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    Why looking after your little one’s baby teeth is so important

    Blog

    6 September 2021

    Across England, 23% of five-year-olds have had dental decay. In our latest blog, we’re talking about the importance of looking after your little one’s teeth.

    If baby teeth fall out anyway, why is it important to keep them healthy and decay free?

    Even though baby teeth start to fall out between the ages of 5 and 6, they serve several important functions which contribute to the development of a healthy child.  Some of the back baby teeth are present until 12 years old and beyond so it’s vital to get into the habit of daily brushing to ensure your little ones understand the importance of looking after their teeth when they’re older.   If teeth are not cared for, they can cause pain and decay which will require treatment and if baby teeth are lost prematurely, the spaces for adult teeth to come through into can be reduced.

    How do baby teeth affect your little one’s speech, smile and eating?

    The appearance of teeth can impact a child’s confidence, social skills, and emotional development. Teeth are important components for making sounds and enable little ones to eat a balanced and varied diet. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, it can lead to permanent problems with pronunciation. Also, difficulties with toothache can result in disturbed sleep and missed days from school and can impact on the whole family as parents and caregivers may need to miss work to attend appointments with their little ones. The enamel on baby teeth is thinner than on adult teeth, making the teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. It is a largely preventable problem, yet around 1 in 4 children will start school with tooth decay.

    Tips to look after baby teeth

    • It’s a good idea to start brushing when your baby’s teeth first come through with an appropriate fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1000ppmf. For 0–3-year-olds, use a flat smear of toothpaste and for 3–6-year-olds use a small pea sized amount of more than 1000ppmF.
    • Brush teeth twice daily, night time is the most important time for brushing and one other time.
    • Aim for 2 minutes each time, encourage your child to spit out but don’t rinse the toothpaste with water
    • Stick to an everyday toothbrushing routine that little ones can eventually do on their own, supervising until 7 years old. Normalising toothbrushing will make it part of your child’s everyday routine.
    • Only ever give milk or plain water in a bottle and introduce free-flow cups from around 6 months. From age 1, drinking from a bottle should be discouraged.
    • Reduce the amount AND frequency of sugar intake, stick to mealtimes only for treats if you are going to give them, once per day maximum.
    • Natural or artificial sweeteners (including sugar, honey, and fruit juices) should not be added to weaning foods or drinks. Check labels on shop bought products for sugar content – foods marketed to parents as ‘healthy’ and full of natural ingredients can be high in sugar. Examples of these include ‘fruit pouches’, which should be served via a spoon rather than the nozzle and ‘fruit’ bars – these products often do not live up to claims on their packaging and can be high in sugar in the form of fruit juices, purées and concentrates.
    • Start thinking about taking away your child’s dummy as they approach their first birthday. Gently withdrawing and reducing use will prevent long term problems including misalignment of teeth.

    Parents and guardians are encouraged to take children in their care to a dentist when their teeth start to come through and ideally by their first birthday. NHS dental treatment is free for mothers with children under 1.

    If you live in England, you can find details of how to find an NHS dentist at www.nhs.uk in the NHS Services section, click on ‘find a dentist’. If you can’t find a dentist accepting NHS patients, you should call NHS England’s Customer Contract Centre on 0300 311 2233.

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