- Start cleaning teeth as soon as they appear. It might seem crazy to be buying a toothbrush for a single tooth.
- Teeth can only cope with 3-4 sugar/acid onslaughts a day; so let them have sugary stuff with meals only. That means after school snacks need to be sugar- free.
- Develop a water habit from the off.
- If they won’t drink plain water, water their juice/squash down, literally one part juice to 10 parts water.
- If you have to have fruit juice – it is better for teeth if you drink it through a straw (rather than from a cup/bottle/sippy cup).
- Avoid fizzy drinks including water. Although water doesn’t have sugar, all carbonated water attacks enamel in just the same way as acid.
- After eating something sweet, munch on a piece of hard cheese or drink some still water, chew sugar free chewing gum or gargle with fluoride mouthwash for 1 min.
The truth about brushing
After eating acidic foods/drinks, you should wait an hour before brushing or the teeth risk dental erosion. If time constraints mean this isn’t possible then they should brush before breakfast. This has the added advantage of coating their teeth with fluoride and so providing protection when they eat. After breakfast they can then rinse their mouth with water to wash away any food debris. They should then brush their teeth last thing at night before bedtime.
Use a fluoride toothpaste and SPIT DON’T RINSE. That leaves some of the toothpaste around the teeth to do its work, especially useful overnight or after sweet stuff.
- If you have problems with decay in milk teeth, ask your dentist about fissure sealants for the permanent teeth . This is a way of protecting a child’s adult teeth from decay, but you have to get the timing right, so ask early.
- If your child is offered the antibiotic tetracycline be aware that this may cause problems down the line as it can attack the developing enamel. This should not be used before the age of 12 years.
- If your toddler falls asleep with a bottle of milk every night you may be risking serious cavities. You don’t create saliva as you sleep so the sugars in the milk stick to the teeth. If they have to have a bottle to go to sleep, make sure it’s a bottle of water.
The truth about milk although milk is an excellent source of calcium, vitamins and minerals it does contain lactose, which is a natural sugar. If milk is consumed frequently there is a higher risk of dental decay, so should ideally be drunk around a mealtime.
- Raisins and dried fruit are the devil’s food as they stick to the teeth. My dentist says you’re better off giving them chocolate buttons that melt away rather than dried fruit (as far as their teeth are concerned.) Better still have something savoury.
- If you can live with the sight of your child chewing (and the consequences of them possibly swallowing it) sugar-free chewing gum is good for your teeth because it promotes the flow of saliva, which is the mouth’s natural cleanser. I would advise from the age of 9 upwards.
- It’s not how much sugar you have, but when you have it. Better (for your teeth if not your waistline) to eat a whole packet of biscuits with a meal and then nothing else sweet all week, than have one biscuit every few hours , eaten in between meals throughout the day.
The truth about toothpaste Regardless of whether or not you have fluoride in your local water, use full fluoride toothpaste from when the first teeth erupt. For children aged 0-3 look for 1,000 parts per million of fluoride in toothpaste. Children aged over three should be using between 1450 parts per million (the same as the average adult toothpaste).
Quotes from parents:
- Although fluoride protects teeth, too much is a bad thing, so don’t let your child eat toothpaste or they will end up with white speckles on their teeth.
- Keep checking on your child’s teeth-cleaning action until they are quite old –until age 7 but I’d go at least as far as age 10! It’s sad, but true that even when they know the facts, they still try and get away with a too-speedy brushing (or shock horror, miss it out altogether)
- Big up your dentist. My child loves the idea of the magic chair and always gets stickers. If they get a good relationship from the start, they’re more likely to want to take care of their teeth to please the nice dentist.
Expanding our dental hygiene knowledge is one thing, pinning our children down for longer than ten seconds, let alone two minutes, to make them brush their teeth is quite another.
Rest assured that if you struggle with this you’re not alone in your daily bathroom battle. Read on for inspiration, tips and advice and if all that fails, there’s always bribery (just not with raisins, dried fruit, fizzy drinks or sugary sweets).
Tips from parents:
- Make it a family affair; we clean our teeth at the same time, make funny noises, gargle loudly and spit extravagantly (into the sink!).
- Try using a ‘disclosing’ tablet to show how much plaque is left after they’ve brushed. Our son was fascinated, and his brushing has been much better ever since.
- Use a brushing “app”, such as Brush DJ
The truth about yoghurt Fruit yoghurts can have quite a high sugar content so should be limited to mealtimes where possible.
Quotes from Mums
We showed our daughter Daddy’s teeth (loads of black fillings) and told her that your teeth go black if you don’t brush them. We’ve never had a problem since!
- My son used to HATE having his teeth brushed when he was tiny. I had a breakthrough one night when I brushed his teeth while he was in the bath – he was happy and distracted, and I got two jobs done at once. Clean teeth, clean child, and more story time.
- Try various combinations of exciting/interesting things, flashing toothbrushes, different toothpaste, singing happy birthday while trying to brush (sing it twice and that’s almost your two minutes), exaggerated spitting and racing each other.
- The truth about fruit while we all need our five a day, it’s better for their teeth to give your child raw vegetables as a snack rather than fruit. If they do have a piece of fruit, give them a small piece of cheese to eat afterwards to neutralize the acids, and steer clear of dried fruit ( except at the end of a meal).
- Have two toothbrushes on the go at once, so they can be having a go with one while you have a go with the other. We also started off by making a big fuss about who could make the most noise when brushing and this got him excited about trying to beat us. Make it fun – if it’s a game then they’ll usually want to play.
Use brushing charts/ sticker charts
- Go for gimmicky toothbrushes, cartoon characters, suckers on the bottom etc. If your child’s old enough get them involved in choosing them. As a treat
- We find letting our toddler choose which song we sing while brushing is a good ploy – the current favourite is the Iggle Piggle song from ITNG. Adding in funny words and singing in a funny voice also helps. Basically you just have to humiliate yourself for a good two minutes.
Thumb and dummy sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of three, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your dentist.
Up to the age of 3 recommended Fluoride 1000ppm
Age 3 plus: 1450 ppm
Please check your child’s toothpaste
Use a pea shaped amount
And do not rinse
Brush for 2 min x 2 daily
Brush before breakfast ( if breakfast has acidic fruit /juice)
If your child has or has had decay in 2 or more baby teeth or 3 adult teeth, then the use of a pea sized amount of Duraphat 2800 toothpaste twice daily ( for 10 years and over) is recommended. This is not to be shared with others as it is a prescribed toothpaste. It is dispensed privately here. Further NHS prescriptions for it may be available from your GP. Your dentist will advise if this is needed.
We understand that children get hungry straight after school and if you cannot provide a sugar free snack then we recommend rinsing with a Fluoride mouthwash for 1 minute afterwards in order to harden up the enamel.
This must be either 0.05% or 225ppm.
This must not be done at the same time as brushing.
The application of Fluoride varnish in the surgery, either at check up or at the hygienist appointment can reduce decay by 46% on adult teeth and 33% on baby teeth.
This is recommended to be placed 2-3 times a year in accordance with government guidelines, more if your child has active decay.
Try to have no more than 4 exposures to food and drink throughout the day to limit the weakening of the tooth enamel.
Tooth friendly in-between meal snacks include: small amounts of hard cheese, breadsticks, twiglets, crackers, crisps (check for hidden sugar), raw fruit and vegetables, pitta breads with dips, dairylea dunkers, cheese strings, baby bel cheeses, sausage rolls, savoury sandwiches , rice cakes and corn cakes, crackers.