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  • Writer's pictureHereford Dentist Andrew F

Toddlers Toothbrush Tantrums!

I was emailed this question a few months ago and with all the media relating to a Sugar Tax thought it quite relevant. The fact that a sugar tax will help with the reduced consumption the need to maintain good oral hygiene with fluoride toothpaste still heavily out weights any taxation.

“My toddler hates brushing his teeth and it is often a struggle and tears before bed. Is it absolutely necessary to brush a toddler’s teeth everyday or can I do every other day if he is rejecting the toothbrush?”

By the age of 2½ – 3 years a toddler will usually (but not always) have all of their milk teeth (deciduous) through. That’s 20 teeth, 10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower. These deciduous teeth begin to exfoliate around the age of 5½ however the molar’s will not be lost until 11-12 years of age, so these teeth need to be looked after and maintained for many years.

A recent study by the Royal College of Surgeons “The State of children’s Oral Health in England” found that almost a third of five year olds in England are suffering from dental decay and that the average child with decay has at least three teeth affected. Moreover, dental caries is the number one reason why children aged 5-9 years are admitted to hospital in England, even though it is completely preventable through regular brushing, adequate exposure to fluoride and limiting sugar consumption.

The government tool kit Delivering better Oral Health recommend all children brush twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste, brushing last thing at night and at one other instance. Children aged 0-3years should use toothpaste containing no less than 1000ppm fluoride and children 3-6years should use toothpaste containing between 1350-1500ppm of fluoride (the levels can be found on the back of your toothpaste).

Children’s teeth are more susceptible to decay than adult teeth. They have thinner and less resilient enamel. Brushing your toddlers teeth twice a day is important for your toddler’s oral health.

Fluoride helps to battle the effects of sugar and remineralises (re-hardens) the tooth surface. Their teeth would have undoubtedly been exposed to sugary foods which can manifest as intrinsic (such as milk, fruits) and extrinsic (confectionary, chocolate). Plaque starts to colonise the tooth surface and establish within 24 hours of brushing. Dental plaque bacteria can ferment both intrinsic and extrinsic sugars to acids. The acid produced dissolves the enamel of the teeth. All carbohydrate-containing foods (intrinsic and extrinsic sugars and starches) have the potential to contribute to tooth decay. Each time we nibble a food or sip a drink containing carbohydrates (intrinsic or extrinsic sugars or starch), any decay-causing bacteria present on the teeth start to produce acid and demineralisation commences. This continues for 20 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking, longer if food debris gets trapped between the teeth or remains in the mouth.

Brushing a toddler’s teeth can be challenging, try to make it fun. Brush your teeth together, allow your toddler to brush your teeth and to play with the brush. If your toddler can see that you are getting worried, then it will only increase their anxiety.

Try different flavoured toothpastes, different themed toothbrushes like their favourite cartoon character. Try explaining the importance of brushing your teeth and if you have other sibling brush their teeth first making it more of a family event. With a positive, fun environment I am sure that your toddler will soon enjoy brushing their teeth. If you have any concerns then visit your dentist and they will be able to show you some good techniques.

The image shown is of the new BugBrush which we stock at our practice and is a great tool to aid with maintaining your little-ones oral hygiene.

All children should attend a dentist as early as possible. Even before the first tooth erupts! They can acclimatise to the surgery, equipment and staff and before you know it they’ll be in and out of the chair demanding stickers!

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