Leading dentist Dr Richard Marques, BDS runs a clinic in London’s Harley Street district and has shared his top tips for looking after your children’s teeth.
Children’s Dental Health Month is currently being recognised in the USA, but of course, children's teeth are just as important here in Ireland.
A 2019 study by Public Health England which looked into the dental health of 5-year old’s, alarmingly revealed that a quarter of them had experienced tooth decay. The results from this study were almost identical to a 2017 study, suggesting that no progress had been made in regards to tackling tooth decay amongst children, and it’s possible the situation is similar today.
Here are 10 tips for helping your children's teeth stay strong and healthy.
Be careful with healthy foods that are sticky, such as raisins and bananas. They contain concentrated sugars that will adhere to the teeth. Try mixing them into meals such as porridge, so that more saliva can help break them down. If food does stick to the teeth and is not properly removed, this can lead to plaque and decay.
Monitor Their Brushing
Most children won’t have the motor skills to brush their teeth properly until they’re around eight years old. Be sure to supervise their brushing and check the surface of the teeth afterwards. Whilst they are brushing, make sure they do not swallow toothpaste. If you feel they have missed a spot, encourage them to go over the area again.
Go To The Dentist Early
Take your child to the dentist for the first time when their very first tooth starts coming through. Every six months thereafter, try to keep on top of their dental health, unless an issue arises such as teeth grinding or a lisp. Scheduling appointments from an early age will familiarise your child with the dentist in a non-threatening way and builds trust.
Look After Those Baby Teeth
Though baby teeth aren’t forever, they are the teeth your child will have for a number of years. Be sure to treat any cavities straight away. These baby teeth will help set the jaw for adult teeth. Infections can go on to affect speech if not dealt with straight away.
Get The Right Toothpaste
Many children don’t like the taste of traditional mint toothpaste or find it too strong. Try using a child-friendly flavoured toothpaste such as strawberry or watermelon but make sure the toothpaste contains fluoride so that their teeth are cleaned properly.
When They're Old Enough, Use Mouthwash
Introduce mouthwash as part of the regular routine from the age of six (not before). Be sure to use a product made especially for kids. Supervise them at all times to ensure they don’t swallow the mouthwash. To check your child is ready to use mouthwash, I recommend giving them a sip of water, swish around their mouth, and spit it out into the sink. If they can handle swishing and spitting out water, they should be able to handle mouthwash.
Check Their Toothbrush
Make sure your kids are using a toothbrush with soft bristles and replace the brush every three months or when the brush becomes frayed and worn down. If a toothbrush is not changed, the bristles can no longer get in the corners and gaps of teeth which can lead to decay and bacteria build-up.
Sugar-Free Is Best
Always opt for sugar-free medicines to protect little teeth against the acids in sugar found in medicines. If a sugar-free option isn’t available, use a syringe to bypass the teeth and gums, rather than a medicine spoon.
Flossing Is Key
Encourage gentle flossing from an early age. Aim to start them flossing once a day as soon as two teeth are touching. Kid’s flossers with handles are available to help make it easy to get a complete clean and will remove any plaque build-up. Kid’s flossers are also designed for their sensitive gums so shouldn’t be a painful process.
Finally, Get Them To Brush With You
Brush your teeth with your kids and try to make it as fun as possible. Get them to copy what you’re doing so they feel confident and enjoy the time spent together. Setting this good example will encourage them to have a good dental routine every day and prevent issues further down the line. I would also encourage using a reward system, stick stickers on the mirror when they have done a good job at brushing and flossing!