Dr Mihir Shah is Head Dentist at Battersea Park Dental. SLOAN! asked him to share his top ten dental health tips for children with practical advice for parents and carers on how to teach children correct oral care techniques at an early age.
Brush twice a day for two minutes
As soon as the first tooth comes through, it is important to get into good oral hygiene habits. Brush your children’s teeth twice a day for as long as they will allow, building up to two minutes when they have a full set of baby teeth. Introducing brushing early on could help with future brushing routines.
Use fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride is important to protect teeth against decay and can also help reverse the early signs of decay. Children should use toothpaste containing 1,000 parts per million (ppm) until they are 3 years old, and between 1,350-1,550 ppm after the age of 3. Use a small smear of toothpaste and be sure they don’t swallow it.
Spit and don’t rinse
After brushing, encourage children to spit the toothpaste out but not to rinse their mouth with water. Leaving the layer of toothpaste on their teeth will make the fluoride more effective, and therefore protect teeth against decay.
Don’t forget to floss
As soon as two baby teeth start to touch, it is important to clean between them. Use floss at least once a day. Brushing without flossing is comparable to cleaning only 65% of the body, leaving 35% untouched and prime for bacterial growth.
Reduce the number of sugary snacks
It is not the amount of sugar, but the frequency of sugary treats that cause tooth decay. Limiting the number of times your child has a sugary treat will help reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Avoid raisins and other dried fruits
Raisins and dried fruits are packed full of fruit sugars. Due to their sticky texture, they tend to get trapped between teeth and, if left, can cause decay.
Visit the dentist
When you notice your child’s first tooth emerge, it’s time to see the dentist. It is important to desensitise children to the dental setting at an early age. Don’t forget to make it fun too!
Stop bottle feeding early
Try to wean your baby off bottle feeding as soon as they can handle drinking from a cup. Prolonged bottle feeding, especially with sugary liquids and at night, can significantly increase chances of tooth decay.
Habits, such as thumb sucking, will not only affect your children’s teeth, but can affect their jaw pattern and may lead to unnecessary lengthy orthodontic (braces) treatment. Try to stop them as early as possible. This includes the use of dummies (pacifiers), which should be stopped as soon after 6 months as possible.
After or before meals?
Our mouth is more acidic after we eat food and on average, it takes 20 minutes for it to return to normal, brushing straight after eating or drinking can cause wear on the enamel. Get children to either brush first thing in the morning or 20-30 minutes after breakfast. And always, last thing before bed.
Dr Mihir Shah has been supporting DenTek. For more information, please visit www.dentekuk.co.uk