Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Toothy Tips - Brushing Toddlers' Teeth

One of the requests thrown in by a reader in my feedback survey was regarding teeth.  This astute reader who remained anonymous had picked up on my occasional alludings to my profession and commented "Would love a feature on children and teeth - tips, funny stuff, how to tell you're at a good dentist (my experience has been dreadful with my little one), what you should do, products to use - I think you work in dentistry?! ??"

Well initially I would have to say - always, always see your dentist if you have any questions or issues.  I can offer some general basic advice but every individual has different risks of various oral diseases so any advice offered is not specific to anyone and therefore not to be considered a professional opinion.

As for funny stuff, I've often wished I was one of those funny Mummies out there but sadly my wit is rarely witnessed so sorry if I let you down there!

So tips... When it comes to the twins we're obviously pretty strict when it comes to sugar and tooth brushing.  I remember in dental school one of the graphs when we learned about caries (decay) was "normal" children vs dentist's children!  And there was quite a difference.  With brushing, we've always always insisted on it, forcing our way in with the brush if met with resistance (gently of course and to be honest, if resisting they were usually crying which just makes for easy access to the teeth anyway).  It may sound harsh but I've seen what happens when the toddlers "don't like having them brushed" and so parents neglect to brush them.  I've had to deal with the tears and anxiety when taking out tiny teeth (and have been known to cry myself after they leave the room in particularly difficult situations, it's definitely worse since becoming a mother myself) so I know first hand what happens if teeth aren't looked after properly.  I even had a case in Glasgow where a child walked in to my surgery drinking Irn Bru for crying out loud!  So if you're thinking I'm a cruel parent for forcing a toothbrush into my crying baby/toddler's mouth, I'd much rather that than be neglectfully leading them to unnecessary, preventable surgery.

When the twins were little we started brushing their teeth when in the bath.  We would sing "This is how we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth... early in the morning"  Kalyan STILL asks me to sing "in the morning" if I'm not doing it and we always have to stop for him to sing "Moooorniiiing".  It's super cute and they love it!  I actually recorded a video and tried to take some photos last night of our tooth brushing routine.  It was a bit tricky as I was on my own with them but you get the idea.  Please excuse my singing, I am a terrible singer!

When not trying to take photos I use my left hand to support under their jaw or top of their head and brush with my right hand as seen in the video.

Anyway, as a result of our singing and steadfast approach to tooth-brushing never being optional, the twins now love having their teeth brushed.  In fact, if we're having trouble convincing them upstairs for bedtime, we say "Shall we brush your teeth?" and they usually scream "Yeh" and race up the stairs!!  I think it also helps that they seem to love the minty taste, they're always trying to suck the toothpaste off and swallow it (not recommended!).  They love to rinse their own brushes now but they know Mummy or Daddy has to brush them before they get a turn (a quick swish round and then rinse the brush) and they put the brushes away.  They fight to go first and climb up onto the toilet.  Kalyan's even started grabbing my arm to try to guide me as he knows Mummy has to do it properly but he wants to be involved, he knows not to take it off me until we're done.

They also have fun, colourful brushes as most kiddie ones are.  They like to hold them and they love sticking the ones with suction cups to stand up on the sink and we have some cute toothbrush holders which they love to click open and shut.  My Mum bought them in Malaysia and they stick to the tiles with suction cups and hold the bristly end so are also great for travelling as they keep the heads clean.  You can also get flashy toothbrushes with timers which I've heard can be good for convincing reluctant kiddies to brush and brush for longer or even just an egg timer can work to get them brushing for the full time.

Whenever we would struggle to brush their teeth when they were younger, we would sit them on our laps and tip them back into one arm, sometimes quite far to get a good view.  I have a dental friend who used to brush her boys' teeth upside down with them sitting in front of her and putting their heads in her lap.

As for the official advice, we recommend brushing for two minutes twice a day using a toothpaste containing at least 1000ppm of Fluoride for it to be effective in preventing decay (I will do a separate post on Fluoride).  Most do but a few don't so check the packaging - there will be a ppm (parts per million) number in the ingredients along with whichever type of Fluoride it contains.  Nik's parents bought a well known chemist brand to keep for when we visit their house and it only had 500ppm so be sure to check.  Use a small pea-sized amount for toddlers as they won't spit out and you want to limit how much Fluoride they ingest.

We don't actually let them put their own toothpaste on (as it would likely be too much and get messy!) but she knows her mother well and when camera is in hand, they do sometimes get away with things for a short time!
Plus the tube was almost empty and I have trouble squeezing enough out anyway!

We recommend to supervise children brushing up to the age of 7 (and older if necessary) and by supervise I would suggest physically watching them brush and then taking over to ensure every surface is definitely reached.  Their dexterity will be OK at 7 but their brushing is unlikely to be fully effective at removing all plaque.  I've seen children with gum disease, not just decay, as a result of missing plaque around the gum line so it is important to get it all.  If you've seen kids washing dishes you'll know how much debris can be missed and that's something they can easily see!

And another recommendation is to spit but don't rinse.  This has to do with the fluoride as well, you want to leave the fluoride on your teeth for longer (again, more on this and how it works in another post) so if you want to use a mouth wash - do so at a separate time to brushing.

Never brush your teeth after anything acidic, this includes fresh fruit juice so if you have a glass with breakfast, make sure you brush before hand or wait at least an hour afterwards or you will be brushing away micro layers of softened enamel due to the citric acid.  (And of course this goes for fizzy drinks even more so, which I sincerely hope you don't give your toddlers but nothing surprises me anymore!!)

So, there you have it, my first Toothy Tips.  I hope you found it useful and informative.  Please do let me know any tips or tricks you use to clean your little ones' teeth.  Did you already know the above advice and have you used any of our own techniques for happy brushing?


Lucky Lil said...

Becky this is so helpful and reassuring. I've always felt guilty for going against my little girl even when she is in tears whilst brushing her teeth. I'm glad I'm not the only one.
I already new the above advice apart from one, which is, never brush you teeth after something fizzy or acidic. That's pretty scary about brushing away micro layers of enamel, definitely has opened my eyes as we do eat acidic fruit but never really thought of the harm when brushing teeth.
Thank you so much for sharing. 😊 Xx

Bex said...

Glad you found it helpful Lilian! It's so hard when you feel like you're upsetting your little ones but it's one of those things that is definitely kinder in the long term!

Prettiest Hobo said...

SO useful and informative! I am definitely a culprit of asking you 'toothy' questions. can't wait to share this with my husband tonight - we are so far (fingers crossed) not too bad with getting out 14 month old to clean his teeth xx

Bex said...

Ah great Gemma, glad you liked it. I am used to the tooth related questions from friends ;) x

Nash said...

This was a very instructional post! Thank you so much for sharing. My son fights this with me every day and he is strong, this technique I am trying tonight!

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