Everything you need to know to protect your kids' teeth
As a local dentist and mum-of-two, Elaine Clavell-Bate understands just how much parents want to help their children protect their perfect smiles. Elaine says: "It's really important for our kids to get into healthy dental routines and learning good habits early will help set them up for a lifetime of great oral health."
Here's Elaine's advice on how you can help your children keep their healthy smile.
The advice is to brush children's teeth for two minutes last thing at night and for two minutes at one other time of the day.
You should supervise your children's brushing until they are at least six-years-old.
Disclosing tablets are great tool for parents to check that kids are brushing effectively. These are chewable tablets that stain plaque pink so children can see the areas they need to brush better. Speak to your dentist or hygienist about their use and always Vaseline their lips first otherwise their lips will be pink too!
You should start brushing your children's teeth once the first tooth comes into their mouth. Use a fluoridated toothpaste containing no less than 1000ppm fluoride. Preferably over 1350ppm fluoride if possible.
For children under three years of age, only a small smear of toothpaste should be used, children over three should have a small pea sized amount on their brush.
It can be difficult to encourage young children to brush their teeth. But brushing can be made fun. Children really love colourful or character toothbrushes and there are lots of apps that can make brushing more interesting.
Playing their favourite song can help as can using a novelty two minute timer.
With our two young boys we encourage them to brush for the first minute then we take over for the second.
Tooth brush charts are a great help especially if they come with sticker rewards.
Children can use mouthwash from the age of seven providing they can spit out well and you can be sure that they wont swallow the rinse.
But remember mouthwash should not be used straight after brushing, nor should you or your child rinse with water after brushing. Toothpaste should be left on the teeth so encourage your child to spit out the excess toothpaste but not rinse.
Children from the age of 12 years-of-age can start cleaning in between their teeth, usually with floss or dental tape. They can see their dentist or hygienist to be shown how to effectively and safely clean between their teeth. This is especially important if they have crowded teeth or have braces on.
Toothbrushes should be replaced when the brush bristles are splayed or at least every 3 months.
Try to use a toothbrush with a small head and medium texture bristles. Either electric or manual, the main thing is to encourage them to brush for 2 minutes - the brush isn't as important as effective brushing.
We would encourage all parents not to add sugar to any food or drink. For very young children a free flow cup should be encouraged from 6 months and we advise that bottles be stopped if possible by 12-months-old.
Encourage water rather than juice especially in between meals and keep sugary food and drinks to a minimum.
Parents should try to reduce the frequency of sugary food. When children get sweet food and drink try to keep that food to with a meal rather than letting them snack on it between meals. This reduces the number of sugar attacks on the teeth.
Starting with good habits from a young age is important, it's much harder to change to a healthier low sugar diet than it is to start that way.
Using stickers or presents such as magazines or football cards as treats and rewards can be a useful way of avoiding sweets. Suggest this to family members and anyone who looks after your children too.
The obvious high sugar snacks to avoid are sweets, chocolate, biscuits, cake and sugary drinks. But you should check the sugar content of all snacks to make sure there are no hidden sugars. Dried fruit such as raisins are high in sugar and stick in children's teeth and can cause decay.
If you are unsure if your child's diet is high in sugar you can always record a diet sheet. This means writing down everything that your child eats and drinks and the times they have the food and drink for twp week days and one weekend day. Always be totally truthful and try to pick a week that is representative of their normal diet. (None of us would choose Christmas week to do this! )Take the sheet with you to your dental or hygienist appointment and discuss the content with them. They may be able to identify problem areas and suggest alternatives.
Coming to the dentist
Parents should get baby and child dental advice as early as possible so take your baby with you to your own check ups and make sure they are having their own appointments by the age of two.
Even if you feel your child may not be cooperative the dentist can give advice - it is important that your child is comfortable in the surgery from a young age.
If your child is nervous about attending the dentist encourage them to attend for regular check ups and don't put pressure on them to comply fully at first. They may just want to talk to the dentist or have their teeth counted while they sit on a parent's knee. We encourage toddlers to bring their favourite teddy and they can give their teddy their own dental check up using our mouth mirrors.
Eventually they will gain confidence. Generally the younger they start attending regular check ups the less nervous they are. Going to the dentist will become as normal as going for a haircut.
There are several treatments available to help prevent your children's teeth from decaying such as fluoride varnish and sealants. Your dentist or hygienist will advise you on when fluoride varnish should be applied to teeth and when sealants should be placed.
If your child needs treatment don't be scared to ask your dentist as many questions as you feel you need to. If your child is worried about treatment let your dentist know.
For young children there are books about cartoon characters visiting the dentist and these can be useful.
The dentist will fully explain each treatment and talk you and your child through every stage. It is important that you and your child feel in control and knowledgeable about the treatment as this will help to reduce any anxiety.
Elaine Clavell-Bate is a dentist and clinical lead at Clavell-Bate dental practice in Whalley. She has been a dentist for 11 years.