Dr Jennifer Owens is visiting schools in the local Dublin 4 area to speak to children about taking good care of their teeth: brushing, visiting the dentist and snacking on healthy foods. Below, she shares some of the advice she has been giving mummies and daddies to help their children learn good dental habits, which will stand to them their whole lives.
Beginning to brush your child’s teeth is advised from the moment their teeth first appear. In the youngest patients brushing with just water will suffice, as most children around the age of two will most likely swallow any toothpaste. You can introduce a children’s toothpaste once your child is more able to spit the toothpaste out. This can vary from child to child. There is no need to worry about some of the toothpaste being swallowed, as the concentration of fluoride is much lower than adult toothpaste. Sometimes children are particularly unhappy about brushing their teeth. This is far more widespread than you would think. Usually this is a phase, and a change in toothpaste flavour can sometimes help, as can brushing “with” mummy or daddy. The most important time to brush is at night, after the last meal or drink (aside from water).
I would always encourage a visit to the dentist from whenever teeth are present in the mouth, firstly because the dentist can ensure there is a normal timeline of eruption of teeth and identify any oral issues that could cause future problems. Secondly, it allows your child to become familiar with the dentist, and not associate the dental surgery with pain or being frightened. Unfortunately I have seen some children whose first appointment coincides with trauma, where they have fallen and broken a tooth and are already quite upset when they first attend. This can set them up for a life-long dental phobia and poor oral health. A 3- or 4-year-old child only has their baby teeth, which of course will fall out, but ensuring they become comfortable visiting the dentist is very important
Added sugar is widespread and almost impossible to avoid. Combine this with a tight schedule and other children, and you have a recipe for disaster! One of the easiest ways to reduce sugar intake is to check the back of food packets – looking at the overall sugar composition (under carbohydrates, “of which sugars”) per 100g. You would be surprised to see how many “healthy” snack bars or fruit rolls contain almost 70g per 100g – 70% of sugar. Although sometimes this sugar is from fruit or other natural sources, it is still sugar – and teeth recognise it as such. Dried fruit is a common choice made by parents trying to pick the healthiest snack – unfortunately this can be one of the worst sources of sugar as it gets stuck in teeth for a few hours, prolonging the time teeth are under sugar attack. Snacks like natural peanut or almond butter on sliced apple, popcorn or cheese are much kinder to teeth. Juices and smoothies that are currently so popular are another large source of sugar. Even freshly squeezed orange juice can contain the same amount of sugar as a glass of Coca-Cola. Unfortunately milk and water are the only safe options for teeth so it is best to try to and keep consumption of anything else to birthday parties, etc.
If your children’s school or creche would like Dr Jennifer Owens to visit to talk to the children about taking care of their teeth, please call the office on 01 668 3242 to arrange it!