Many children struggle to brush their teeth properly, whether they find the sensation unpleasant or the task boring. Below is a print off and keep guide to help improve their dental health.
Children, like adults, should be brushing their teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste for two minutes minimum, starting from the arrival of their first tooth. You should start by using a smear of toothpaste to any teeth as they start to erupt. Children will often resist brushing but it is important you find a way to reach all of the child’s teeth, coating them with toothpaste. Failure to do this, even for a relatively short period of time, will leave them significantly more at risk of decay and toothache. As they grow older and more independent you should closely supervise them until they are seven or eight to make sure they are brushing properly. Never let them walk around with a toothbrush in their mouth as they can get seriously injured. You should be using a minty rather than a fruity toothpaste — we recommend Macleans Milk Teeth — as children quickly become accustomed to fruity toothpastes and can have difficulty moving onto mint.
Getting your children to brush their teeth for two minutes at a time can be a challenge, at that age two minutes can feel like a very long time. Egg timers are a great way of making sure they are brushing for long enough, as well as making toothbrushing a bit more fun. The timers on electric toothbrushes are also great for older children.
Sugar is the main cause of decay in children’s teeth — see my blog for more details on how sugar is damaging children’s teeth. The main source of sugar in the average child’s diet is surprisingly not sweets or chocolate — it’s in fizzy drinks. The sugar content in a can of cola is a third higher than in the average chocolate bar, at around 36 grammes of sugar per can. To put that into perspective, adults shouldn’t be consuming more than around thirty grammes of sugar per day. Children should ideally only be drinking milk and water, and should never go to bed with a bottle in their mouth — as well as being a choking hazard, the lactose in the milk will rot their teeth.
Dry brushing, the new technique illustrated below, helps to increase the fluoride your child’s teeth is exposed to during and after the brush, making them stronger and more able to withstand decay. Make sure your child spits out any excess toothpaste but doesn’t rinse their mouth afterwards as this washes away the fluoride toothpaste protecting the teeth.
Make sure you take your child to the dentist as soon as possible after they are born — many parents wait until their child is 3 years old and has all their teeth, and by then it’s often too late. If possible, you should take your baby with you on your first dental checkup after they are born. Your dentist will be able to give you advice on their development and dental care and help you with any questions you have.