We all know about tooth decay. It happens when there are more acid attacks than the teeth can cope with. Acid attacks can result from plaque bacteria acting on the sugars in our diet.
Another less well known problem is tooth erosion, where the surface enamel of the tooth is directly dissolved away by acids. These acids can come from our food and drink but also from stomach acids, for example when someone is sick. Erosion can make teeth more sensitive to hot or cold foods and needs treatment if severe.
The following is an oral health guide for parents caring for their children's teeth.
Teeth need brushing first thing in the morning and last thing at night with a fluoride toothpaste. Children under six should practice cleaning their teeth themselves, but as they do not have the physical skills to do a thorough job, it is important that you brush their teeth gently yourself at least once a day. Older children may still need a little encouragement and supervision.
Fluoride works to strengthen tooth enamel against acid attacks. Check with your dentist which type of fluoride toothpaste is best for your child. After brushing, children should spit out but not rinse with water, as the fluoride left in the mouth will provide protection for longer.
A child's toothbrush needs to be fairly soft, and small enough to reach all the nooks and crannies of the mouth. It should be changed about every three months or as soon as it becomes worn.
All sources of sugars including packet sugar, fruit sugars, honey and any food or drink containing them can feed the plaque bacteria which cause acid attacks. Similarly any food or drink containing acids can directly affect teeth. These include fruit juice, squashes, all types of fizzy drinks, fruit, yogurt, pickles and even tomato sauce! However, if all these foods and drinks were cut out from the diet, it would become unbalanced and less enjoyable. The following is a guide to including them sensibly so that the teeth can cope.
Almost every time you eat, your teeth will be affected. The good news is that teeth can cope with acid attacks as long as they have time to recover and repair themselves between bouts of eating and drinking.
Eating five times a day is about right, for example, three meals and two snacks. Try to keep sweet foods, soft drinks and fruit juices limited to these occasions. If your child likes frequent drinks, give milk or water at other times. It is also important that children do not hold drinks in their mouths or swish them through their teeth.
During sleep, teeth are especially vulnerable to acid attacks as saliva flow, which repairs tooth damage, slows down. This means any sugar or acid in the mouth will do more harm. So make sure that once your children have cleaned their teeth before bed, they do not have any more food or drink apart from water.
Don't wait until your child has toothache before coming to visit us. We can show you How to brush your teeth properly with and electric toothbrush and advise whether your child needs any special protection against decay. This is also the best time to treat crooked teeth and we can advise you on the best treatments for your child.
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