Around 30 per cent of British children have tooth decay by age five and tooth decay is a common cause of hospital admission in this age group. Tooth decay in toddlers is clearly a major problem but where are so many parents going wrong?
The Infant & Toddler Forum has produced some simple guidance and tips for parents to help avoid tooth decay in their little ones.
The guide Protecting toddlers from tooth decay is available to download for free at www.infantandtoddlerforum.org.
Here are the top ten tips for avoiding tooth decay in toddlers:
- Water and milk are the safest drinks: Water is the ideal drink between meals and with snacks and at night. Milk during the day does not cause decay but should be limited to 3 small cups a day.
- Take care with fruit juice: Many parents mistakenly think of fruit juice as a healthy drink for toddlers. If juices are given always dilute them 1 in 10 because they are both sweet and acidic and can damage teeth. Serve them in a cup, never in a bottle.
- Don’t give sweet drinks in a bottle: Begin using a cup or free-flow beaker for drinks from about six months or so, and stop using bottles around 12 months. Sucking slowly on sweet drinks in a bottle increases the risk of tooth decay.
- No bottles in bed: Never leave a bottle of milk or a sweet drink with your toddler when you put him or her down to sleep.
- Limit sweet foods and drinks: Limit to four times a day e.g. three meals and one snack.
- Start early: Start brushing your toddler’s teeth as soon as they erupt and register him or her with a dentist.
- Brush twice a day: Brush your toddler’s teeth twice a day with a small, soft, dry brush, using a toothpaste containing fluoride. Use a smear of toothpaste for under–3s and a pea sized amount for over–3s.
- Encourage toddlers to brush their own teeth: Toddlers should learn to enjoy brushing their own teeth but should be supervised.
- Spit don’t rinse: Teach your toddlers to ‘spit don’t rinse’, because rinsing the mouth with water after brushing removes the benefit of fluoride.
- Sugar free medicines: Use sugar free medicine where possible – if there are no sugar free options available give medicines at mealtimes.
The Infant & Toddler Forum is an independent group of specialist paediatricians, dietitians, psychologists and health visitors. The Forum work together to improve nutrition in the under-3s, providing a range of Guidance and Tips sheets for parents on topics such as choosing healthy foods, faddy eating and more: available for free from www.infantandtoddlerforum.org