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Caring for first teeth

Your child's first teeth are the building blocks of strong, healthy adult teeth. You can get your child off to the best possible start by developing a brushing routine at an early age. Milk teeth start to appear in children at around six months, and by the age of 2 1/2 to 3 years of age, all 20 milk teeth should be in place.

Follow these tips to look after your child's teeth:

Healthy eating
One of the greatest enemies to your child's teeth is sugar. Sugar reacts with plaque in the mouth, producing an acid that damages tooth enamel. The more sugar your child eats, the greater the risk to their teeth. You can encourage the development of healthy teeth by offering your child fruit, raw vegetables, bread, cheese or savoury snacks between meals. Avoid drinks and food with added sugar, and restrict sweet foods to meal times. The damaging effect of sugary foods is lower when eaten as part of a complete meal, as saliva flow increases when other foods are eaten.

Sugary drinks can be particularly harmful to your child's teeth, as they wash around the mouth and find their way in between the teeth. Sipping a sugary drink prolongs the time that the sugar is held in the mouth. And it is not just fizzy drinks that contain all the sugar. Fruit juices can contain a lot of natural sugars, which can be equally as harmful to your child's teeth if too much is given Milk and water are the best drinks for your child's teeth. Never give a juice or sugary drink last thing at night or as a comforter at naptime. If your child needs a drink before going to bed, make sure that it is water.

Toothbrushing
Get your child into the habit of brushing their teeth at an early age. Start cleaning baby's teeth soon as they appear by wiping them gently once or twice a day with a clean piece of gauze or a soft cloth and water. Once your child has reached his first birthday, introduce him to brushing by using a soft bristled toothbrush to clean his teeth.

Gently brush your child's teeth twice a day, including last thing at night, using a smear of low fluoride toothpaste. It is important to use a lower fluoride toothpaste designed specifically for young mouths, as children up to six years of age tend to swallow the toothpaste. While fluoride works to strengthen the teeth, ingestion of excessive amounts of fluoride can cause permanent mottling of the adult teeth.

Children need help and supervision when brushing their teeth up until the age of seven. Teach and encourage a brushing technique that ensures every surface of every tooth is gently brushed.

Dental check-ups
Taking your child to the dentist or dental nurse for regular check-ups can help prevent trouble before it starts. Children should visit a Dental Professional regularly from the age of 2-2 1/2 years onwards.

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