Babies and Children’s Teeth
Avoiding tooth decay
The importance of diet
Avoiding giving a baby or a young child unnecessary sugars is a good way to establish healthy eating patterns to protect every child's teeth for life. Milk and water are the only drinks that should be put into a baby's bottle. Don't give a child sugary drinks in bottles or pacifiers (dummies) dipped in a sugary substance.
Babies should be introduced to a feeding cup as soon as possible. Fruit juice given to children should be diluted (1 part juice to 10 parts water) and given in a cup. Restrict juices to mealtimes only. If the child tends to snack between meals, remember that cheese is a very tooth friendly food – avoid sweets, cakes and biscuits.
The importance of cleaning teeth
Plaque will start to form on a child's teeth and gums as soon as the first tooth appears (erupts). So, it is very important to begin a suitable toothbrushing routine as soon as possible. The brushing routine that is established with a child at an early age should continue throughout their life.
Use a toothbrush that is appropriate for the child's age and stage of tooth development. A small-headed soft brush should be used as soon as the first tooth erupts. Character toothbrushes are an excellent way to make brushing fun for young children. A small smear of a children's fluoridated toothpaste should be used on the brush. As the child gets older a slightly larger brush with medium bristles may be used.
The importance of fluoride
Fluoride occurs naturally, at some level, in the water in most areas and helps to prevent tooth decay when at the optimum concentration. Fluoride is present in most toothpastes but special children's toothpastes are better for babies and infants because the amount of fluoride is controlled specifically for their needs. The amount of fluoride in any area’s water supply can be found out by contacting the Local Water Authority. Fluoride supplements come in tablet form and may be prescribed by the dentist if active decay is identified during routine dental examinations. A varnish can be applied by the dentist or hygienist in the surgery. Although fluoride is a valuable protective agent, like many things it is important to have just the right amount, not too much or too little. To avoid excess fluoride from toothpastes, children under six years should be supervised when toothbrushing and only use a small smear of toothpaste. Children over seven years can use the family fluoride toothpaste but only a pea sized amount on their brush.
Visiting the dentist
It is a good idea to get babies and young children used to the idea of having dental examinations by taking them along to the dentist when adults are having dental check-ups. Dental visits by infants should begin at 18 months if only to become familiar with the dentist and to have a ‘ride’ in the dental chair. Once confidence is gained by two years of age it may be possible to examine the deciduous teeth. While for the majority of children the teeth will develop normally, for some children there are variations in the number of teeth, their size, colour and shape. If you have any concerns about your child's teeth, you should consult your dentist as soon as possible.