We all like to think we know how to look after our children’s teeth, but shocking figures showing that a third of children start school with visible tooth decay reveal we may not be as knowledgeable as we’d like to think.
According to figures recently published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, tooth decay is now the biggest cause of hospital admissions for primary school-aged children. Last year, 25,812 children between the ages of five and nine were admitted to hospital for multiple extractions – that’s nearly 500 children a week!
Oral health is better than it was thirty years ago, yet some problems are on the rise. We dentists agree that we all need to get better informed about our children’s teeth. So here are the 6 biggest myths dispelled once and for all…
- Healthy snacks are as good as a proper meal.
That might be true nutritionally, but constant grazing is spectacularly bad for teeth, even if it’s healthy-sounding food such as fruit, cereal bars, yoghurts and breakfast cereals. That’s because it’s not just about how much sugar is consumed but how frequently your child’s teeth come under attack.
But it doesn’t mean that you should never give snacks! Young teeth will withstand three meals and two snacks a day so as long as the good days outnumber the bad, you should be fine. What you can’t do is allow all-day juice sipping and food snacking, as the acid attack lasts an hour after each mouthful and essentially means your child’s teeth are constantly under attack.
- It doesn’t matter if baby teeth decay.
This seems to have a certain amount of logic to it, as milk teeth are going to fall out anyway it should be fine, right? Wrong. Baby teeth aren’t all gone until the age of ten to twelve, until then there is a good mix of both adult and baby teeth. So tooth decay in young teeth means the permanent teeth are more at risk as all sorts of nasties are present in the mouth.
- Parents should let their kids brush their own teeth at age five.
The official advice is for parents to brush their children’s teeth until age seven, depending on the maturity of the child. That’s to ensure they get the recommended full two minutes and the brush reaches all of the teeth.
We advise you to even take it a step further – supervise your child’s teeth brushing until all of the permanent adult teeth are through, so as to minimise the chance of decay and solidify those cleaning habits.
- Children should brush their teeth after eating.
This sounds sensible, but is actually one of the worst things you can do, especially after eating or drinking something acidic. The acid in food demineralises the tooth for up to an hour after eating and softens the enamel, so by brushing your teeth right after eating, you are potentially brushing away your tooth enamel.
So our advice is to always wait an hour – and if your child drinks juice with breakfast, then it’s better to brush teeth before rather than after the meal.
- You don’t need to take your child to the dentist until their first birthday.
In a survey by Mydentist, 57% of parents waited until their children were at least one before taking them to the dentist. However the first visit should be as soon as the teeth start coming through, at about five to six months. You’ll also be sending your child messages about good oral health, as well as normalising the habit of going to the dentist.
- They should rinse their mouth out after brushing.
The truth is the complete opposite: no one should rinse after brushing because the fluoride in the toothpaste will continue to protect the teeth after brushing. You don’t want to be washing away all of your hard work. This can be tricky for children if they don’t like the taste of toothpaste, but try and encourage it.
If you’re interested in booking your child in for an appointment, or you’re just looking for more general dental health advice, then give us a call on 020 8088 2079.