Good dental health is an important part of our general health and well-being. Having healthy teeth and gums and being free from pain or discomfort supports children to eat a healthy balanced diet, develop their speech and feel confident with their smile building self-esteem. Children's first, baby or milk teeth are important and establishing good habits early on is key to keeping a healthy mouth for life. A healthy mouth during childhood helps pave the way for healthy adult teeth to come through.
The two most common diseases in the mouth are tooth decay and gum disease. Both of these are preventable with good oral hygiene, a healthy balanced diet and regular dental check-ups.
Keeping a healthy mouth…
Here is some advice to help prevent problems in the mouth such as tooth decay or gum disease:
- Brush twice a day; before breakfast and before bed, with fluoride toothpaste.
Oral hygiene should be part of the daily routine and helps protect teeth and gums. Children need help with their tooth brushing until they are at least 7. Now much more independent, they may not want you to help however, you will need to check and have a go from time to time to make sure they are brushing all teeth and gums properly and spot any problems early. Floss can be used to remove plaque and food debris from between the teeth however needs to be used with care and under supervision (ask your dentist or hygienist). If the tongue is brushed, do this very gently and always brush downwards only.
Brushing properly for 2 minutes morning and night is the best way to protect teeth and gums however, brushing immediately after having sugary foods or drinks will not prevent these from damaging your teeth.
Children's toothbrushes should be soft and small so that they can brush around all the teeth and gums effectively, lifting off plaque, (the white, sticky stuff that forms around teeth and gums), which contains bacteria and can cause gum disease. Toothbrushes should be replaced every 3 months or if the bristles become 'splayed', whichever is sooner. You should never share toothbrushes, even among family members and brushes should be allowed to dry out in air to reduce the risk of cross-infection. Tooth brushing also protects the surface or 'enamel' through fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral which helps strengthen and protect tooth enamel and reduce the amount of acid made by plaque bacteria. Apart from what naturally occurs in our water, Shropshire is largely un-fluoridated and children's teeth can be more vulnerable to sugar and acids.
If you look on the back of the toothpaste tube you will find the fluoride level. Here are the current recommendations for fluoride levels in toothpaste in order to protect teeth:
Encourage your child to spit out after brushing however they do not need to rinse as the protective effect of the paste will carry on after brushing. If a mouthwash is used, do this at a different time of the day.
- For ages 0-3, use a smear of toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1,000ppm (parts per million).
- From 3 years of age, children should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste with a fluoride level of 1,350-1,500ppm, or standard family toothpaste. Avoid any that are designed for whitening etc.
For more advice ask your dentist.
- Limit foods or drinks containing sugar and try to keep these to mealtimes.
Frequent intake of refined sugars and acids through foods and drinks will damage teeth and cause decay and/or erosion of the enamel. Teeth damaged by sugars and acids can become very painful and, if left, can lead to infection (abscess) which will result in the need for emergency treatment, antibiotics and possibly the removal or extraction of teeth. By avoiding sugary foods and drinks or limiting these to mealtimes only we reduce the chance of damage to the teeth and helps children stay generally healthier. Safer and healthier options would be fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread and milk or water. It's a good idea to check food and drink labels and watch out for 'hidden sugars' which can be labelled under many different names such as: sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, hydrolysed starch, invert sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin and others. Try not to use any foods or drinks as rewards, this can give mixed messages around foods and make the 'treat foods' seem more attractive.
- Take your child to the dentist for regular check-ups.
NHS dental treatment is free for children and regular check-ups mean that the health of the teeth and gums can be maintained and monitored with any issues identified early. Even if you are not keen on going to the dentist, try to be positive about it. Children should have a check-up every 6 months.
Dental services in Shropshire
You no longer need to 'register' with a dentist to get regular treatment, simply contact a local practice offering NHS dentistry and ask if you can have an appointment. NHS Choices and the British Dental Association both have postcode search facilities so you can try to find a dentist in your area.
If you are having problems finding an NHS dentist, need urgent treatment or cannot access a dentist for any reason, there is further information for Shropshire residents on the local CCG website http://www.shropshireccg.nhs.uk/dentists
For more information about dental health for all the family follow the links given or speak with your dentist.
If you would like further information, please consult the 'helpful links' section on this page.
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