Oral health in children is an important part of their overall health and well-being, but there are often a lot of questions parents ask us when it comes to achieving a perfect and healthy mouth for their children.
Towards the end of last year it was reported that more than a quarter of five year olds in England have tooth decay, and although this number is decreasing year on year, the figure is still surprisingly high. Of this amount, 3% had to have one or more teeth removed as a result of gross cavities.
Tooth decay is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. This plaque contains bacteria that thrives on the sugars in food and drink, ultimately producing an acid that slowly destroys the teeth.
The main cause of tooth decay are poor diet and poor dental care.
The amount of sugary foods and drinks consumed by children should be limited. This can be difficult as children often spend most of their time in school or playgroups where they may enjoy sweets, chocolates and fizzy drinks.
Alongside poor diet, a lack of knowledge or care regarding good oral health instruction or reluctance to attend the dentist can also increase the risk of a child developing tooth decay.
Here are our 4 tips for parents on what you can do in order to prevent decay from occurring:
1. Regular Brushing
Getting a child into the habit of brushing twice daily should be established from as young an age as possible. The teeth should be brushed twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. The ideal habit should be brushing once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day, making sure to brush for at least two minutes with a dry toothbrush. In order to gain the full benefit of fluoride in toothpaste, spitting out excess toothpaste is recommended as oppose to rinsing.
2. Avoiding Bad Habits
Children can often get into bad habits, such as not brushing for long enough and chewing/sucking the toothbrush, so it is important that children are supervised until they are at least 7-8 years old, but parents should supervise to an older age if they feel this is required.
3. Monitoring Diet
As mentioned above, a child’s diet should be limited with regards to their intake of sugary food and drink. Instilling these healthy eating habits as early as possible is a key factor in preventing caries. We appreciate children need to live a little, and while we are not asking parents to completely stop their child consuming anything sugary, there are ways in which to limit the amount of damage these foods and drinks can do to the teeth.
- sugary items should be consumed during mealtimes as oppose to between meals as snacks
- they should also not be consumed at bedtime or after they have brushed in the evening, as the acid is allowed to attack the teeth during the night
- ideally, water and milk should be given where possible
- children should be discouraged from swishing sugary drinks around their mouths as it increases exposure of sugar to the teeth – the use of a straw is of great benefit as it minimises the amount of acid that touches the teeth
4. Regular Dental Check-Ups
Taking your child for regular dental check-ups is also something that should be encouraged from an early age. Their first check-up should ideally be as soon as their first teeth erupt. It is important to try and make their visits as fun and relaxed as possible, and to find a dentist your child is comfortable with.
Our practice often holds Kid’s Days, which is a fantastic way to introduce the idea of visiting the dentist and has helped those who have had previous reservations to relax and overcome their fears.
As well as checking the condition of a child’s teeth and offering ways to improve their oral health if needed, every child over three years old has a tasty flavoured fluoride gel applied to their teeth as part of their check-up. This application helps to not only strengthen the teeth they have, but to strengthen and develop the teeth that are yet to erupt.
All of the above is a guide to improving and maintaining dental care in children, but we appreciate there may be other circumstances that lead to tooth decay. Should it be necessary, access to basic preventative services and treatment if and when problems occur will always be available at Pennington Dental.
We’re here to help, so if you have any worries or concerns about your child’s teeth or dental routine,
please do get in touch.