Smiling teeth

Dental advice for children 5 to 15

Children 5 to 15

Although dental decay is preventable many children in the North West suffer from it. Below are a number of suggestions to help:

Tooth brushing

The most important plaque control method is effective tooth brushing with a family fluoride toothpaste and should be established from tooth eruption.

A precise technique is less important than the result, which is that plaque is removed effectively and twice daily without causing damage to teeth and gums. The recommended toothbrush for use is a small-headed toothbrush bearing densely packed soft/medium filaments. This should be replaced at least every 3 months (or when worn out). Children should be supervised until at least the age of seven years.

To increase the benefit from toothpaste a small pea sized amount of family toothpaste should be used. The toothpaste should be spat out after effective tooth brushing and the mouth should not be rinsed.

If a child is wearing an orthodontic appliance (brace) it is important that both the brace and the mouth are kept as clean as possible. If food and plaque are left around the brace in the mouth it means that you could be more likely to develop tooth decay or gum disease.

Good oral hygiene is also essential for those who have oral piercing, (e.g. tongue) with both tongue and stud and barbell being brushed twice daily with a soft toothbrush. The jewellery should be removed at least once a month and cleaned thoroughly and checked that it is intact. In addition, care must be taken when chewing to prevent trauma.

Diet

The most important message is to reduce the frequency of sugar intake and the amount of sugar consumed.

Food and drink containing added sugars should be identified and limited, especially between meals. Many sugars are added to foods during manufacture, cooking or before consumption. Many foods contain sugar, not just sweets and cakes. Cereals, plain biscuits and yogurts are also high in sugar content. Dried fruit can also adversely affect teeth and are not recommended for consumption between meals.

Reading food and drink labels can help to identify sugars in the products. A general rule of thumb is that items listed ending in ‘ose’ are sugars. For example, sucrose, glucose and fructose. These sugars may also damage teeth.

It is not realistic to expect children never to have sugary foods, but what is important is how often they have them. Keeping these treats until after a meal or until a specific day each week is a good suggestion.

If children are hungry between meals, fresh fruit or vegetables, breadsticks or toast is a good alternative.

Drinks

Water and milk are the only safe drinks for teeth.

Many children seem to request, or have available to them, fizzy drinks or fruit squash. It is important to remember that diet drinks and drinks marked as ‘no added sugar’ can also damage teeth by attacking the enamel that covers the teeth (erosion). Hot chocolate and milk shakes are also high in sugar content. This type of drink should be limited to mealtimes only or special occasions. If using a fruit squash, make it very diluted and remember you can dilute natural fruit juices. Drinking through a straw may also be helpful.

As children become more independent and begin secondary education they may have many other options available to them, perhaps via vending machines. They may also become under the influence of peer pressure. It is important that young people are educated and informed to help them make healthy choices.

Visiting the dentist

Everyone, irrespective of age, should visit a dentist for an oral examination. Children and young people up to the age of 18 years should see a dentist at least once a year or more frequently as the dentist advises.