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Smile Dental
Advice for Children

When your baby is teething it can be a difficult time for baby and parents alike. The first teeth usually appear around six months old, but they can begin to come through as early as three months or as late as one year.

  • 6 months - first incisors (front teeth)
  • 7 months - second incisors
  • 12 months - first molars
  • 18 months - canines (eye teeth)
  • 2-3 years - second molars
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Photo of dental examination  

As the teeth grow, they push through the gums, which can be quite painful for your baby. This is especially true for the first teeth because it’s a new experience for your baby, and when the molars - or back teeth - start to push through because they’re bigger.

Teething is usually easy to spot. Your child may become more bad-tempered than usual and may have trouble sleeping. You’ll probably notice that he or she is chewing on their toys or fingers and is more dribbly than usual.

If your baby seems uncomfortable or in pain, there are ways you can help. Teething rings, especially if they’ve been cooled in the fridge, and cool drinks can help to soothe sore gums. If these don’t work, you may wish to try a local anaesthetic gel, although this should be used sparingly and you must follow the instructions carefully.

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  Bottle Feeding
Photo of dental examination  

Most babies will feed from a bottle at some stage, either from birth or in conjunction with breast feeding. What you put in your baby’s bottle can have a major impact on the future of their teeth, so the BDA have put together these simple guidelines:

  • Wherever possible only put water or milk in your baby’s bottle
  • Don’t be tempted to put fruit juices in a bottle. The acid can attack your baby’s teeth
  • Even very weak fruit squash can damage your baby’s teeth
  • Stick with water or milk to keep the risk of decay to a minimum
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Many parents use a dummy as a way of comforting their baby, especially if you’re trying to get him or her off to sleep. Limited use of dummies is fine, but if your child sucks on a dummy for long periods, it could cause problems in the way the teeth develop. The same is true if your baby sucks his or her thumb. The pressure of the thumb or dummy against the back of the teeth could push them forward, which may mean your child will need corrective treatment - like a brace or having teeth removed - later on.

Try to wean your child off sucking its thumb or a dummy, treating it as part of the growing up process. Never be tempted to dip your child’s dummy in anything, especially something like sugar or fruit juice. Prolonged contact with the teeth could cause real damage.

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  As early as possible! The more your child is used to the sights and sounds of the dental practice, the more comfortable they’re going to feel about going.
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Good dental health from an early age will set your child up for life. As soon as the teeth start to come through, you should start brushing them. You can buy special brushes for babies and make sure you use fluoride toothpaste.

For children up to the age of 3 you should use a smear of toothpaste containing no less than 1000 ppm fluoride, for 3-6 year olds a pea sized blob of 1350-1500ppm fluoride toothpaste and for the 7 and overs 1350ppm fluoride toothpaste or above. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to show you how best to brush your child’s teeth - plus it’s worth getting your child used to going to the dentist from an early age.
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When your child goes off to school, you want to be sure that they’ve got everything they need. And one of their most important pieces of kit is their lunchbox, or rather what goes in it.

It’s tempting to put in chocolate bars and bags of crisps, but it’s much better for your child’s teeth to avoid these. But just because you keep it healthy, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Fresh fruit salads, bottles of water with cartoon characters on, sandwiches cut into interesting shapes - all of these are easy to do and they won’t cost a fortune either. The current national standards are as follows:

  • one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables
  • one portion of milk or dairy item
  • one portion of meat, fish or other protein source
  • one portion of a starchy food, such as bread, pasta or rice
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Going to school often means getting involved in contact sports, like football or rugby. These sports can be just as dangerous to the teeth as the shins or ankles, so you need to protect them. Your dentist will be able to fit a special mouthguard that will help protect the teeth from high tackles, poorly aimed shots at goal and flying hockey sticks.

Because the mouthguard is specially fitted for your child’s mouth, it will offer more protection than something bought off the shelf. Remember, though, that as your child grows, they’ll grow out of their mouthguard, so make sure they take it with them when they go for check-ups to ensure the best possible fit.

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Accidents happen, especially if you’re playing contact sports. If your teeth get knocked out, there is a chance that they can be put back in by a dentist. Simply follow these steps:

  • Hold the tooth by the part usually visible in the mouth, not by the root. Don’t scrub the tooth or place it in disinfectant.
  • If the tooth is clean, hold it by the white part (the bit that is usually visible) and, making sure it’s the right way round, gently push it back into its socket.
  • If the tooth is dirty, rinse it in milk or cold water before gently pushing it back into place.
  • Hold the tooth in place by biting on a handkerchief and go to the dentist immediately for advice.

If you can’t put the tooth back in, try this:

  • Place it in a cup of milk or, if not available, keep the tooth in the mouth between the cheeks and gums.
  • Don’t let the tooth become dry and don’t put it in disinfectant.

Go to your dentist immediately. If this isn’t possible, contact
NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24 to find out your nearest Accident & Emergency department that has a dentist on call.

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Image of mum brushing young boy's teeth

As your child gets older, they don’t want Mum or Dad standing over them in the bathroom to make sure they’re brushing properly. Teaching them how to brush effectively - including those hard to reach areas - will set them up for life and will help spare them tooth decay, fillings and, of course, bad breath - especially important as they head towards their teens!

When brushing your teeth, always start and finish at the same point. That way you know when you’ve done the job properly. With a pea sized blob of fluoride toothpaste on the brush, start with the top set back teeth and make small circular motions with the brush, moving gradually around to the other side of the mouth.

When you get to the last tooth, bring the brush round and do the same with the inside of the teeth. This is often the part that people forget, but it’s also likely to be where bacteria and tartar (calculus) - the hard stuff that the dentist scrapes off the teeth - will occur, so make sure you brush properly. Then do exactly the same with the bottom set.

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How soon should I start taking my child to the dentist?

A    Ideally, you should start taking your child to the dentist as early as possible. Not only will this ensure they get the best possible start in terms of dental care and advice, they’ll also get used to going early on.

Q  How does what my children eat affect their teeth?

A    Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is as good for your children’s dental health as it is for their overall health. Getting them to give fizzy, sugary drinks a miss might be tricky, but it is well worth it if you want them to develop strong, filling-free teeth. Try and stick to water and milk, especially between meals, and replace sweets and crisps with pieces of fruit.

Q  What should I give my child to drink?

A    Ideally, you should give your children milk or water wherever possible and avoid sugary or fizzy drinks. Fruit squashes are usually full of sugar which can cause tooth decay, while fizzy drinks and fruit juices contain acid which can wear away the enamel. If you can’t avoid these, get your child to drink them through a straw, which will direct them to the back of the mouth, avoiding the teeth. Also, look out for diet or low sugar versions of their favourite drinks - they have less sugar and so ccan help the reduce the chance of decay. Beware, though, as they still contain the acid which can cause erosion. If your child is very young, don’t be tempted to put sugary drinks or fruit juices into bottles with teats.

When your child goes to bed, don’t give them a glass of squash or juice to take with them. The sugar and acid will work on the teeth overnight and could cause real problems down the line.


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