Oral Health

Keeping Teeth Healthy

It is a good idea to get your child into the routine of tooth brushing from an early age. It really helps if you can brush your teeth with your child and get other brothers or sisters to join in too.

Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first milk tooth starts to appear. This will get them used to the sensation of a brush in their mouth and the taste of the tooth paste. Use a small, soft brush and fluoride tooth paste that is labelled as suitable for their age group. Start off using a dot of paste on your finger if it’s accepted better than a brush.
Remember that milk teeth are just as important as adult teeth.

Top Tips for Tip Top Teeth

  • Use teething rings or sugar-free teething remedies to comfort your baby if teething is causing distress.
  • Cut down how often and the amount of sugary foods and drinks you give your child. It is not realistic to completely avoid sugary foods and drinks, but giving them only at mealtimes instead of in-between meals helps to protect teeth from decay, For example, give a piece of cake or a biscuit as a pudding instead of an in-between meal snack.
  • The best drinks for children are plain still water or plain milk. Fruit juices contain sugars and acids, so it's best to dilute these and have them only at mealtimes. If your child is thirsty, it's better to give them water rather than to encourage a taste for sweet drinks. Try to avoid giving babies fruit-flavoured 'baby-juices', and never give them in feeding bottles. 
  • Teeth are at most risk at night because there is less saliva in the mouth to protect them. Water is the best drink to give at bedtime, but if you do give milk, don'r add anything to it. Chocolate-flavoured drinks and milkshake powder usually contain sugars, which will increase the risk of decay.  
  • Set-up a routine of brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste. Brush last thing at night and on one other occasion every day. It is recommended to brush for 2 minutes each time – singing a brushing song may help! Visit www.youtube.com for some great tooth brushing songs.
  • Use sticker charts to encourage your child to brush their teeth well.
  • Choose a toothpaste that contains the appropriate level of fluoride. Children under the age of three should use a smear of toothpaste containing 1,000ppm (parts per million) fluoride. Toothpaste with less fluoride is not as effective at preventing decay. Between the ages of 3 and 6 years, children should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste containing more than 1,000ppm fluoride. From the age of 7 children and young adults should use fluoridated toothpaste containing 1,350-1,500 ppm fluoride. Check the toothpaste packet for this information or ask your dentist.
  • Make sure your child doesn't eat of lick the toothpaste from the tube.
  • Encourage your child to spit out excess toothpaste but not to rinse with lots of water. Rinsing with water after tooth brushing will wash away the fluoride and reduce its benefits. 
  • Take your child to the dentist for a check-up regularly. Dental treatment is free for breastfeeding and pregnant mums and for all children under 18 years of age. Visit www.nhs.uk for a list of local NHS dentists.
  • If you are bottle feeding your baby, start to move them off the baby bottle and onto a beaker from 6 months. Aim to get baby off the bottle completely by 12 months of age.
  • Choose a free-flowing ‘sippy cup’ instead of a non-spill one (with a valve) to protect your baby’s teeth. Children should be drinking out of an open cup by 12 months.

Suzy Startwell Says …

The best way to encourage your child to keep their teeth healthy is to lead by example … let your children see you brush your own teeth twice a day and visit the dentist regularly.