Good oral hygiene is an important practice that parents need to be aware of from their child’s birth. This will ensure that their child is being set up for life- long oral hygiene, prevention of tooth decay, infections, and other dental problems. Public Health England revealed that in 2019, 23% of 5 year olds in the UK have had dental decay. This costs the NHS almost £40 million a year in dental treatments.
Before the first tooth even comes, it is a good practice to clean your baby’s mouth after feedings. After breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you can use a very soft toothbrush and clean the gum line with water. Alternatively you can also use a clean gauze or washcloth to gently wipe any milk residue from your infant’s gums.
Typically, a baby’s first tooth will appear around the age of 6 months. As soon as your baby’s first tooth starts to appear it is important to start brushing their teeth, at least twice a day. This is especially important for night time feeds as the sugars from the milk can collect overnight in their mouth and cause decay.
Fluoride is a natural mineral added in many toothpastes. The benefits of it are that it helps prevent tooth decay. In some parts of England, fluoride has even been added into the local water supply. It is important to use toothpastes that contain the appropriate level of fluoride for a person’s age group. It should contain at least 1000 parts per million of fluoride. More details on these requirements can be found in the links below.
It is also not necessary to use “children” toothpaste. Their teeth will be better protected with the fluoride content of regular adult toothpaste.
New guidelines for brushing teeth are “Spit, don’t rinse.” The toothpaste with fluoride should stay in the mouth to work longer to protect the teeth. It is also not recommended to use mouth wash at the same time as brushing teeth. Remember to always supervise children while they are brushing their teeth.
Your child will start to lose their baby teeth around 4 years of age, but the last baby teeth may not fall out until they are about 12 years old. To prevent tooth decay, ensure your child avoids sugary drinks, including fruit juices. Milk and water are the best choices, or you can also dilute juice with water. Carefully monitor their sugar and sweets intake, and take them for regular visits to the dentist.
To find out more about how to look after your children’s teeth: