Healthy Teeth for Babies and Toddlers
Teeth are one of my favourite subjects to talk about because unfortunately as a Health Visitor I have seen many children, even as young as 5 years old, having to have their teeth removed due to severe dental caries. When I have spoken to some parents about mouth and teeth hygiene, many were fairly blasé about looking after the baby teeth because they felt these teeth were unimportant as they were going to fall out anyway! Unfortunately, I think there is a lack of information about looking after your child’s teeth other than the standard advice to ensure that you brush twice a day and so it’s no wonder that some children are facing tooth removal.
Baby teeth usually erupt around 6 months on average although it can be before or after- some babies are even born with teeth! Baby teeth are important because they help with speech and eating and even smiling but also they help guide the permanent adult teeth into position.
Ideally, as soon as your little one has a tooth you should start to use a toothbrush and gently clean the teeth. It is also advised that you start to take your child for check up’s at the dentist mainly to get them used to it and help prevent the next generation of children who are frightened of the dentist!!
Baby Teeth and dummies.
Dummies can be a God’s send for some babies (and parents!!) however if you can, try and avoid using them after 12 months of age because after 12 months of age it can encourage an ‘open bite’ which is when the teeth move to make space for the dummy. Dummies may also affect your child’s speech and development.
Teeth and sugar
There’s no getting away with it, sugar causes tooth decay and it is not just the amount of sugar one consumes, it is how long and how often the sugar stays in contact with the teeth. This is why lollipops and sugary drinks are particularly bad because they bathe the teeth in sugar for long periods. The acid in fruit drinks can also be damaging.
If you would like to give your children fruit juice, some ways to reduce the risk of tooth decay are to always give it diluted in the form of 1 part juice to 10 parts water once a day and not give it in a bottle.
Babies and Toddlers
As I mentioned above, start brushing your baby’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as their milk teeth come through. The fluoride is very important as this is what helps to prevent and control tooth decay. For children ages 3 years and under only a smear of toothpaste is required.
Children aged 3-6 years
Ideally they should be brushing their teeth twice a day, for 2 minutes, using a pea sized blob of a fluoride toothpaste- it needs to have 1,000ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. If you can, encourage them to spit out the excess toothpaste but don’t allow them to rinse their mouths with water as it will wash away the fluoride and make it less effective. It is suggested by dentists that parents should supervise the brushing of teeth until your child is 7 or 8 years old .
Children aged 7 years and upwards
Children from the age of 7 years old and upwards can use a family toothpaste as long as it contains 1,350-1500 ppm fluoride.
A Fissure sealant is a plastic coating that is applied to the child’s back permeant teeth to keep the germs and food particles out of the grooves. The sealant can last as long as 5-10 years.
Fluoride Varnish can be applied to both baby and adult teeth. It involves painting a varnish that contains high levels of fluoride on to the surface of the tooth every six months to prevent tooth decay. It works by strengthening the tooth enamel making it more resistant to decay.
From the age of 3 yrs old, children should be offered fluoride varnish application at least twice a year. Younger children may be offered this as well if their dentist feels they would benefit (NHS 2017).