As soon as the first teeth start coming through, from 6 months, use a children’s toothbrush with a smear of toothpaste. Gentle coaxing is the key. If all else fails, get the toothpaste on their teeth with your finger: basically, the toothbrush is a vehicle for toothpaste. Once all 20 baby teeth are through, brush using small circular movements down to the gums. Stand behind your child, cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach the teeth easily.
Always supervise tooth-brushing up to the age 7 or whenever children have eaten lots of sweet things, for example at birthdays, Christmas or Easter, or if they have fixed braces.
The main thing is to use a brush with a small head and soft bristles and a toothpaste with at least 1000ppm (parts per million) of fluoride up to 3 years and 1350-1500ppm from 3 years (stated on the pack). Look for the British Dental Health Foundation logo. Try to get them to spit out toothpaste but don’t panic if they don’t. Children go through phases and will do it themselves when you stop worrying!
This is one of the questions we’re asked most often! The simple answer is: sugar and acid. Too much, too often, is what causes tooth decay as the teeth are hit by a 30-minute acid attack afterwards. It’s not the amount of sugar and acid, it’s the total number of sugar and acid hits per day. Too many and they’ll get cavities.
Brushing twice a day for 2 minutes. Be more aware of ‘hidden’ sugars in food and drink, remembering that processed foods, including some baby foods and savoury items, can often contain quite a lot of sugar. Check for ‘sucrose’, ‘glucose’, ‘fructose’; it’s all sugar. Confine sugary and acidic things to mealtimes. For snacks, try cheese, vegetables and fruit but be warned that dried fruits, like raisins and cranberries, are high in sugar and can stick to teeth, so aren’t necessarily a healthier option. Don’t give children sweet things right before bedtime, including hot chocolate.
Although fruit juices are indeed part of a healthy diet, remember that they’re quite acidic and also quite high in sugar, albeit natural sugars. So, to lessen their impact on teeth, always dilute juices and other fruit drinks, use a straw or bottle with built-in straw and get children to drink a glass of milk or water immediately after, to help counteract the acid.
Believe it or not: ideally eat them all in one go! Grazing on sweets leaves the teeth constantly under attack. Our advice is to pick a ‘sweetie day’. This is better than allowing them to have a few sweets every day.
The new adult teeth can often come through strangely. However, the lips and tongue then put gentle, balanced pressure on them, pushing them into the correct position. A bit like ‘natural’ braces!
Again, there’s no need to worry: deciduous teeth are always whiter, so the comparison can be alarming.
Some parents aren’t overly worried about this, thinking they’ll be replaced by adult teeth anyway. This is definitely not alright! Infections from baby teeth can affect adult teeth. Also, baby teeth are there for a reason: they maintain spaces in the jaws for adult teeth and guide them into position.
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