Oral Health

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January 2018

How can I keep my toddler’s teeth clean?

Cleaning your toddler’s teeth should be part of his daily routine, though you may need to be persistent. You can gradually give him more responsibility for the brushing as time goes on, but you'll still need to supervise him.
Persuade, rather than force, your toddler to open his mouth so he doesn't see cleaning his teeth as threatening. If he's still reluctant, it may help him to see you brush your teeth first. He could even help you!
Give him lots of praise and encouragement when he allows you to brush his teeth. Letting him choose his own toothbrush may also make it more fun for him.

My toddler eats toothpaste out of the tube. Is this a problem?

If your toddler makes a habit of swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste while his teeth are forming, he may develop fluorosis.

Mild fluorosis is common in the UK, and usually causes a shiny, pearlescent stain on the teeth. In severe cases, fluorosis can give your toddler’s teeth a noticeable mottled look, but this is uncommon.

Always encourage your toddler to spit out toothpaste after brushing to reduce your toddler's risk of fluorosis. He may be more likely to swallow toothpaste if it has a sweet or fruity flavor. So try a minty or neutral flavor instead.

Try not to worry too much, though. If your toddler does eat too much toothpaste, it's more likely to cause a tummy ache than anything more serious.

Make sure your toddler can’t get to the toothpaste tube without you knowing. If you suspect he has eaten a large amount of toothpaste from the container, take him to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) hospital.

How can I help my toddler to have strong teeth?

There's lots you can do to ensure that your toddler’s teeth are strong and will resist decay both now and in the future. Much depends on what he eats, as well as how often he eats it.

A lot of the foods and drinks that keep your toddler in good general health are also good for his teeth. Make sure you offer him a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Calcium will help your toddler grow strong bones and teeth. Dairy products such as cheese and milk are good sources of calcium. If your toddler doesn't drink much milk, offer him other dairy products instead, such as yoghurt or cheese. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and soya are also good sources of calcium.

You should also make sure your toddler's diet contains plenty of vitamin D, which will help his body to absorb more calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include eggs, oily fish and fortified foods such as margarine and breakfast cereals.

The government also recommends that all children between six months and five years are given a supplement containing vitamin D. Evidence shows that this may help to prevent tooth decay.

Are there any foods or drinks that will harm my toddler's teeth?

When your toddler eats or drinks sugar, it mixes with the bacteria in his mouth to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of his teeth, and can cause decay and cavities.

If your toddler has lots of sugary food and drink, he’s continually topping up the levels of acid in his mouth. So try to keep sweets, cakes, chocolate and other high-sugar snacks to a minimum, especially between meals. Give them as a one-off treat, or at the end of a meal.

Keep acidic, sugary or fizzy drinks between meals to a minimum, including juice or squash. Water and milk are the best drinks for your toddler.

If you do give your toddler fruit juice, it should be well diluted, and given only at mealtimes. Don't offer juice in a bottle or a sippy cup as they increase the time that your toddler's teeth comes into contact with sugary drinks.

You could try giving your toddler a straw, which will direct the juice to the back of his mouth and away from his teeth. However, it is best for him to use a free-flow beaker or cup.

How can I minimize the damage caused by sugar?

Preventive measures are always best. Keep your toddler's diet free from high-sugar foods and drinks for as long as possible. This will give his first teeth a good start.

If banning sweets completely isn't an option, then you can reduce how often you offer them to your toddler. The more times a day your toddler eats something sugary, and the longer the sugar stays in his mouth, the more likely it is that damage will occur.

Restrict sugary food and drink to mealtimes, even if it's homemade. A small slice of cake or a piece of chocolate to finish off a meal is less harmful to your toddler's teeth than a lollipop that he sucks all afternoon.

It’s best to keep raisins and other dried fruits to mealtimes as well. While they're a healthier option than sweets, they can also harm your toddler's teeth. Encourage tooth-friendly snacks instead, such as vegetable sticks, fruit and yoghurt.

If you do offer your toddler a sugary snack, encourage him to eat it in one session rather than throughout the day. Afterwards, give him a small piece of hard cheese to neutralise the sugars, and make sure that he brushes his teeth thoroughly before he goes to bed.

When does my toddler need to visit a dentist?

If your toddler hasn't seen a dentist since his first milk teeth came through, it's a good idea to book an appointment (NHS Choices  Most first teeth have nearly a decade of hard work in front of them. Good habits early on will lay the foundations for a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Dentists can help to prevent, as well as cure, teeth problems. So don’t wait until you see signs of tooth decay or until you think your toddler needs a filling before taking him to see the dentist.

Taking your toddler to the dentist from a young age with help get him used to the sights, sounds and smells of a dental surgery. Taking him to your own appointments will help too.

Make the visit fun and positive, even if you aren't a fan of the dentist yourself. Dentists have lots of experience at making children feel welcome and comfortable. They may even offer your toddler a sticker at the end of the appointment!

Are there treatments that will protect my toddler’s teeth?

Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and helps to resist decay. Some children are particularly prone to tooth decay, and dentists sometimes recommend fluoride supplements as well as fluoride toothpaste. Always ask your dentist for advice before giving your toddler fluoride supplements.

When there is an increased risk of decay, or early signs of decay, your dentist may consider a treatment of fluoride varnish. The dentist paints this varnish on to your child’s teeth to stop the process of decay, or at least delay potential fillings. Talk to your dentist to find out if your child would benefit from this treatment.

Find out what will happen if your toddler chips or knocks a tooth

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