Written by Mrs Claire Jordan BDS MJDF PGDipl(Endo)
“Time to brush your teeth now!”….“NOoooo!”
Even as a dentist, I still dread that twice daily toothbrush routine. Not necessarily because they don’t let me do it (…in the end), but it’s just awkward, isn’t it?
It inevitably results in the blob of toothpaste being lost at least once or twice down yours or their T-shirt (which you’ve just put on fresh), or smeared across their’s or your face (after you’ve just put your make up on, or wiped your make up off theirs), or just plain swallowed in the first second, which means tearing the tube out of the hands of the second child (who has meanwhile squeezed the entire content of the tube over the dogs head), in order to replenish the toothpaste supply, get it back in their mouth, only to have them bite down on the bristles of the brand new brush. Rage.
I have treated children and parents of children for 15 years now, and I’d like to share with you some tips, facts, advise, common myths, and common questions I get asked. I hope I don’t bore you!
1. “They’re only baby teeth, they don’t matter.”
The purpose of baby teeth is to provide the child with teeth to eat with, to speak and sing, and smile. The reason we don’t grow adult teeth straight away is because the jaws quite simply aren’t big enough to hold them. Baby teeth first start growing from 6 months, and the last ones that arrive don’t wobble out until the age of 12 (sometimes older). So if they are prematurely lost due to decay, the child can suffer years with no biting ability, no smile, and poor speech. The child is likely to have required multiple visits to the dentist, having been in pain, and consequently having to have fillings or extractions under local anaesthetic which can be very traumatising for the child, and the parent. SO HOLD ON TO THOSE GNASHERS AND DON’T LET THEM GO ROTTEN!
2. “My child eats really healthily, why do they need another filling?”
DIET, DIET, DIET. This means food AND drink! You can have all the carrots and cucumber in the world, but if your child is sipping on juice all day, those teeth are likely to rot. Only allow your child to have water between meals. I often say to my patients, a thirsty child will always drink water. Juice needs to be a treat, and only ever given with a substantial meal. Fizzy drinks…the devil’s juice!
3. “What healthy snacks can I give my children?”
This is a hard one, and one that I still don’t know the answer to. It’s almost impossible to find a truly healthy, sugar free snack. Dried fruit (raisins)- we call it nature’s Haribo. I tend to advise bananas, apples, breadsticks, toast with butter. It’s ok for your children to have cake/biscuits etc on occasion, but ideally only as a pudding straight after their main meal. Sweets are better eaten all at once! Don’t let them graze on them throughout the day…the sugar will just sit and have a field day on those little teeth.
All milk is sugary, even breast milk. As soon as those teeth come through, they need to be brushed. At night, before bedtime, this is the last thing that should be done. Only water after this. This is not easy I know! It doesn’t feel natural to feed your baby and then shove that toothbrush in their mouth when they’re about to drift off, but they do soon get used to it, and it doesn’t need to take longer than 10 seconds when they only have a few teeth in there. If you co-sleep and breast feed with your baby (with teeth), be very cautious of them latching on to your breast throughout the night. There are babies who’ve had to have their front teeth removed before the age of 3 due to the constant supply of breastmilk in the night.
5. “What toothpaste?”
Simple. Under 3 = 1000ppm of flouride (see the back of the tube). Over 3 = 1450ppm (same as us adults). The flouride is there to remineralise any areas of the enamel that have been softened (demineralised) by sugar sitting on the teeth and feeding on the natural bacteria in the mouth (decay). If you chose to use a non-fluoridated toothpaste, let your dentist know, and make sure sugar in the diet is kept to an absolute minimum.
I could go on and on. I’m pretty passionate about this subject as I’ve seen the damage that can be done. However we’re all parents at the end of the day. We get things wrong. But if we can do more right than wrong, we’re winning!