you don't know yet.

6 to 8 Correct - Intermediate: You're well on your way to dental health prowess. Keep brushing!

9 to 10 Correct - Expert: Not only do you know quite a bit about your smile, but you also won't have any trouble communicating withyour dentist.

You have multiple options available to improve your understanding of your oral health. Start by scheduling your next dentist appointment.

Then, visit our blog for more information.

By Website Team Technicians 22 Dec, 2016
From soft drinks to fruit juice, many sugary drink choices appeal to kids. Kids prefer these options to water because of the fun colours and sweet flavours.

They see their favourite characters used to advertise these products, and they wonder why their friends' parents don't enforce the same limits on sugary drinks that you do. All these factors make it tough to ensure that your kids drink healthy liquids. Nevertheless, you should make the effort.

You want your kids to have healthy, happy smiles, and you know sweet drinkscan cause tooth decay. Are you struggling to teach your child to enjoy sugary drinks as an occasional treat rather than a go-to beverage? Use the tips below to teach this healthy habit and protect your child's teeth.

1. Start early. Your efforts are more likely to succeed if you make the decision early. Decide to offer water instead of sweeter drinks before your kidstransition to solid foods, if possible. Their desire for sugary drinks will be lower if they've never tasted them.

2. Dilute juice to break the habit. If your kids already have daily cravings for juice or soft drinks, that's okay. You can still train their taste buds not to prefer sweet drinks. Help them slowly break their habit by adding water to any sugary drink you give them. Over time, increase the amount of water you add and reduce the amount of juice or soda you pour. This method lets kids taste the flavours without exposing their teeth to as much sugar.

3. Let kids drink from special water-only cups. You can make drinking water more fun by investing in specialcupsjust for water. A toddler or pre-schooler might want a sippy cup with his or her favourite cartoon or book character on the side. School-aged kids might enjoy picking their own reusable metal or plastic water bottles. You can also buy colourful twisted straws. Whatever accessories you choose, establish that kids can drink only water from these cups or straws. The special items give children an incentive to drink water and help them have fun while they do so.

4. Make fun ice cubes. If you need another way to make water appealing, do it with ice. Try the two methods below to help water feel less ordinary:

    Buy ice trays with fun shapes. Kids enjoy watching those shapes melt. Put whole fresh fruits in ice cube trays. Then put water in the trays and freeze them as normal. Kids like the colour these ice cubes add to fluoridated tap water.

    Fruits that fit in trays easily include blueberries, raspberries, cut strawberries, citrus fruit slices and kiwi. Offer these ice cubes only to kids who can chew and swallow fruit to avoid choking hazards.

5. Read drink labels carefully. You make the battle against sugary drinks easier for you and your kids if you don't buy them. Learn to examine drink labels before you purchase any new products. Don't be persuaded by statements about vitamins or natural juice. Instead, look at the sugar content listed in the nutritional information section. The New South Wales Centre for Oral Health ( http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/oralhealth/Documents/toothsmart-6-reading-food-drink-labels.pdf ) recommends avoiding products that have more than 7.5 g sugar in every 100 mL.

6. Set a good example. Your kids will follow the example you set, so make sure you practice the house rulesfor drinking non-sugary liquids.

Those rules apply even when your kids aren't watching, such as while you're at the office. Your kids will see your example, realise they can trust your rules and desire to do as you do. It's time to put these tips into action. Encourage your kids to drink mostly water and other unsweetened drinks to help them avoid tooth decay.
By Website Team Technicians 15 Dec, 2016

When you have young kids, it might feel like a struggle to keep up with your children's doctor's appointments, daily routines and healthy habits. It's easy to let certain things slide, like encouraging your kids to brush their teeth before bed.

However,   oral hygiene   should top your list of things to help your kids with. Your children will have a lifelong relationship with their teeth. And even though baby teeth eventually fall out, they play an important role in your child's life. These early years teach your kids good habits with brushing and flossing, and the baby teeth save space for adult teeth to grow in properly.

So how can you help your child practice good oral hygiene and prepare for their first dental visit? We'll let you know in our blog below. With some simple preparation, you can set your children up for a lifetime of good health.

Practice Hygiene While They're Young

The sooner you start taking care of your kids' teeth, the sooner they'll learn to make good oral hygiene a habit. You can do certain things while your kids are young that will help their teeth stay healthy for life.

Clean Your Babies' Teeth

Start cleaning your babies' mouths as early as possible. Even before they have teeth, you can wipe their gums with a soft damp cloth every night before they go to bed. Once their teeth do come in, use a soft-bristled infant-sized toothbrush and water to gently clean their teeth each day. This will get them used to cleaning their teeth, which encourages good habits and prepares them for visits to the dentist.

Discourage Sucking Habits

Kids have a natural urge to suck. But while this urge helps them drink milk when they're young, it can lead to problems later if it causes them to suck their thumbs. Most kids stop sucking their thumbs sometime between ages two and four. However, if the habit continues after their permanent teeth come in, it can cause palate and alignment problems.

If your children suck their thumbs often or aggressively, discourage the habit while they're still toddlers. This way, the dentist will never have to intervene.

Make the First Appointment Early

Your children should visit the dentist sooner than you might think. Shortly after their first teeth come in, you need a good dentist to see them for a visit.

Research Dentists

Do some research about dentists in your area and find one who specialises in   paediatric dentistry   . You can also ask other parents for recommendations. While you might feel inclined to take your kids to your own dentist, they'll do better with someone who treats children all the time and knows how to make them feel comfortable.

Prepare Your Children

Once you've found the right dentist and made the first appointment, prepare your children for the visit.

Introduce Them to the Dentist

Ask your kids' dental office if they offer tours. If so, take your kids in before their appointment to meet the dentist and look around the office. Your kids will get to see what the tools look like and they'll become familiar with the staff.

Explain What Will Happen

Before you go in for the actual exam, explain the process to your children. Talk about how the dentist will use special tools to count and clean their teeth. Your kids will have a better experience if they know what to expect.

Provide an Incentive

Incentivise your children to sit patiently through their visit and cooperate with the dentist. Offer them a special toy or a day trip if they behave well and have clean, healthy teeth.

Your children's first dental visits don't have to be a struggle. Start prepping them early and find a good paediatric dentist in your area to give your kids a positive first experience and good lifelong habits.

By Website Team Technicians 08 Dec, 2016

A healthy mouth leads to a healthy body. Many germs and bacteria enter through your mouth, but if you keep your mouth clean you can fight off these harmful invaders.

Here's a quick review on the best way to fight disease and maintain good oral hygiene.

Brush Effectively

The most important part of your daily dental care routine is brushing your teeth. Dentists around the world agree that to keep your mouth its cleanest, you should brush at least twice a day.

Knowing when to brush is the first step in effective brushing. You've probably heard that brushing after meals helps you remove the food from your meal. But if you brush after eating certain foods, you may remove more than food when brushing.

Certain foods soften the tooth enamel, the protective outer layer of the tooth. When you brush your teeth immediately after eating these foods, you risk removing part of this dense layer of protection. If your meal consisted of sugary or acidic foods, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. This gives your mouth time to restore its pH balance and fight disease-causing bacteria.

Furthermore, it's important that you carefully brush each surface of your tooth. As a rule of thumb, spend at least two minutes brushing, focusing at least half a minute on each section of the mouth: top, bottom, left and right.

Other important considerations when brushing include:

Age of your toothbrush

Angle you hold the brush

Softness of your brush bristles

Type of tooth paste

Brushing pressure

If you need a refresher on the best brushing techniques, don't hesitate to ask your dentist.

Floss Daily

While brushing may clean most areas of the teeth, the toothbrush cannot reach the spaces between your teeth. To effectively prevent plaque and tartar buildup, you need to floss. Like brushing, you need to floss regularly. Not only will flossing help to eliminate bacteria, plaque and tartar, it also promotes healthy gums.

To floss properly, wrap a length of floss around the middle fingers on your hands. Then, using your pointer fingers, gently guide the floss between each tooth. Run the floss along the front and backs of each tooth. As you move between teeth, adjust your floss to clean with a fresh section.

Rinse Regularly

Brushing and flossing are the most important part of your   oral hygiene   , but you can take additional steps to ensure your mouth stays healthy. Rinsing with a mouthwash, for example, can kill many germs that live in your mouth.

Before you rinse, carefully read the instruction on the package, as the directions may vary between products. Generally speaking,however, you will swish a small amount of the liquid in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds. After this, gargle the liquid and spit it in the sink (do not swallow).

Depending on how accustomed you are to gargling mouthwash, you may need to work up to the recommended time. And if you have sensitivity to mouthwash, use water. Simply drinking water after a meal can help remove leftover foods that cling to your teeth.

Schedule a Dentist Visit

The most important part of your overall dental care is to   schedule a visit   with your dentist. Making and keeping biannual dental appointments can help you catch problems before they become major issues.

During your biannual dental appointment, you will receive a thorough cleaning and speak with your dental care provider about your individual needs. Your dentist will give you tailored advice on how to keep your mouth happy and healthy.

If you haven't met with your dentist for more than six months, schedule your visit today.

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