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Dental hygiene - common questions

Looking after your child's teeth properly can sometimes be challenging and we get lots of questions on this topic. Here are some questions we've been asked, with our responses.

I have a 10 month old baby who has 5 teeth. When should he start seeing the dentist? We’ve started brushing his teeth.

Wow! 5 teeth! Glad to hear you’ve started the brushing too. Now is about the best time to consider registering at the dentist and taking your baby along. The sooner they go, the sooner they will realise its ok and will get to learn about how to take care of their teeth. Take them along when you go too – they’ll enjoy the ride on the chair! If you are not already registered with a dentist you can find an NHS dentist near you and find out about their policy relating to COVID-19 as well, as things are likely to be a bit different in their service right now.

My toddler hates having her teeth brushed. How many times a day should we be doing it?

We understand that brushing your toddler’s teeth can be a real challenge, but we recommend brushing twice a day – the same as we do as adults. Brushing their teeth can form a great part of their routine, especially at night time. It may be a good idea to have an extra toothbrush for your toddler to “play” with while you brush their teeth. There are lots of songs and games you can play while brushing their teeth to make it more fun and help you brush them thoroughly.

Should I wait until all the teeth are through to start brushing his teeth?

You can start brushing their teeth as soon as they appear! That first glimpse of a little white tooth gleaming in their mouth signals the time to start brushing. Have a look at our other blogs for advice on how to start brushing.

Does breastfeeding affect their teeth?

No, breastfeeding a baby does not affect their teeth. In fact, evidence suggests that breastfeeding up to 12 months decreases the risk of tooth decay. If we think of how our babies latch onto the breast, the teeth do not come into contact with any breastmilk at all- it simply passes over the tongue and down into the tummy! So please continue to breastfeed with confidence, knowing you are protecting not only your health and your baby’s health but their teeth too!

How old should my daughter be before I let her brush her teeth herself?

That’s a challenging one isn’t it? Children reach that age where they want to be independent and do everything for themselves. When they brush their teeth, children can miss lots of areas that may cause dental decay so it’s advisable to continue to support your children while they brush until you and they feel confident they are getting every area. Perhaps let them do it themselves then say you need to ‘check’. The NHS recommends children over the age of 7 can brush their teeth by themselves, but with mum or dad still supervising!

My teenager seems reluctant to brush her teeth… any suggestions?

Quite simply… tell her about the effects of not brushing her teeth. Maybe take a trip to the dentist and have a conversation about what treatment may lie ahead in years to come. It’s a topic that probably comes up in most households at one time or another and some teens may simply “forget” that it’s a normal part of their daily hygiene routine! Without trying to completely scare them it’s good to have an open conversation, when they are in the right mood, about hygiene and dental health. Let them know that it’s not just rotten or missing teeth, but gum disease, bad breath and expensive treatment once they are out of education!

About the author

Kirstie is the Professional Development Lead Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead for Berkshire Healthcare