Tooth decay can have a surprisingly profound effect on your child’s development, and can quickly snowball at an alarming rate. Pain and discomfort effects eating and sleeping patterns, which in turn can affect nutrition, healthy growth and healthy weight gain. When in pain, your child’s ability to concentrate can also be affected having a knock on effect on learning at school or nursery. The good news! Tooth decay is largely preventable and here are the 4 main steps to healthy smiles;
- Brush your baby’s teeth as soon as they erupt into the mouth
- Continue to brush your child’s teeth for them until they are at least 7 years old – it’s a battle worth having in the long run.
- Always brush twice a day, Do not give anything sugary after the last night time brush.
- Use a systematic approach; Outside, inside and biting surfaces. Include gums too.
- Spit out the excess toothpaste after brushing but not to rinse as this washes away the fluoride
- Cradling their chin in your hand should also help you reach all areas of their mouth.
- Encouragement and praise always helps – see Aquafresh website for some ideas
Reduce how often you give drinks and food containing sugar to your child. Every time sugar enters the mouth, the teeth suffer an acid attack. They need a break between attacks to stay healthy. Sugar is ok in small amounts at meal times but not in snacks between meals.
Only give water or milk between meals – cordials, squashes, fizzy drinks, baby drinks, flavoured water, flavoured milk, fruit juice and smoothies all contain sugars so should be confined to meal times only and should never be put in a babies bottle as this can cause severe decay. Dilute fresh fruit juice one part juice to 10 parts water and encourage the use of a straw. Try to avoid giving sweetened foods right from weaning – they can encourage a sweet tooth. Be careful to keep snacks small though, too much snack food can make your child fussy and not interested at mealtimes. Processed foods often contain a lot of sugar – check the labels for glucose, fructose, maltose and sucrose and try to limit your child’s total intake to 30g a day. One can of baked beans contains 20g of sugar, a glass of fresh orange juice contains 20g and one Fruit Shoot contains 30g!! surprisingly!
Fluoride hardens tooth enamel thus making it more resistant to decay. Fluoride is not added to the water supply in the West Country so it is important that you and your children use fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Children under 3 should use toothpaste no less than 1000ppm (parts per million) fluoride. Adults and children over 3 should use toothpaste 1350-1500ppm fluoride. There are some lovely flavours available other than mint but just make sure the fluoride content is correct. High concentration fluoride varnish can be applied to children’s teeth by a dental professional as a preventative measure. Recommended amounts of fluoride toothpaste should be used: 0-3 year-olds: smear that covers less than ¾ of the brush; 3-6 year olds : a pea-sized amount
Visit the Dentist:
Prevention is better than cure – nip those early signs of decay in the bud with regular dental check-ups. Often fillings, crowns and extractions can be prevented with fluoride varnish application or fissure sealants (a plastic coating applied to the biting surface of molar teeth) early on. Most of us have an unpleasant experience at the dentist we can recall and nerves associated with it – try not to let that rub off on your child, chances are if you’re taking them regularly they won’t have to go through too many unpleasentries. Regular visits will build your child’s confidence reducing the likelihood of them feeling too worried. All NHS treatment is free for under 18’s visit www.nhs.uk/dentists to find your local NHS practice. Finally – thanks for reading this and if you have any questions ask your dentist or have a read of the British Dental Health Foundation’s website www.dentalhealth.org .
Ellie Johnson BA, HEDip
Dental Hygiene Therapist