Caring For Your Child's Teeth & Gums
Under 1 year
Baby (milk) teeth will start to show in your child's mouth from as early as three months up to one year of age. Some babies are even born with teeth, although this is rare. You should start cleaning your baby’s teeth from as soon as their first tooth emerges.
How to clean your baby’s teeth
To clean your baby’s teeth you should put a small amount of low fluoride toothpaste (containing no more than 1,000ppm) on a piece of muslin and gently rub it around your baby’s tooth. Once you feel there are enough teeth present you can move on to using a baby toothbrush with a small head and nylon bristles. Toothbrush packaging usually denotes the ages that the toothbrush is designed for so make sure you pick one which is appropriate for your baby’s age.
Not only will brushing your baby’s teeth from an early age help them avoid tooth decay but it will also help them get used to brushing their teeth, making the process easier as they get older.
Taking your baby to the dentist for the first time
To help your child get used to the dentist you can start by taking them to your dentist appointments with you. This will help them understand and adjust to the environment and will hopefully alleviate any fear they may develop as they get older.
NHS dental treatment is free for anyone under the age of 18. You should register your baby soon after they are born and take them to their first dental check-up when their milk teeth start to show.
Your baby’s full set of 20 baby teeth should be through by the age of two or three. By this point you should be brushing your baby’s teeth with a toothbrush which you should change every one to three months or when the bristles start to spread out. You should brush your baby’s teeth twice a day; once in the morning and at night time after their last drink.
If you are finding it difficult to get your toddler to sit still whilst you brush their teeth you can try distracting them, or having them sit on your lap and face forward. You can also try having your toddler sit on your lap with their head in the crook of your arm, or kneel on the floor and have them lie with their head on your knees.
How to clean your toddler’s teeth
Whilst your child is teething their gums will be extra sensitive. To make sure you do not hurt your child or damage their gums you should brush their teeth in gently, circular motions. When you are finished make sure they spit out any excess toothpaste but do not ask them to rinse their mouth out as this will remove the fluoride residue. At this age you will be able to use a fluoride toothpaste with containing between 1,350-1,500ppm.
Teeth friendly toddler snacks
Where possible you should try and avoid sugary snacks and drinks including cakes, sweets, fruit juices and even some diluting juices. To promote dental health you should let your toddler snack on cheese, chopped raw vegetables and rice cakes.
You should keep brushing your child’s teeth until they are around seven years old. After this time, they should be competent enough to do it themselves.
From the age of 6 onwards your child’s baby teeth will start to fall out and be replaced by their adult teeth. A full set of adult teeth has 32 teeth. However, four of these are wisdom teeth which begin to appear between the ages of 18-25, or sometimes never show at all.
As your child develops through their teenage years, their teeth can go through a lot of stress. It is important that you build a good foundation of dental health, with routine visits to the dentist, so that their adult teeth will not become damaged or decayed.
Some of the areas your teen’s dental hygiene may be affected by include:
Many teens require fixed braces to straighten their crooked or crowded smiles. Teeth which are crowded are harder to clean and put stress on each other meaning they are more likely to fall out.
During their teenage years your child might start playing in extra-circular sporting activates. If your child plays sports where there is impact, such as rugby then it is a good idea to get a mouth guard to help prevent broken teeth.
As your teenager gets to the required age, they may being smoking and drinking. Both tobacco and alcohol can have serious damage on your teeth and overall dental hygiene. Where possible you should advise your child to avoid these habits and if they do start smoking or drinking, they should let their dentist know.
Your child’s diet plays an important part in their dental health. As your teen gets older they may notice that they are eating an increased amount of sugar and starch which can lead to tooth decay and in the worst cases, root canal treatment. You should encourage your child to eat a well-balanced diet that includes calcium and vitamin D and offer them dental advice such as drinking carbonated drinks with a straw or only having sugary snacks with meals.