Looking after your children’s teeth

Here are some useful tips on getting your children started on a lifetime of proper dental care.

Start the right way during teething. Teething usually starts at around six months and can continue as all the adult teeth start to come through. If your child needs pain relief, make sure you choose a sugar-free medicine and also remember to check with the doctor or pharmacist that you are being prescribed sugar-free medicines at all times. If the pain continues then contact your dentist for an appointment.

Brush the right way as your children develop. When the first ‘baby’ teeth start to come through, try using a children’s toothbrush with a small smear of toothpaste. Once all the teeth have come through, use a small-headed soft toothbrush in small circular movements and try to concentrate on one section at a time. Remember to brush gently behind the teeth and onto the gums.

Make brushing a routine, ideally in the morning and just before bed. It is important to supervise your child’s brushing until they are at least seven. To help them, try standing or sit behind your child, cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach their top and bottom teeth more easily.

Use the right toothpaste. It is recommended that children up to three years old use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1,000ppm (parts per million). After three years old, they should use toothpaste that contains 1,350ppm-1,500ppm. You can check the level of fluoride on the packaging of the toothpaste. Children should be supervised up to the age of seven and you should make sure that they spit out the toothpaste and don’t swallow any if possible.

Use the right toothbrush. Manu different children’s toothbrushes are available, including brightly coloured brushes, some of which change colour, those with favourite characters on the handles, and some with timers. These all encourage children to brush their teeth. The most important point is to use a small-headed toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles, suitable for the age of your child. If in doubt, look for the British Dental Health Foundation as this means that the product claims made on the pack are supported by scientific testing.

Minimise the amount of sugar in your children’s diet. The more often your children have sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods to mealtimes only. If you want to give your children a snack, try to stick to cheese, vegetables and fruit, but not dried fruit. Remember too that some processed baby foods contain lots of sugar so checking the list of ingredients for sugar, fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose: the higher up the list these are, the more there is in the product.

Get your children used to the dentist. It is recommended that children should go to the dentist with their parents as soon as possible. You should then take them regularly, as often as your dentist recommends. This will let them get used to the noises, smells and surroundings and prepare them for future visits. The earlier these visits begin, the more relaxed the children will be.

Set a good example when it’s time to visit the dentist. Children can sense fear in their parents, so it is important not to let your child feel that a visit to the dentist is something to be worried about. Try to be supportive if your child needs to have any dental treatment. If you have any fears of your own about going to the dentist, don’t discuss them in front of your child.