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Dental Profession

A Healthy Smile for Life

By Leigh Hunter, Oral Health Coach

While a healthy smile for life may sound a bit cliché, it is very achievable. Many parents have negative memories of dental treatment and want to ensure their children don’t need to experience fillings, never mind tooth extraction Growing Smiles offer us some tips and advice for a healthy mouth, healthy teeth and a healthy smile.

Children who suck their thumb or finger often breathe through their mouth, making it dry. When the mouth is dry, bacteria in the plaque biofilm mature rapidly increasing the risk of tooth decay, gum inflammation and bad breath. Using Thumbsie® to stop  finger or thumb sucking, not only reduces the need for dental treatment, but also improves speech and language development and overall oral and general health and wellbeing.

Thumb and finger sucking habit?

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Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people, yet it is largely preventable. While rates of decay have reduced in recent years, tooth extractions are the most common reason for 6 to 10 year olds being admitted to hospital, the majority of these extractions being due to tooth decay.

Tooth decay can result in pain, infection, bad breath lack of sleep and time off work or school. It also costs a lot to treat in both general dental practices and hospitals.

We often hear ‘baby teeth don’t matter’, however, this is very far from the truth. Baby teeth are important for your child’s speech and language development and his ability to eat a varied and healthy diet.  There is also the little issue of appearance. Baby teeth act as a guide for permanent teeth so they arrive in the mouth in the right place, at the right time. Losing them early can result in complex orthodontic treatment (braces) and can even lead to a lifetime of fear and anxiety relating to visiting the dentist.

Prevention really is better than cure. Below are Growing Smiles top tips for…growing smiles!

Brushing children’s teeth

  • Start brushing as soon as the first tooth appears (usually at about 6 months of age). Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste – last thing at night and at least one other time.
  • Brushing at bedtime is important as saliva flow almost ceases when we sleep and it also ensures that the fluoride continues to protect the teeth while your child is asleep (spit out but don’t rinse away toothpaste after brushing).
  • Parents/carers should brush or help their child to brush their teeth until they are at least 7 years old to make sure the teeth are cleaned properly. Supervise the amount of toothpaste used and don’t let your child lick or eat the toothpaste. Find mild mint and mint free toothpaste here.
  • For maximum prevention of tooth decay, children aged 0–6 years are advised to use toothpaste containing 1350–1500 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. Learn more about toothpaste in the Growing Smiles toothpaste guide.
  • 0–3 year olds use a smear of toothpaste and for 3–6 year olds, a pea-sized amount

Limit free sugars in food and drink

  • Reduce the amount and frequency of having foods and drinks that contain sugar, only giving sweet foods including dried fruit at meal times. Find out more about sugar and oral health here. Want a sweet treat? Try some of the Dr John’s sugar- free Xylitol range.
  • Squashes sweetened with sugar, fizzy drinks, soft drinks and juice drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet. Plain water is the best alternative drink to milk.
  • Limit the amount of fruit juice or smoothies your child drinks to a maximum of 150 ml (one portion) in total per day, drinking it with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
  • Always ask for sugar-free medicines, especially if required frequently and at night time.

For babies

  • Breast milk is the only food or drink babies need for around the first 6 months of their life. Formula milk is the only suitable alternative to breast milk.
  • From the age of 6 months, bottle-fed babies should be introduced to drinking from a free-flow cup. Bottle feeding should be discouraged from 12 months old. A free flow cup helps your child learn to sip, not suck. Find out more about drinking from a cup here.
  • Only breast or formula milk or cooled, boiled water should be given in bottles.
  • Only milk or water should be drunk between meals and avoid adding sugar to foods or drinks for your baby.

Visiting the dentist

  • Take your child to see the dentist as soon as his teeth start to appear and visit as often as your dentist recommends. All children should have their first dental visit by their first birthday – even if they aren’t keen to let the dentist look at their teeth, it is an opportunity for you to get advice about your child’s oral health –including any concerns you have about thumb or finger sucking.
  • Ask your dentist about preventive therapies such as fissure sealants and fluoride varnish.
  • National Health Service dental treatment is free for children under 18 or under 19 and in qualifying full-time education.
  • Women are entitled to free National Health Service dental treatment during pregnancy and any treatment commenced before their child’s first birthday.

Need some help with thumb sucking?

Our fabric guards are a great solution recommended by dentists. Buy Now

Sugar- free chewing gum

For older children chewing sugar- free chewing gum can help to stimulate saliva flow and buffer the action of sugars. Learn more about chewing gum and other oral health tips here.

Growing Smiles online shop stocks a wide range of products that the professionals recommend, from toothbrushes and toothpaste (including mint free) to more specialist products such as Tooth Mousse and Water Flossers.

A healthy smile for life is something we can achieve with a bit of effort. It is not always easy but it’s certainly worth it. Want to know more about how to care for your family’s smile? Why not take Time Out For Teeth with Oral Health Coach LeighGS. Use discount code Thumbsie for 25% off when booking online.

About the author

Leigh Hunter, Oral Health Coach

Leigh Hunter is an oral health coach and founder of GrowingSmiles.co.uk. Leigh has over 30 years’ experience in a variety of dental environments both in the UK and abroad. She is passionate about prevention and quality, individually focused oral health care. She continues to work in practice and is actively involved in education and training in the UK and Ireland. She is a member of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, British Society of Periodontology, Faculty of General Dental Practitioners, British Society for Disability and Oral Health, Association of Dental Implantology,  British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry and  the  Oral Health Foundation. The Growing Smiles team are committed to improving oral health and to the philosophy of helping you, help yourself to a healthier smile.

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