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Dental Profession

Securing healthier smiles with Thumbsie®

By Oral Health Foundation

The nation’s biggest and best campaign to promote great oral hygiene and a healthy smile is back!

But this year is a little different. The Oral Health Foundation is proud to be joining forces with Thumbsie® to help children across the country achieve great oral health.

We know that the importance of children’s teeth cannot be understated. Establishing a good oral health routine sooner rather than later can be a huge benefit for their general health and wellbeing also.

This campaign offers a great opportunity to engage children on the importance of a healthy mouth and how they can achieve it, even at a young age.

National Smile Month, like Thumbsie®, is also all about having fun. People who take part are encouraged to share vital messages around achieving better oral health through fun activities throughout the month.

It really is never too early for children to learn the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

We hope that you will join us during National Smile Month and help your children learn more about how to secure a healthy smile for life!

Better brushing together

Engaging children on brushing can be tricky, but National Smile Month is a great chance to try a couple new things that could help children get into the right habits.

Firstly, a quick and easy win can be to let them choose their own toothbrush. Having one with their favourite character on can help them get more excited about brushing their teeth.

With toothpaste, choosing one they like the taste of is certainly a positive but be sure to pay attention to the fluoride level. For children up to three-years-old, it’s best to use a smear of toothpaste with 1000ppm (parts per million) fluoride. For older children, use a pea-sized blob of 1350ppm fluoride toothpaste.

Thankfully, many toothpastes have the recommended ages on their labelling so finding the right one is usually quite straightforward.

Once you do have the right brush and toothpaste, make sure that children are brushing for two minutes, last thing at night before they go to bed and at least one other time during the day.

Achieving this and getting children into this daily routine can be a lot easier if they view brushing as an enjoyable experience.

Playing songs, using reward charts and playing games are just a few ways to put a smile on their face while they brush.

Eventually, you will not need to remind them to brush, they’ll know it’s part of their bedtime routine. Just to be on the safe side, we recommend that children are supervised while brushing their teeth until they are at least seven years old.

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Cutting down on sugar

One of the biggest take-aways from National Smile Month is that our diet can have a big impact on our oral health, not to mention our general wellbeing.

The best example of this is sugar. Every time we have anything containing sugar, our teeth are under attack for around an hour. Imagine a child having a sugary treat or drink every few hours during the day. Their teeth would be constantly under attack.

It can be tempting to give your children sugary snacks as a form of reward for good behaviour, but this should really be avoided. Growing up being used to having a sugary treat frequently will not do their teeth any good and there are much more healthy and nutritious things that children should be eating on a regular basis throughout the day.

As a rule, it’s best to limit how much and how often children have food containing sugar. Children are not born with a “sweet tooth” and will only develop a craving for it if they are given it on a regular basis.

The same applies with drinks. Still water and milk are the best things any of us can have throughout the day. Sugary drinks, including fruit juices, should be restricted to mealtimes only. Again, this reduces the amount of sugar attacks a child’s teeth will go through each day.

One the whole, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fresh fruit and vegetables will give children the best chance of preventing oral health problems later in life.

Start early with dental visits

There is a nationwide campaign, called Dental Check by One, which, as you can tell by the title, advises that children have their first visit to the dentist before their first birthday.

One of the best things you can do to set your children off on the right path is to take them to the dentist as soon as possible.

Don’t be afraid to bring them along with you to your dental appointments, even when they’re babies. It gives them the chance to get used to the different sights, sounds and smells they’ll grow to associate with a dental practice.

One of the key messages of National Smile Month is to visit your local dental team regularly, as often as recommended. Taking children to their first appointment sooner rather than later can make them more likely to stick to future appointments in their teenage years and beyond.

For more information on National Smile Month, please head to www.smilemonth.org. Help us share a healthy smile with the nation.

About the author

Oral Health Foundation

The Oral Health Foundation is an independent charity (not for profit) dedicated to improving oral health and wellbeing around the world. For nearly 50 years we have continued to provide expert, independent and impartial advice on all aspects of oral health directly to those who need it most.

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