As parents, we all want the same for our children, we want them to be happy and healthy and do our utmost to do the best for them. We all know it’s important to brush their teeth, but with dental decay and tooth extractions being the most common reason for hospital admission in under 10s, how do we ensure we are doing it right? We asked mum-of-two and dentist Helen some questions to try and help us with the tooth-brushing-challenge!
When is the best time to introduce toothbrushing?
Start brushing, using an appropriate fluoridated toothpaste, when teeth start to come through, normally at around 6 months. Night time brushing is the most important time, and brush on at least one other occasion. Use a smear of toothpaste for under 3s (check on the label for at least 1000ppmF), a small pea-sized amount for 3-6-year-olds (more than 1000ppmF), and for children 6 years and over the recommended amount is a pea size amount of 1350-1500ppmF (family toothpaste). Encourage your child to spit out but don’t rinse the mouth out.
So, why is it important to use age-appropriate toothpaste? In your opinion is own brand toothpaste just as good as brand name toothpaste?
The recommended fluoride for each age group offers optimum protection from dental decay. Those toothpastes containing less than 1000ppmF are ineffective at controlling decay. As long as the toothpaste contains over 1000 ppmF, the branding is down to personal preference, regarding taste, colours and texture.
It’s safe to say a lot of us struggle to try to get our children to brush their teeth. What are your best suggestions for trying to make this as fuss-free as possible (for us all!)?
Firstly, try to keep calm and try to make it fun! You can start by letting your children choose their own brushes and toothpaste (if you go for an electric brush make sure you still supervise them).
Try setting egg timers for the two minutes, use the stopwatch on your phone, play, dance or sing a song, and brush your teeth at the same time to set a good example. Acting as a role model means children can watch you demonstrate your toothbrushing skills and copy your toothbrushing routine.
Let siblings practice on each other or let your child practice on you and make it seem fun! You can also use favourite teddies or dolls. Try creating games about the ‘bad bugs’ on your children’s teeth, with the toothbrush and toothpaste as the superhero or think of an imaginative story, making sure they are age appropriate, using examples to make your children understand the importance of brushing. Use rewards, star charts and focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
There are toothbrushing apps, books and YouTube videos so plenty of resources to help engage your children.
Some children may not like the sensation of brushing or the taste of the minty toothpaste so you could try a milder tasting version or opt for a softer bristled brush. Keep trying different things and see what works for your family.
Let’s talk technique, is there any particular way we should be getting our children to brush?
For younger children toothbrushing technique doesn’t really matter so much, just do your best to clean every surface, ideally, small circular motion is best but as long as your child is using an appropriate fluoride toothpaste and getting close to two minutes this should be sufficient. Disclosing tablets can be useful to highlight where brushing has been inadequate and where dental plaque has been left behind.
If your child wants to brush independently, let them, just ensure that you supervise brushing until they are at least 7. You may just have to assist for ‘the last bit’. If your child feels like they are in control of their toothbrushing they are less likely to object to it!
We understand that it’s not just brushing your teeth that can prevent tooth decay, are you able to give us a bit more information on this, please?
Toothbrushing alone will not prevent tooth decay, diet plays a major role! So, ensure to reduce the amount and frequency of sugar intake, if you’re going to give treats then have at meal times and only once per day maximum. Sugar, honey or any other natural or artificial sweetener should not be added to foods or drinks. Sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet. For babies’ bottles only ever give milk or plain water and introduce free-flow sippy cups from around 6 months.
For more information and relatable tips and advice on how to look after your children’s teeth, follow Helen’s Instagram account @dentalmummy
Interview by Danni, Mummy Social Team