Like adult teeth, baby teeth are susceptible to decay, gum disease and abscesses. And there is nothing worse than seeing your child suffer so it’s definitely worth regular trips to the dentist to keep nasty problems at bay.
When should I take my child to a dentist?
I advise parents to bring their children in from around 6-7 months of age, even if during the first visit I just have a basic look whilst they are in the pushchair, car seat, sat on mummy or daddy’s lap or even if it’s just to watch a family member have their check-up so they can see what happens. It’s not just about examining your child’s teeth, it’s also to get them used to the dentist and the surroundings so on a six monthly basis, so they are fully aware of what goes on during a dental check-up.
Quite often, I see children aged 6-7 years old who have never been to the dentist. Unfortunately by this age, they have often heard horror stories about negative experiences and as a result, some feel anxious and expect the worst. Sometimes they are too frightened to even sit in the chair as they feel so nervous, especially if they are in pain.
Remember that dental pain usually only arises if things have been left to progress without early detection. Also, as children are prone to falling over whilst playing, their teeth can become damaged and this can even affect the development of their adult teeth. The longer the baby teeth remain, the better it is for the adult teeth to follow their natural course. Losing baby teeth early can lead to crowding issues with the adult teeth. Sometimes teeth can develop with weaker enamel and the sooner this is detected the better, as they can be sealed for protection before they form cavities.
Your dentist can also assess the risk your child might be exposed to and can apply professional strength fluoride to their teeth every three, six, nine or twelve months to reduce their chances of decay.
The earlier your child comes to see us, the more we can do to help prevent issues arising in the first place. So please bring your children along from the age of 6-7 months. There are numerous fun children’s books about the dentist out there, for example Peppa Pig’s Dentist Trip, to help young children feel comfortable and familiar with dental clinics. The number of times I’ve been called ‘Dr Elephant’ is unreal! But this makes me happy as I know the books are a great help when it comes to making dental visits fun.
You can also get pretend doctors kits with mirrors in. It’s a good idea to play with your child- practice using this mirror on each other and count each other’s teeth. That way when your child visits the dentist they won’t be alarmed by the instruments. In fact, children often get really involved in helping me count their teeth!
My child won’t let me brush their teeth, what can I do?
As a mum, I’m also aware of the struggles of getting your child to brush their teeth. Sometimes it can seem like a chore to them, but with today’s technology it can be quite fun! There are electric toothbrushes in various themes, e.g. Disney princesses or Cars. These can be linked to the Disney Magic Timer app, which allows them to watch their favourite characters whilst brushing their teeth. These run for the recommend two minutes, which ensures a thorough brushing. Aquafresh Brush Time app is another popular brushing app. I advise parents to supervise their children until they are 7 years old.
Using the correct fluoride toothpaste for your child’s age group is also very important. Children under the age of 3 should use tooth paste with less than 1000ppm fluoride and children older than 3 should use no more than 1450ppm.
Electric toothbrushes are clinically proven to be more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes.
Discourage your child from rinsing with water after brushing. Just let them spit out any excess, so that the benefits of the toothpaste can remain in the mouth for longer than the period of brushing.
From 3 years of age, professional strength fluoride will be applied to your children’s teeth every three to six months, depending on their risk. This ensures their teeth are getting fluoride protection even if you are struggling with getting them to brush at home or if they refuse to use toothpaste.
My child brushes well but has still developed a cavity. How much sugar is OK? How can I reduce their risk of decay through diet?
It’s important for children to eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, but be wary. Fruit can be acidic and can cause teeth to erode. To minimise this, you can do the following:
- Wait approximately 40 minutes before brushing your child’s teeth after fruity foods and drinks, as brushing straight after can brush the acid into the enamel, causing it to wear down.
- Give your child water or milk with acidic snacks, as this can neutralise the acid.
- Eating cheese with acidic or sugary snacks can minimise the damage to your child’s enamel.
- Try to keep sugary drinks and snacks to a minimum and try to consume them with a meal rather than in between. The recommended daily allowance for a pre-schooler is 16g of sugar, which works out at four teaspoons.
- Avoid sticky foods like raisins, as these can remain in the biting surfaces of teeth and can easily lead to the development of cavities.
I hope this has helped and we look forward to seeing you and your child soon. If you have any further questions we are always happy to answer them at our dental practice in Leicester, Loughborough and Notthingham.