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Children's Health 2022

How to take care of your children’s teeth

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Dr Nigel Carter OBE

Chief Executive, The Oral Health Foundation

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when caring for your child’s teeth. The good news is that a healthy smile is achievable for every child by following just a few, simple steps.

Whether it’s their first tooth or first trip to the dentist, a child’s early experiences of looking after their mouth can be with them for the rest of their life. Giving them a great start to life, as far as their teeth are concerned, is relatively simple.

Brushing a child’s teeth

Brushing is one of the most important skills a child can learn. In their early years, they will need a helping hand to clean their little gnashers. When the first teeth start to come through, use a children’s toothbrush with a small smear of children’s fluoride toothpaste. The amount of fluoride it should contain is 1,000 ppm for under-3s and up to 1,350–1,500 ppm for over-3s.

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. Make sure to brush the inside and outside of each tooth, as well as the biting surfaces — and don’t forget the gum line. Cleaning should become part of their daily routine and be done twice a day.

Still water and milk are the best drinks for any of us, especially good for young and developing bodies.

Dental visits

Take your child to the dentist as soon as the first tooth appears. Baby teeth are still important as they can impact how well their adult teeth come in. Trips to the dentist from an early age help the child get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the dental practice.

The earlier and more regularly you take them to the dentist, the less likely they will have anxiety or fear of the dentist as they grow older.

Healthy, balanced diet

Nutrition plays a critical role in how a child grows and develops — this includes the health of their mouth. During snack time, get them used to having pieces of fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Any sweet foods should be limited and only allowed at mealtimes.

Still water and milk are the best drinks for any of us, especially good for young and developing bodies. Sugary drinks should be avoided, including fruit juices. Parents must also avoid getting into the habit of giving children sweets to reward them for good behaviour. The long-term effect of frequent sugar consumption can be very damaging to a child’s oral health, so help them avoid it as often as possible.

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