Tooth decay in toddlers

by Lauren Abbott

Allowing children to consume sugary food or drink comes with the inevitable concern about tooth decay.

And according to the last study by Public Health England an average 12 per cent of three-year-olds show some signs of having rotting teeth.

While some parents may think that decay in baby teeth doesn't matter, dentists warn that if children don't learn to look after teeth at a young age, they are likely to have dental problems for life.

Start early to avoid tooth decay problems
Start early to avoid tooth decay problems

Dentist Ben Atkins, trustee of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "It stores up problems for the future if parents don't ensure their children's teeth are looked after when they're young.

"There's evidence that once you've got decayed teeth, you will get more. Looking after baby teeth is a really good preventative regime for when adult teeth come through."

"We have to be realistic, kids want sweet things” said Mr Atkins.

“But if you're going to give them, do it at a meal time instead of at other times during the day, so the mouth is dealing with one solid hit of sugar, instead of children having a sugar solution in their mouth all day."

We have to be realistic, kids want sweet things

Dr Sandra White, director of dental public health at PHE, added: "Tooth decay is an entirely preventable disease, which can be very painful and even result in a child having teeth removed under general anaesthetic, which is stressful for children and parents alike.”

As well as reducing both the amount and how often sugary foods and drinks are given to children, PHE is encouraging parents to take the following steps:

Don't add sugar to weaning foods or drinks.

Healthy eating = healthy teeth
Healthy eating = healthy teeth

Introduce drinking from a free-flow cup from six months of age and stop feeding from a bottle by 12 months of age.

Start brushing children's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears and supervise brushing until they're seven or eight years old.

Brush children's teeth twice daily, including just before bed, using a fluoride toothpaste which should be spat out and not rinsed away with water.

From the age of three, use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, for younger children a smear.

Use only sugar-free medicines.

Some children suffer from a particular type of decay called Early Childhood Caries, which affects the upper front teeth and spreads rapidly. Such deterioration is related to drinking sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups.

PHE advises that instead of sugary drinks, the best for children aged one to two years is full-fat milk and water.

From two years old, semi-skimmed milk and water is fine if children are good eaters.

There are also fluoride dental treatments available to both prevent and treat tooth decay in youngsters where required.

Fluoride varnish can be applied to both baby teeth and adult teeth by a dentist and involves painting a varnish containing high levels of fluoride onto the surface of the tooth every six months to prevent decay.

It works by strengthening tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay.

While fluoride mouth rinses can be prescribed for children aged eight and above who have tooth decay.

The mouth rinse can be used every day, in addition to twice daily brushing, but should be used at different times to avoid washing toothpaste off the teeth as this would reduce the beneficial effects of the fluoride in the toothpaste.

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