Expert advice and guidance for
keeping young mouths healthy

Dental Advice for Parents

Should my child use a specific type of brush?

It is important that a child-friendly, small-headed brush is used, with soft round ended filaments. These filaments should be both long and short, in a compact, angled arrangement, while a comfortable handle is also advisable. Children’s brushes, in particular, come in a huge variety of colours and styles, aimed at encouraging them to brush their teeth, but these differences are purely aesthetic.

Should my child use a fluoride toothpaste?

According to Department of Health guidelines, children under 3 years of age should use toothpaste containing no less than 1,000 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Children under 3 should use no more than a smear of toothpaste and must not be permitted to eat or lick toothpaste from the tube. Children over 3 (and all adults) should use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste and a fluoride content of 1,350-1,500 ppm is advised for maximum protection against tooth decay. Rinsing with water after brushing should be discouraged, in favour of spitting out excess toothpaste.

When should my child start to clean their own teeth?

Brushing should start as soon as the first deciduous erupts, but children need to be helped or supervised with brushing by an adult until at least the age of 7, as before this age most lack the physical ability to do brush their teeth properly. At this point, it is a good idea for you and your child to consult a hygienist about the best ways of brushing teeth, but it is generally advised that parents should continue to assist their child with brushing at least once per day. Brushing should occur twice daily, once before bed and at one other suitable time of day.

What could cause my child to have toothache?

The main cause of toothache in children is undoubtedly tooth decay. This is due to the consumption of too much sugar by the child on a much too frequent basis.

How can tooth decay be prevented in children?

The main cause of tooth decay is the frequency that sugar is consumed, although the actual amount of sugar in the child’s diet is also an important factor. Therefore, consumption of sugary foods and drinks should ideally be restricted to mealtimes and should be limited to a maximum of 4 times per day. Thorough brushing, twice a day, will also help to prevent tooth decay.

How damaging are fizzy drinks for my child’s teeth?

There is a positive correlation between the consumption of carbonated drinks and dental decay. Most fizzy or carbonated drinks contain phosphoric acid, carbonic acid and citric acid which causes chemical erosion of the tooth enamel. It is advised that consumption of carbonated drinks is kept to a minimum to help avoid unwanted and often costly dental treatment.

What should I do if my child’s first permanent teeth appear to be crooked?

This is not unusual and is not necessarily something that will last. Front teeth, in particular, can erupt at odd angles, but the muscles within the tongue and lips usually correct this within around 3 months.

However, if a parent has had a history of crowded teeth, this may be passed on and result in crooked teeth. Orthodontic tooth movement can correct this problem, but this is not generally attempted until all permanent teeth have erupted. Nevertheless, if you are worried about how your child’s teeth are emerging, you should discuss this with your dentist.

How can I encourage my child not to be nervous about going to the dentist?

It is important not to pass on any fears that you have about the dentist to your children. Furthermore, there is no need to make a fuss about the child visiting the dentist, or to tell them how brave they are, as this will only encourage the impression that there is something to be scared of.

Initiating regular visits to the dentist at an early age is vital in helping children to get used to the environment and procedures at the surgery. Unfortunately, pain and distress can occur at any age and it is crucial to have prepared your child beforehand. This will make any necessary treatment run much more smoothly for everyone involved.

What should I do if my child breaks or loses a tooth?

You should contact your dentist straight away.

In the event of a tooth being knocked out by an injury to the mouth, take the tooth to your dentist as soon as you can. Store the tooth in fresh milk until you arrive at the dentist, as it may be possible to restore it to its original position. This process is called reimplantation, but this can be hindered if attempts are made to wipe or clean the tooth in any way.

Alternatively, if the tooth is broken, cracked or chipped, you should keep any lost fragments if possible and take these to the dentist as soon as you can.

How important is it for my child to wear a gum shield while playing contact sports?

Gum shields are an essential precaution for children who play contact sports, as dental injuries are very common and can cause serious pain and disfigurement. Gum shields that can be moulded at home are available from sports shops for under £10 and custom-made gum shields are provided by your dentist. Although the individually made gum shields are considerably more expensive, these are much more comfortable and effective.