Childhood is the most important period in a person’s life for developing and maintaining good dental habits. It is very important to ensure that a child grows up with a positive attitude towards dental health. We have found that even when children have been to the dentist before, they often do not know what to expect when they come to see us. The goal of dental treatment for children is to help each child have a healthy mouth with a good bite which not only looks good but functions well in both the primary (temporary) and permanent dentitions.
At Atkinson Brignall we take the prevention of dental disease in children very seriously. Our Aquabubble has been designed to help children learn more about their teeth and how to prevent decay whilst at the same time, having fun. Aquabubble is a unique facility in this country with inter-active touch screen computers loaded with games and quizzes, with different levels to challenge all ages, all with a dental theme. These computers are situated in our fun-filled submarine room with an electronic control panel, a working periscope and a fantastic undersea mural.
Parents often have questions about the care of their children’s teeth.
- Should I give my baby a dummy?
- When should my child start brushing their own teeth?
- What kind of toothpaste is best?
- When should I take my child to the dentist?
Knowing the answers to these questions and more can help you keep your kids’ teeth healthy and cavity free.
We are always happy to answer parent’s questions in the surgery. Some of the most commonly asked questions with their answers are given below.
Should I give my baby a dummy, or will it affect the teeth?
Generally a baby who is given a dummy will at some point stop using it, normally at an early age, and not resort to anything else. Never dip a dummy in anything sweet before giving it to your baby. These contain harmful sugars and acids, which will attack your baby’s newly formed teeth and cause decay.
A baby who is not given a dummy will often suck their thumb. From a dental point of view, thumbs are a far worse problem than dummies. Unlike a dummy, the thumb cannot be taken away and thumb sucking often carries on into older childhood. Thumb sucking can have marked detrimental effects on the position of teeth, which will then need correction with braces at the appropriate age (generally 11-14 yrs).
When do my child’s teeth come through?
Primary or “baby” teeth have usually developed under the gums before your child is born and will start to come through at about 6 months old. All 20 baby teeth should be through by the age of 2½. At the age of about 6, either the first permanent “adult” molars (back teeth) will appear behind the baby teeth or the lower front baby teeth are lost and the replacement “adult” teeth start to erupt. Which happens first, varies between children. Parents often think that this first permanent molar is another baby tooth and fail to take proper dental care because they think it will fall out. The permanent “adult” teeth will then replace the “baby” teeth. The upper front teeth are lost shortly after the lower front teeth and, by the age of 13, all baby teeth have normally been lost and been replaced by their permanent successors.
Adult second molars, which come through behind the first molars, are normally present by 13 whilst the wisdom teeth (the third molars) erupt any time between the ages of 18-25 (or sometimes not at all!)
How can I prevent tooth decay in my child?
Children’s teeth when they first erupt are always free of decay, therefore prevention should start from the moment the first teeth appear. It is important to avoid giving babies bottles containing fruit juices/ squash which can cause serious damage to the teeth.
The main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar in the diet, but the frequency of consumption. The more often your child has sugary food or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary foods to mealtimes only. If you want to give your child a snack between meals, try to stick to cheese, vegetables and fruit, but not dried fruit, especially raisins, which contain high quantities of sugar. Any sweets should ideally be avoided or eaten at mealtimes only.
It is important to remember that some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients: the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Sometimes these are shown as fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose
If your child has acidic fruit juices/ fruit, eg. oranges, regularly this can cause acid erosion in the teeth. We advise that after your child has had acidic foods or drinks that they wash their mouth out with plain water afterwards to get rid of any excess acid. They must not brush their teeth for at least an hour after consuming acidic foods or drinks. Drinks such as Coca Cola are also very acidic.
Thorough brushing twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste, particularly last thing at night, will help to prevent tooth decay. A fluoride mouthwash used daily will provide about a 30% reduction in decay, however these are best used by children over the age of 6 as the mouthwash must be spat out and not be swallowed. Additionally, fissure sealants (tooth coloured sealants) can be professionally applied to biting surfaces of children’s teeth to prevent decay.
How should I clean my child’s teeth?
Cleaning your child’s teeth should be part of their daily hygiene routine. You should start cleaning your infant’s teeth as soon as they get their first tooth. Start by using a toothbrush designed for very young children. The Oral B “Stages” are a good choice for this. Initially use only a smear of a children’s toothpaste, such as Aquafresh “Milk Teeth”. We find it best if the parent kneels on the floor, and the child lays down with their head in the parent’s lap, so the parent is behind the child. That way, the brushing action is more akin to brushing your own teeth and the child is not so able to move their head away. With slightly older children, sit or stand behind them, cradling their head and brushing the teeth, similar to above. Once the teeth have come through, use a small-headed soft toothbrush in small circular movements and try to concentrate on one section at a time. Don’t forget to brush gently behind the teeth and onto the gums. If possible, make tooth brushing a routine – preferably in the morning and last thing in the evening before your child goes to bed.
When should my child start brushing their own teeth?
A time will come when the child will want to brush their own teeth. This is fine providing it is supervised and only a small amount of toothpaste is put on the brush. Remember that children are not usually able to clean effectively until 7 years old and children will need help until this age. A 2-minute timer will help your child to brush for the correct amount of time (a variety of different coloured timers are available from our Reception). Remember to encourage your child, as praise will often get results! Ideally encourage your child to do their brushing in the morning and continue brushing the child’s teeth yourself in the evening. It is again important to stress that you should supervise your child’s brushing until they are at least seven years old.
What type of toothpaste should I use? Should I use fluoride toothpaste?
Fluoride has been proven to reduce dental decay by at least 40%, so all children should use a fluoride toothpaste. Research has shown that children living in a non-fluoridated area have more dental decay than those living in areas with fluoride in the drinking water.
Fluoride comes from a number of different sources including toothpaste, specific fluoride applications and perhaps the drinking water (though there is very little in the Sevenoaks area). These can all help to prevent tooth decay. The amount of fluoride in pastes varies significantly. Toothpastes for very young children contain far less fluoride than those for an older child or adult. Always use a paste appropriate for the child’s age unless specifically told otherwise by your dentist. You can check the level of fluoride on the packaging of the toothpaste, but these can sometimes be confusing.. Children should be supervised up to the age of 7, and you should try and ensure that the residue of toothpaste is spat out.
What sort of brush should children use?
A child’s toothbrush should be scaled down to child size, since their hands and jaws are much smaller than an adult’s. The handle of a child’s toothbrush should be easy to grip and shaped to be easy to hold. The brush head should be small and rounded with soft bristles. The Oral B “Stages” range is ideal. Children can use a powered toothbrush once they are able to brush their teeth on their own.
There are many different types of children’s toothbrushes available, including brightly coloured brushes, those with favourite characters on the handles, musical brushes and a variety of electric brushes with timers. These will all help to encourage children to brush their teeth.
When should I take my child to the dentist?
You could take your baby to your own routine check-up. Often a child will sit in their pushchair watching what is going on around. This gives the opportunity for your child to become accustomed to the sights and sounds of a dental practice and allows us to offer advice on dental health education from the earliest possible time. For example, we will be able to offer advice and prescribe medicines for teething pains, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. The earlier these visits begin, the more relaxed the child will be. At Atkinson Brignall, we have the Aquabubble which provides fun and education and creates a positive outlook towards dentistry.
But what if my child is nervous about going to the dentist?
Children will often pick up on their parents’ anxiety, so it is important to let your child feel that a visit to the dentist is nothing to be worried about. Try to be supportive if your child needs to have any dental treatment. If you have any fears of your own about going to the dentist, we strongly suggest you don’t discuss them in front of your child. In addition, try to avoid any emotive words such as “pain”, “drills” or “injections”, which can worry the child. Regular visits to the dentist are essential in helping your child to get used to the surroundings of a dental practice. A child can be much more anxious if it is their first visit to a dental practice. It is much easier to treat a child who is at least familiar with the surroundings and the friendly faces around them, rather than having to encounter new surroundings and people for the first time. At Atkinson Brignall we do everything we can so that your child is not anxious or in any pain. We take our time to be gentle and considerate and also try to find out what particular aspect of dentistry your child finds stressful.