Phew…. so after lots of cuddles, maybe a few tears and sleepless nights, that first milk tooth has finally emerged..hooray!
Hopefully the other teeth won't be too much bother, as you may have found what works best in soothing your little one if they're feeling any discomfort. Most children will have cut all of their milk teeth by the time that they're 2.5 years old.
As soon as your little one cuts their first milk tooth you can start brushing it with a baby toothbrush and a smear of baby fluoride toothpaste. This isn't always an easy task though!
At first, you may find that you spend most of the time trying to gently wrestle the brush from between your baby's gums .... why not have fun at the same time though, and turn it into a little game?
The important thing is to get your baby used to brushing their teeth as part of their daily routine, so why not have your little one with you sometimes, when you brush your own teeth?
♡ Use a tiny smear of toothpaste suitable for babies (a pea sized amount for children aged between 3 and 6 years).
♡ Gradually start brushing your child's teeth more thoroughly, covering all the surfaces of the teeth. Aim to brush at least twice a day, preferably just before bedtime, and at another time that fits in with your routine.
♡ Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to persevere and turn it into a game, make it fun. With toddlers or slightly older children, you could brush your own teeth at the same time, and then finish off doing theirs for them. Toothbrushes, toothpaste and timers with popular children's characters on them can help make this toothbrushing lark more fun too.
♡ The easiest way to brush a baby's teeth is to sit them on your knee, leaning their head against your chest. With an older child, stand behind them, tilting their head back.
♡ Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all surfaces. Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste, but there's no need to rinse with water, as this will wash away the fluoride, which protects your child's teeth.
♡ With slightly older children who are brushing independently, it's probably best to continue supervising and helping until they're at least 7 years old, to ensure that they're brushing properly and thoroughly, not eating the toothpaste etc.
As soon as your child cuts their first tooth you can register them with a dentist - NHS dental treatment for children is free.
Why not take your child with you to your dental appointments so that they can get used to the idea, the sounds etc?
Talking about what happens at the dentist and/or reading a 'first experiences' book can also be helpful in preparing your child for visiting the dentist. Some dentists reward their younger patients with a sticker at the end of each appointment and will help to put them at ease.. why not make it a fun experience?!
As we all know sugar causes tooth decay, but it's not just about the amount of sugar in sweet food and drinks, but also how long and how often the teeth are in contact with sugar. Lollipops, and sweet drinks in a formula bottle are particularly damaging because they bathe the teeth in sugar for long periods of time. The acid in drinks like fruit juice and squash can harm teeth as well. Natural sugars found in whole fruit and milk are less likely to cause tooth decay.
There are some simple ways to reduce the risk of decay:
♡ Avoid sugar sweetened drinks - milk and water are much better alternatives for children.
♡ Avoid using bottles for juices and sugary drinks, which can increase tooth decay. Try to opt instead for cooled boiled water, formula milk, expressed breast milk etc in your baby's bottle.
♡ Avoid dipping a dummy in something sweet, such as sugar or jam.
♡ From 6 months, you should be able to offer your baby drinks in a non-valved free flowing cup.
♡ Opt for a sugar free version of children's medicines, where possible.
♡ Keep an eye on the sugar content of your baby's food and snacks, including rusks etc, dilute juice as appropriate.
♡ Try to limit bedtime and overnight drinks to cooled boiled water, formula or expressed milk - teeth are at most risk at night, because there is less saliva to protect them.
Thumb sucking and dummies can also be harmful to your child's teeth ...
Dummies can be a great comfort to your little one, but are best avoided after 12 months as prolonged use can encourage an 'open bite', which is when the teeth move to make room for the dummy, and may cause problems with your child's speech development. Try to avoid allowing your child to make sounds and/or speak with a dummy or a thumb in their mouth.
Thumb sucking won't cause any permanent damage, but just like a dummy it can encourage an 'open bite’ which could effect speech development. Although it can be a hard habit to break, it's one that's best stopped by the time that your child's second, or adult, teeth appear.
As you can see, getting your child into a good dental routine as early as possible is beneficial and hopefully something that they will want to continue into adulthood.
A friend was recently recounting to me a story about her 5 year old ... he must've heard all about the tooth fairy from classmates with older siblings… and was understandably curious. Disappointed to find out that his milk teeth were nowhere near ready to be replaced by his adult teeth, my friend's son decided to leave some coins under his pillow anyway, should the tooth fairy decide to pay a visit. He felt that it was most unfair that the tooth fairy had to keep giving away her own money, so why shouldn't he give her some of his?!
Does the tooth fairy visit your home? What's the going rate for each tooth nowadays? I used to wake up to a 50 pence coin under my pillow - how about you? I've seen that you can even buy a cute personalised cushion with a little pocket to pop the tooth into. I've also heard that some tooth fairies leave a thank you note for the child that they've visited ...
I hope that this article has been useful in some way - I'd love to hear your stories about the tooth fairy, dummies, the dentist, how you encourage your little ones to clean their teeth - anything tooth related really!
Til next time,
Photo sessions covering Bagshot, Camberley, Frimley, Aldershot, Farnham, Farnborough, Bracknell, Egham, Windsor, Reading, Guildford and other surrounding areas.
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