It’s never too early to start thinking about the health of your babies teeth. As soon as the first tooth comes through you can start as you mean to go on by keeping them healthy and clean!
Obviously (like most things) this may be A LOT harder to do than it is to advise! Brushing a baby or toddler’s teeth can be incredibly fiddly and requires a lot of patience. It is worth it though! I hope if my children grow up knowing the importance of good dental hygiene then they’re more likely to continue to look after their teeth as teenagers and adults.
Tooth decay in children can make a parent feel terrible. Sugar is a big culprit, as is not brushing properly, but it’s hard to know how much sugar is in every day snacks these days. Fairly innocent seeming dried fruit, as well as fruit juice, can be some of the worst culprits as this article in the Telegraph explains in its “sugary drinks breakdown”.
There are lots of ways you can help your child’s teeth; even before they make an appearance you can choose the best teethers to help your baby’s new teeth come through safely.
Tooth Care Tips for Babies
The best thing to do for your babies teeth - even if you are strict on how much natural and processed sugars your child eats - is to make sure they are brushed really well. Genetic factors may play a part in how healthy or resistant teeth are, so even if diet isn’t a problem, it’s always best to be extra careful when it comes to the health of your child’s teeth.
Make Brushing Fun
Let your baby watch you brushing your teeth first. If you make it look fun or as though it’s a game, they might be more inclined to let you brush theirs!
Keep a Routine
Try making it into a routine that happens at the same time every day, so they get used to the feeling of having their teeth brushed and know it’s something that’s non negotiable!
Sit them Down
Sit your child on your knee and with their head against your chest for support, brushing this way should be easier than if you’re facing your child. Doing this in front of a mirror is a good idea and allows you to make sure you’re not putting the toothpaste all over their face/hair/eyes instead of their teeth!
Use Small Amounts of Toothpaste
The guidelines say that babies and toddlers up to the age of 3 just need a tiny smear of toothpaste. From 3-6 years you can use a pea sized amount.
When brushing the teeth, use very small circles whilst making sure you cover all the surfaces of the tooth. Once you’ve finished brushing, encourage your baby to spit out the excess toothpaste. Don’t rinse their teeth afterwards as this could remove the protective fluoride you’ve just applied.
A baby can’t brush their teeth properly on their own but even a child should be monitored till they’re around 7 years old. It’s recommended someone always supervises them until this age, even when they can hold the brush well enough by themselves.
It’s free to take your children to an NHS dentist. Register them at their nearest NHS dentists when their teeth start emerging properly. Taking your child with you to the dentist might help them get used to it, and will be less likely to be nervous before their own appointments!
Nutritional Causes of Tooth Decay in Babies and Children
As we mentioned before, sugar is the main culprit when it comes to tooth decay. These are a few things to avoid, and some ideas on how to make a babies diet healthier.
Avoiding Fruit Juices & Fizzy Drinks
The safest thing to give your child to drink is either milk or water. Fizzy drinks are an obvious no for babies but fruit juice can have even more sugar content.
If you are going to give them fruit juice, avoid using a bottle as it can increase chances of tooth decay. You can also use heavily diluted fruit juice to 1 part juice and 10 parts water in a 150ml serving. One serving per day is recommended as the maximum in the NHS guidelines.
Try Low Sugar Food Recipes
Encourage the eating of low sugar foods and avoid teeth eroding sugars in cereal bars, biscuits and dried fruits. Sometimes baby rusks and many baby foods (even savoury ones) can have a lot of added sugar in them. You can always boil some vegetables and then mash them together to make your own healthy and cheap baby food. This sweet potato puree recipe is sweet and has no extra sugar or salt!
If you’ve got any of your own healthy baby food recipes that your kids love, we’d love to hear about them so please let us know @matchstick_monkey