After reading all the terrible stories about really young children having their teeth removed after going rotten, I thought I would use an NHS article all about children's teeth and how to keep them healthy. From brushing their first tooth to their first trip to the dentist, here's how to take care of your children's teeth.
A regular teeth-cleaning routine is essential for good dental health. Follow these tips and you can help keep your kids' teeth decay-free:
Start brushing your baby's teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks through (usually at around six months, but it can be earlier or later). It's important to use a fluoride paste, as this helps to prevent and control tooth decay.
There's no need to buy special "children's toothpaste" brands. In fact, some of them don’t have enough fluoride in them to help prevent tooth decay.
Children from the age of seven can use family toothpaste, as long as it contains 1,350-1,500 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. Check the toothpaste packet if you're not sure, or ask your dentist.
Children up to the age of six who don't have tooth decay can use a lower-strength toothpaste, but make sure it contains at least 1,000ppm fluoride.
Make sure children don't eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.
Below the age of three years, children should use just a smear of toothpaste.
Children aged three to six should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.
Brush your child's teeth for about two minutes twice a day: once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day.
Encourage them to spit out excess toothpaste, but not to rinse with lots of water. Rinsing with water after tooth brushing will wash away the fluoride and make it less effective.
Supervise tooth brushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it. From the age of seven or eight, they should be able to brush their own teeth, but it's still a good idea to watch them now and again to make sure they brush properly and for about two minutes.
How to help children brush their teeth 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 cleaning their teeth.
Make tooth brushing as fun as possible by using an egg timer to time it for about two minutes.
Don't let children run around with a toothbrush in their mouth, as they may have an accident and hurt themselves.
Taking your child to the dentist
NHS dental care for children is free.
Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can help prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child's mouth for the dentist to take a look at is useful practise for the future.
When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits.
Take your child for regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist.
Twice as many children under the age of 10 receive hospital treatment for tooth decay as those treated for broken arms, figures for England show.
There were 34,205 cases of patients under 10 needing hospital treatment for dental caries in the year to March, the youngest less than a year old, according to the faculty of dental surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons.
Over the same period there were 17,043 broken arms, as well as 19,584 cases of asthma, 10,397 cases of epilepsy and 3,805 cases of appendicitis needing hospital treatment in the age group, according to analysis of NHS Digital data.
Tooth decay is the most common reason that children between five and nine need treatment in hospital, with 25,923 cases within this age group in 2016-17, up slightly from 25,875 the previous year.
Prof Michael Escudier, dean of the FDS, said: “Sometimes this can be unavoidable, but when it comes to admissions caused by tooth decay, most cases are a result of simple preventative steps not being taken.
“Tens of thousands of children every year are having to go through the distressing experience of having teeth removed under general anaesthetic. Reducing sugar consumption, regularly brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste and routine dental visits will all help ensure this is avoided.”
The FDS says tooth decay is preventable in 90% of cases but many children are not going to the dentist, with parents often unaware that it is free for the under-18s. In all, there were 45,224 cases of children up to 19 who needed hospital treatment because of tooth decay in 2016-17.