• Sue

Looking after your little ones pearly whites.

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

It's 2018, another Christmas is over, I am feeling full, have a smaller bank balance and am going to enjoy some early nights.

However, I did use the Christmas holiday to be productive and completed an update online training session on children’s oral health.

I would like to share with you some of the current research as I know it can be confusing;

  • The enamel on milk teeth is 50% thinner than an adult tooth.

  • Almost a third of 5-year olds are suffering from tooth decay. That is a scary statistic, as parents we don’t want to see our little ones in pain.

  • It is the most common single reason why 5-9-year olds are admitted to hospital.

Just because milk teeth are not a child’s permanent teeth it does not mean they should be treated with any less respect.

Let’s lay down some heathy habits for the future.

For Babies and toddlers

Start to brush your baby’s teeth as soon as they first start to show.

For this stage, use a smear of fluoride (yes fluoride!) toothpaste on a baby toothbrush. Baby brushes are softer for the teeth however …

... some babies don’t like the sensation so you can try a clean flannel. The rubbing with a flannel will also ease teething pain.

Use gentle circular motions.

Fluoride toothpaste is recommended as it helps strengthen the enamel. There has been over half a century of research on this and the benefits of fluoride toothpaste is now firmly established.

Older children

Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste after the age of 3.

Try not to let older children lick or eat toothpaste from the tube – as much as they will try!

Teeth should be brushed for about 2 minutes, try singing a song, use a timer or download an app.

I like the brush DJ app as I like the choice of songs and it plays for 2 minutes and children can watch the circle timer. You can even programme it to remind children its time to brush their teeth!

Children should be encouraged to spit out toothpaste and brush twice a day.

This next one is new to me as I have always cleaned my teeth after breakfast. Brush teeth before breakfast not after to remove potential acid- forming bacteria that has built up overnight when saliva production has slowed down.

If brushing after meals wait at least 30 minutes as this gives the saliva time to neutralise any acid.

If you give milk as a bedtime drink, clean those teeth after as milk contains sugar and this will stay against those toothy pegs all night.

It is advisable to move from a feeding bottle to a free flow cup as soon as your child is developmentally ready,introduce when you start solids and aim to stop bottle use by age one, as when bottle feeding the sugar stays against the teeth for longer.

The recommended sugar intake for 4-6 years is 19g and 7-10 years is 24g a day.

The research showed children aged 4-10 years on average consumed 60.8g a day – wow!

Here are some tooth friendly ways to keep that sugar level down.


Watch out for sugary cereals some are very high in sugar.

Try other breakfasts: scrambled egg, tomatoes on toast, banana on bagels, breakfast burritos, French toast, courgette omelette, homemade apple muffins - these are all making me hungry!

Some snack ideas are:

cubes of cheese, finger crumpets, fingers of toast with cheese spread or marmite, plain yoghurt with fruit to dip in, fun vegetable sticks / kebabs, breadsticks or oat cakes.

One snack lots of parents would often be shocked to learn are bad for the teeth are RAISINS.

They are packed with fructose (fruit sugar) and this reacts with bacteria to create enamel-eroding acid. They are also super -sticky so will cling to the teeth.

Drinks should ideally be water or milk. If fruit juice is given it should be diluted: ratio 1-part juice to 10 parts water and served at mealtimes.

Choosing a toothpaste - the recommendations are:

0-2 years- toothpaste that contains at least 1000 parts per million(ppm) fluoride

3-6 years-toothpaste that contains more than 1000 ppm fluoride.

Over 7 years-toothpaste that contains 1350-1500ppm fluoride.

Look out for signs of irritation or allergies, gum soreness or mouth ulcers. Some toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulphate can cause a reaction.

Visit the dentist regularly. Take your children to your own check ups so they will be familiar with the place, the smells and the dentist!

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