parent myself, I know how hard it can be to do what is best for your children.
I too rely on my friends, online searches and social networks as a source of
information. However, a lot of the information that is available can be
confusing and conflicting and can leave you overwhelmed! Additionally, what can
be good for general health can actually be harmful to teeth. In an attempt to
help other parents and caregivers, I’m going to give some tips on how to keep
your children’s (and your own!) teeth healthy.
most common reason for hospital procedures for children under 10s is tooth
extraction, which in 9 out of 10 cases is due to largely preventable tooth
decay. Staggeringly, in England, a child will have a tooth removed in hospital
every 10 minutes.
A lack of awareness, fizzy drinks and sugar consumption are just part of the problem. Many parents give seemingly ‘healthy’ snacks which can contain free or highly concentrated sugars. Access to dentists is a problem in some regions and inadequate toothbrushing also plays a major part. So what can we do to prevent this problem?
brushing when teeth start to come through (at around 6 months). Night time
brushing is the most important time, and brush on at least one other occasion,
a fluoride toothpaste;
smear of toothpaste for under 3s (at least 1000ppmF)
small pea sized amount for 3-6 year olds (more than 1000ppmF)
children 6 years and over the recommended amount is pea size 1350-1500ppmF
recommended time is 2 minutes toothbrushing, encourage your child to spit out
but don’t rinse the toothpaste, supervising brushing until your child is at
least 7. Circular motions are best, but technique isn’t as important with this
age group, provided they are cleaning all tooth surfaces.
2) Dental Visits
the dentist at least once per year and then as advised by your dentist. We
encourage dental visits for children when their teeth start to come through and
ideally by their first birthday.
3) Sugar Consumption
the amount and frequency of sugar intake, sticking to meal times for treats if
you are going to give them (once per day maximum). Sugar, honey or any other
natural or artificial sweetener should not be added to weaning foods or drinks.
If your child is teething, only give your child frozen foods(examples include
watermelon, melon, pineapple and plain natural yoghurt) or teething biscuits if
they are are already on solids and opt for sugar free versions.
aware of what children are consuming with other care providers, including
grandparents and in nursery settings.
maximum daily sugar allowances
cubes for 4-6-year olds
cubes for 7-10-year olds
cubes for 11 years and over.
cube sugar is approximately 4g of sugar. (There is presently no official
maximum intake for sugar consumption for under 4s, but food and drink with
added sugars should be restricted as much as possible)
4) ‘Healthy Snacks’ and No Added Sugar
added sugar’ doesn’t mean no sugar-concentrated fruit juice or fruit puree,
even as ‘natural sugars’ as added ingredients make products sugary as this is
not fruit in it’s natural state. Sugar free means there are no sugars (less
than 0.5g) in the products, but often these can be acidic and erosive to teeth,
examples of these include sugar free carbonated drinks, flavoured waters and
adding fruit to water in water bottles.
possible stick to fresh fruit and vegetables in their whole form to ensure
correct portions are being consumed.
fruits (eg raisins) and smoothies can contain lots of natural sugar, so things
perceived as a “healthy” snack can alone contain children’s recommended daily
allowance of sugar.
of healthy snacks include fresh fruit and raw vegetables, low salt breadsticks
and rice cakes, low salt cheese, whole grain toast and sandwiches, homemade
popcorn with no added salt or sugar, plain natural or Greek yoghurt (which you
can add whole fruit to), baked crisps and pitta bread with dips.
best drinks for teeth are plain milk and plain water. The maximum allowance of
fruit juices and smoothies should be 150ml and should ideally be consumed with
a meal and occasionally only. Sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily
bottle feeding, only ever give milk or plain water in a bottle and introduce
free-flow sippy cups from around 6 months. From age 1, drinking from a bottle
should be discouraged.
6) Bedtime Routine
for nothing to eat or drink except water in the last hour before bed. It may be
impractical to do this with younger children but as your child increases in
age, start eliminating the bedtime and night feeds.
7) Dummy Use
finally, prolonged use of a dummy can be associated with speech and dental
disturbances. NHS recommendations are to stop dummy use by one, in reality two
may be a more realistic goal for parents, take some steps to start reducing
following the simple steps above we can give our children healthy smiles that
will last a lifetime!
For more information and relatable tips and advice on how to look after your children’s teeth, follow my Instagram @dentalmummy
*based on current UK guidelines.