We all want the best for our children and helping your children to care for their teeth from a young age could help them to enjoy trouble free teeth for life. Establishing good habits could help your children avoid oral health problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Tips for helping a teething baby.
There are several ways that you can help make teething easier for your baby. Every child is different and you may have to try several different things until you find something that works for your baby.
These give your baby something safe to chew on, which may ease their discomfort and provide a distraction from the pain. Cooling a teething ring by placing it in the fridge can help to soothe your baby’s gums.
For babies over 4 months old you can rub sugar free teething gel onto the gums. These contain a mild local anaesthetic which helps to numb any pain and discomfort from teething. The gels also contain antiseptic ingredients to help prevent infection in any sore/broken skin in your baby’s mouth.
one of the signs of teething is to chew on fingers, toes or other objects. Try and give healthy things for your baby to chew on such as raw fruit and vegetables, pieces of apple or carrot. Avoid any items that contain lots of sugar such as rusks, as this can cause tooth decay. Always supervise your baby if he/she is chewing on anything.
Pain relief medication;
If your baby is in pain or has a raised temperature you may give medication containing a small dose of ibuprofen or paracetamol, these medications should be specifically designed for children and should be sugar free.
Cool , sugar free drinks will help to soothe your baby’s gums and may help if he/she is dribbling excessively. The best option is to give cool water.
cuddling or playing with your baby can sometimes distract them from the pain in their gums.
Preventing teething rashes:
If teething is making your baby dribble more than usual, make sure you frequently wipe their chin and face. It may be helpful for your baby to sleep on an absorbent sheet.
When should I take my child to the dentist?
It is recommended from 6 months old. This allows them to get used to the noise, smells and surroundings and prepares them for their future visit. The earlier the visits begin, the more relaxed your child will be.
When will my child’s teeth come through?
The primary or ‘baby’ teeth develop before your child is born and start to come through at around 6 months. All 20 primary teeth should be through by the age of 3. The first permanent molars usually appear at around 6 years of age behind the primary teeth and the first teeth start to fall out betweens the ages of 6 and 7. The adult teeth then gradually replace the primary teeth and all adult teeth are usually through by the age of 13. Wisdom teeth (if they are present) usually come through between 18 and 30 years of age.
How should I clean my child’s teeth?
As soon as the first teeth erupt you should use a children’s toothbrush (age specific) with a small smear of children’s toothpaste, gently brush the teeth and overlap the gums. As more teeth erupt ensure that you brush the outside surfaces of the teeth whilst overlapping the gums, brush the biting surfaces of the teeth and then the inside of the teeth. As you brush, talk to your child to explain what you are doing. As your child gets older try to brush systematically ie. Start in one corner and work your way around, this way your child is less likely to miss any teeth when brushing. The aim is to clean every surface of every tooth every time you brush. You should help your child to brush at least twice a day, preferably in the morning and last thing at night. After brushing allow your child to spit out any excess toothpaste but NOT to rinse with water or mouthwash. The longer the toothpaste stays on your child’s teeth the more beneficial it is.
Should I Use Fluoride Toothpaste?
YES, fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay. It can be found in most toothpastes and also in the drinking water. Up to the age of 3 all children should use a toothpaste that contains at least 1000ppm (parts per million) fluoride. After 3 years of age the fluoride level should be between 1350ppm and 1500ppm. Supervise brushing to ensure your child does not swallow any toothpaste.
What sort of brush should children use?
There are a variety of children’s toothbrushes available. The most important point is to use a small headed toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles, suitable for the age of your child.
My child does not want to brush!
There will be times when your child refuses to brush his/her teeth and/or refuses to let mum/dad brush them. This is very common and usually only a temporary problem. Try praising or rewarding your child. Distractions such as music can distract some children. Getting older siblings to brush at the same time sometimes helps. You can buy brushes that change colour or have characters on the handle, this may encourage your child to brush. You can try putting a stopwatch or timer on to encourage your child to keep brushing for 2 minutes.
What are the causes of toothache in children?
Toothache is painful and upsetting especially in children. Unfortunately the main cause of toothache is still tooth decay (caries). This is due to consuming too much sugar and acid, too often, in the diet.
Teething is another problem which starts at around 6 months and can continue as all the baby teeth start to come through. (See Section on Teething). If your child needs pain relief always choose a sugar free medicine, if the pain continues then contact your dentist.
How can I prevent tooth decay in my child?
The main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar and acid in the diet but how OFTEN it is eaten/drunk. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods and drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods and drinks to mealtimes only. Keep snacks sugar free, choose vegetables, fruit and cheese. Dried fruit is also high in sugar and can stick to teeth so have this in moderation.
Processed baby food can contain a lot of sugar, always check the list of ingredients. The higher up the list the sugar is the more there is in the product. Sugar on labels is sometimes called fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose.
Thorough brushing for 2 minutes twice a day, particularly last thing at night will help to prevent tooth decay.
What if my child is nervous about going to the dentist?
Regular visits to the dentist are essential in helping your child to get used to the surroundings. A child can be more anxious if it is their first visit to the dentist, if this is the case let the nurse/dentist know beforehand. Children can sense fear in their parents, so it is important not to let your child feel that a visit to the dentist is something to be worried about. Try to be supportive if your child needs any dental treatment. Try not to discuss your own fears or negative views about the dentist in front of your child.
NHS dental check ups and treatment for children is free.
Advice about brushing children’s teeth.
Brush your children’s teeth for at least 2 minutes 2 times a day, once just before bedtime and at least one other time of the day. Encourage them to spit out excess toothpaste but not to rinse with water. This is because rinsing with water after brushing will wash away the fluoride in the toothpaste and reduce its benefits.
Supervise toothbrushing until your child is at least 7 years old, either by brushing for your child or by watching them brush.
How do I make sure my child brushes properly?
Guide your child’s hand so they can feel the correct movement
Use a mirror to help your child see exactly where the brush is
Make toothbrushing as fun as possible eg. Use an egg timer to time exactly two minutes
Don’t let children run around with a toothbrush in their mouth as they may have an accident and hurt themselves.
This process involves painting a varnish containing high levels of fluoride onto the surfaces of the teeth every 6 months to prevent decay. It works by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay.
At Castle Dental Care from the age of 3 years, fluoride varnish is applied to all children at least twice a year, (except patients with asthma). For children with a higher risk of caries it can be applied every 3 months.
These can be done once your children’s permanent molars erupt at approximately 6-7 years of age.This is where the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are covered with a thin plastic coating to keep bacteria and food particles out of the grooves and protect these teeth from decay.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I let my child have sweets?
Most children want to have sweets but you can help to prevent problems by making sure they don’t eat them often and by encouraging them to only eat sweets with their meal. This way your child avoids the extra acid caused by eating sweets in between meals. Try not to give sweets or sweet drinks as a reward.
What are the best snacks to give my child?
The best snacks are fruit and raw vegetables. Try oranges, bananas, pieces of cucumber or carrot sticks, breadsticks, crackers, rice cakes.
Should I let my child have fizzy drinks?
NO. Fizzy drinks are very high in sugar and can cause a lot of tooth decay and tooth erosion where the enamel on the tooth becomes thinner.
What are the best drinks for my childs teeth?
These best drinks for a child over 1 years old is water and milk. Cow’s milk is not suitable as a drink until your baby is 12 months old. Use full fat milk (whole milk) from 12 month to 2 years. Semi skimmed milk can be introduced from the age of 2 as long as your child is a good eater and growing well for his/her age. Skimmed milk does not contain enough fat and is not recommended for children under 5 years old.
Fruit juices contain sugar and acids, so it is best to have these only at mealtimes and to use a straw when drinking them. If your child is thirsty it is better to give them water than to encourage a taste for sweet drinks. Try to avoid giving babies fruit flavoured ‘baby juices’ and never give them in feeding bottles.
Will milk at bedtime damage my babies teeth?
Water is the best drink to give at bedtime. If your child drinks milk, it is best to give it in a cup, rather than a bottle. If you do give milk don’t add anything to it. Chocolate flavoured drinks and milkshake powder usually contain sugar which can increase the risk of decay if given at bedtime.
Are sugar free medications better for my childs teeth?
YES. Always ask for sugar free medication and remind your doctor about this if you’re being given a prescription for your child.
When should my child give up bottles?
Your child should begin moving off the bottle and onto a feeder cup at 6 months. Bottles should be given up completely by the age of 1 because the teats encourage children to suck for long periods of time. This means that the drinks that cause decay stay in contact with your child’s teeth for a long time.
Nothing should be eaten or drunk in the last hour before your child goes to bed except plain water.
Are sippy cups good for the teeth?
There’s no need for a child to use a sippy cup. They are similar to a bottle, in that they require the child to suck to make them work. A feeder cup is better as it doesn’t have valves and the flow of liquid is unrestricted. This means that children learn to drink normally rather than by sucking.
Will a dummy or thumb sucking harm my children’s teeth?
These habits will encourage an anterior open bite. This is when the teeth move to make space for the dummy or thumb. It can also affect speech development. As long as the habit stops before the permanent teeth erupt then it should not cause permanent problems. Discourage your child from speaking when their dummy or thumb is in their mouth and do not dip the dummy into anything sweet eg. Sugar or jam.
Cutting down on sugar
Try cutting down on how often your child has sugary foods and drinks by limiting these to meal times.
Your child should not have food and drink with added sugar more than 3 times a day.
Drinks containing sugars, including natural fruit juices, milkshakes, smoothies and ‘No added sugar’ diluting cordials should be avoided in between meals. Water or milk should be given instead.
For children up to 3 years old do not add any sugar to their weaning foods when you introduce them to solids.