Looking after children’s teeth is important to make sure that they grow up with confidence, a healthy mouth and a big smile.
To ensure this happens it is a good idea to register your baby at a local dentist as soon as you notice their first tooth appearing. Dentistry is free to children in the UK and so you should try and make the most of this and get into a routine of going for regular checkups.
Additionally, children’s teeth need to be brushed as soon as the first tooth appears. This can be done with a cloth and some baby toothpaste (or with a toothbrush designed for baby) to ensure effective cleaning and minimize any damage to baby’s teeth.
A report looking into children’s dental health in the UK suggested that around 43% of 5 year olds and 57% of 8 year olds experienced obvious dental decay. Therefore here are some nutrition-based suggestions below to help ensure your child’s teeth are in tip-top condition!
Tooth Friendly Tips:
1. Restrict intake of sugary food and drinks.
Sugary foods and drinks are known to increase the risk of developing tooth decay. However, it is not necessarily the amount, but rather the frequency of sugar consumed which is directly linked with childhood tooth decay. Therefore the more often sugar is consumed throughout the day, the more your child’s teeth may be at risk. Importantly studies have also shown that the constant sipping of soft drinks will increases the risk of developing dental caries.
2. Don’t be fooled by “tooth friendly” labels.
Hundreds of drinks are on the market advertised as “diet”, “sugar-free” and even “tooth-kind”. However, these drinks are not necessarily doing what they say on the packaging. In fact many soft drinks are extremely acidic (regardless of whether they contain sugar or sweeteners), and acidity can lead to loss of tooth enamel and dental erosion. The only truly “tooth friendly” drinks are milk and water, so opt for these whenever possible and try to delay introducing your little one to juice drinks, soft drinks and fizzy drinks.
3. Avoid offering fruit juice and dried fruits in-between meals.
Although a source of vitamins, fruit juice contains sugar that is broken-down and so more readily available for contact with your child’s teeth. Read here all about fruit juice vs whole fruit. Dried fruits are also a source of many vitamins, minerals (including iron) and fibre. However, the natural stickiness of dried fruits can result in sugars lingering on the teeth for a long time and therefore increases the risk of tooth erosion. Offer these foods just once a day and always as part of a meal or snack.
4. Avoid brushing your little ones teeth straight after foods.
The acid and sugars present in sugary foods and soft drinks can cause tooth enamel to soften, and therefore brushing teeth straight away can actually do more harm than good. It is best to leave brushing for an hour or so after consumption of sugary foods or drinks.
5. Ditch the bottle.
It is recommended that bottle use is stopped at around one year of age. This is due to the fact that prolonged bottle use has been linked to tooth decay in children. It is good practice to introduce a cup or beaker to your child at an early age to allow them to become familiar with drinking from these and therefore happy to move on from a bottle at around one year. Importantly, always ensure that your child only drinks milk and water from the bottle, as consuming juice and other soft drinks from a bottle can lead to poor dental health.
See this blog for more information and for my Top Tips for Healthy Adult Teeth