As soon as those little milk teeth pop into a child’s smile, caring for them becomes part another part of the daily routine. It is never too early to book a trip to the dentist either!

Government statistics state that a quarter of 5 year old’s have tooth decay that is untreated. Children’s dental care is free on the NHS and the sooner they get to “go up and down” in that chair, the less likely they are to suffer from worry about the experience and tooth decay will be kept at bay.

 Top Tips

  • Brush teeth before bed and at least one other time during the day
  • Supervise tooth brushing for at least 2 minutes
  • Use fluoride toothpaste, spit but don’t rinse
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, juices, smoothies or squash
  • Offer water or milk between meals
  • Avoid adding sugar and limit processed foods
  • Take your child to the dentist as soon as their teeth emerge

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 Tooth Brushing

Brushing teeth is not an easy movement for children to learn, it is a complex motor skill like holding a pencil or threading a needle. Children first need to be able to co-ordinate their movements sufficiently to be able to attempt it. They then have to practice so they can develop the muscle memory to do it properly.

Initially adults should brush babies first teeth for them. It helps them to understand the sensation as well as helping to prevent early decay. As children develop, adults then need to guide a child’s hand until they are able to manage the action for themselves.  Use a mirror so children can see what they are doing and where they need to brush.  Use a timer or sing songs to make it fun! Alternatively download the Brush DJ App – full of 2 minute songs to help time tooth brushing.

  • Use a smear of children’s toothpaste for babies and a pea sized amount for older children.
  • Toothpaste should contain a minimum of 1000ppm of fluoride – check the label
  • Brush teeth for at least 2 minutes before bed and on one other occasion during the day.
  • Spit out after brushing but don’t rinse otherwise the fluoride does not work so well.

During sleep, the mouth produces less saliva, which means that acids can form in the mouth. Acids can do real damage teeth, so brushing before bed is most important.

Ensure children don’t run around with a tooth brush in their mouths. If they fall or knock into something they could come to harm.

It is good to continue to supervise tooth brushing to ensure that children do it correctly and take their time over it.  This will help to ensure that it is effective.

How to prevent tooth decay

Tooth brushing is one line of defence against tooth decay but what children are given to eat in the first place is also very important. Breast milk is the only food or drink that most children need for the first 6 months of life.  First formula milk is the only suitable alternative to breast milk.

The risk of tooth decay starts when children begin to eat and drink foods with high levels of “free sugars”. These are added sugars or sugars that are released in processing: sweets, biscuits, processed foods, sweetened cereals, fizzy drinks, smoothies, juicing etc.  These foods are a major cause of tooth decay.

Only give children milk or water between meals and refrain from adding extra sugar to foods. Beware of giving children juice or other drinks in bottles; the teat concentrates sugar and acids around the gums where teeth are forming. Only breast, formula or cooled boiled water should be given to children in bottles.  Children need to move to free flowing cups rather than “sucky cups” to help prevent the accumulation of acids and sugars around the teeth.

Foods specifically marketed for children often contain high levels of sugar. These are not only bad for teeth but also add to the possibility of obesity. This website gives ideas for healthy food swaps!

Dentist Appointments

Once a child has their first teeth, an early visit to the dentist is very worthwhile. Dentists are able to give up to date advice on decay prevention and spot any early signs of problems.

Children need to understand that visits to the dentist are nothing to worry about, so be positive with them about it. A good dentist will usually make it fun. If you feel nervous about going to the dentist, a child will sense this which may make it more difficult in the future. It is good for children to practice “opening wide” before there are any bigger problems to deal with.

Smile please!

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