Dr Miriam Stoppard's Health Focus: KEEPING YOUR CHILD'S TEETH HEALTHY

Article excerpt

Wash and brush upGOOD teeth help your child look good, eat properly, talk well and feel confident. These days tooth decay and gum problems are preventable.

This week's Health Focus explains how you can make sure your child grows up with healthy teeth.

SUGAR and tartar cause decay. The two most important steps you can take to stop decay are not to give your child sugary foods and drinks and to teach toothbrushing early.

KEEPING BABY TEETH HEALTHY

MAKE toothbrushing fun for 0-2 year olds:

START brushing your baby's teeth as soon as the first one appears in her mouth.

BABIES are born mimics and one way your baby will learn is by watching you brush your teeth, so make sure she sees you.

USE a small baby brush (see picture below) and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.

MAKE toothbrushing part of a baby's morning and bedtime routine.

BABY toothpastes may have a milder taste but do not give as much fluoride protection. Check with your dentist whether they provide enough fluoride for your baby's needs.

SING a song as you brush her teeth. Make up a "toothbrush song" to a favourite nursery rhythm.

SWEETENED DRINKS CAUSE DECAY

SWEETENED drinks can encourage a sweet tooth, so don't sweeten infant food and don't give sweet drinks - that only instils bad habits.

DRINKS containing sugars are even more likely to cause tooth decay if you give them:

1) at bedtime

2) during the night

3) as comforters

4) for long periods

If you give them, keep to mealtimes.

NEVER put any sugar-sweetened drinks into a feeding bottle for your baby to hold, e.g. in bed, or in the pushchair.

DON'T give too many drinks containing the artificial sweetener saccharin. Dilute them with at least eight parts water.

CHECK LABELS FOR HIDDEN SUGAR

DRINKS labelled "low sugar"' or "no added sugar" may harm your baby's teeth as they often do contain some sugar, so check labels carefully.

CHECK labels for the following sugars. They can all harm your baby's teeth: glucose, glucose syrup, fructose, concentrated fruit juice, sucrose, dextrose, honey, invert sugar, maltose, hydrolysed starch.

REMEMBER jams, syrup, spreads, tomato sauce, baked beans and tinned spaghetti all contain sugar, so buy the sugar-free variety.

CARING FOR TEETH: 3-11 YEAR OLDS

DIET is important:

MOST people know that sugar causes tooth decay. Sweet, fizzy drinks or sugary drinks, biscuits and cakes provide most of the sugar in young people's diets.

THE key to healthy teeth is to:

CUT down how often your child has food or drink containing sugar.

DON'T give your child sugar-coated cereals.

CUT down sugary snacks by keeping sugar-containing foods and drinks to mealtimes, or for an agreed time each week.

ALWAYS ask the doctor or pharmacist for sugar-free medicines.

FOR snacks between meals try:

Fruits such as apples, satsumas, pears, melon, peaches and grapes

Crisp vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and celery

Bread

Unsweetened yoghurt, cheese

Milk, tap water, bottled water

Sugar-free, diet and low-calorie drinks will not cause decay. …