Kids' teeth: How to keep them sparkly clean
Keeping your little one's teeth in tip top condition can be quite a challenge. Luckily Rebecca Howard Dennis has been brushing up on the best ways to look after your child's smile
Ideally you should take your baby to a dentist when their first tooth pops through (usually around the six month mark). Before this, get in the habit of rubbing a clean, wet washcloth over their gums. The gentle pressure will both ease teething pain and help keep those newly emerging teeth clean and bacteria-free.
A nationwide Colgate study recently revealed that almost half of parents were afraid of visiting the dentist and said this impacted on how often they took their children for check-ups. Six-monthly appointments are the gold standard and allow your dentist plenty of time to spot potential problems. Remember that a good dentist will be able to prevent as well as treat decay. To find a dentist, visit nhs.uk.
Dentists recommend using a fluoride toothpaste as soon as that first tooth appears, to help strengthen enamel so it's more resistant to decay. Just be sure to read the small print, as tracking down the all-important 'dose' can be tricky. Under threes should use one with at least 1,000 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Under 18 months, use a smear on their brush, graduating to a pea-sized amount around their second birthday. At three, switch to a toothpaste with 1,350- 1,500 ppm, and adult-strength at seven. Colgate is particularly transparent about it's age- appropriate fluoride formulations – the children's range has clearly labelled, fuss-free packaging (colgate.co.uk).
You can get low- and fluoride-free paediatric toothpastes, but there is strong, compelling evidence to support the benefits of using fluoride. And the British Dental Health Foundation is keen to point out that children who use it correctly as their teeth are developing tend to have teeth with a smoother surface – far easier to keep clean.
If your child is thought to be at risk of tooth decay, your dentist may suggest painting a strengthening fluoride solution on their teeth every three to six months.
Take a look at family dentist Dr Daanish Chattaroo's top tips for tiny patients
1. Take your children to your own check-ups so they can get used to the sights, smells and staff at the clinic before ever even sitting in a chair.
2. When they have that first check-up, book back-to-back appointments for both of you so your child can watch you then follow your lead on their turn.
3. If you don't have a dentist, or you do but they have a less than child- friendly manner, ask friends or your health visitor for a recommendation.
4. Ask if your child can sit on your knee for the first appointments. Making sure a child is relaxed is as much the dentist's priority as it is yours.
5. Use favourite characters to explain what happens at a check-up. YouTube has clips of everyone from Peppa Pig to Topsy and Tim going to the dentist.