Tip from Henry Clover, our Chief Dental Officer: “Katie is not alone and so many parents find it a challenge to get young children to brush their teeth, especially in the mornings when you’re rushing to get out of the door and to school or nursery on time! It can help to brush their teeth as soon as your child wakes up so that it’s not the last thing you’re doing before leaving the house, and you have more chance of getting two minutes of brush time in. Also, it’s better to brush before eating breakfast, especially if they’re having something acidic or sugary like orange juice. This is because tooth enamel is softer after consuming food/drink and brushing too soon afterwards can wear it away. So brushing first thing has many benefits.”
At what age did you start to introduce an oral health routine to your daughter?
“Belle has all of her milk teeth through now and we introduced a toothbrush to her when she got three or four teeth just to show her what a toothbrush was so she had that familiarity.”
Tip from Henry: “As Katie mentions, it’s important to introduce an oral health routine as early as possible to get children off to a good start and become familiar with the sensation of tooth brushing. Even before your baby starts teething, you can clean your baby’s mouth using specially designed baby dental wipes. This will help to reduce bacteria and encourage a healthy environment for baby teeth when they do appear. Massaging the gums in this way will also help your baby as teething begins, which happens sometime between six months and one year of age. When their first tooth appears, you can introduce them to their first baby toothbrush, which has special soft bristles, and use a smear of baby toothpaste containing a fluoride level of 1000ppm.”
What tips and tricks do you use to encourage Belle to brush her teeth?
“Firstly, we went out and she chose a step that she liked so that she could have it at the sink to step up to the sink. It’s also a good idea to let them choose their toothbrush and a colour they like. Another tip which I find works is to clean my teeth and show Belle how to do it – always in front of the mirror so she can see what she’s doing. The one trick that does work is getting her to pretend she’s a lion or a dinosaur and getting her to roar like a lion and open her mouth extra wide! It really works, you should see me, as soon as she roars I’m in there, in, quick, scrub, out! I also try and do one side then let her hold the toothbrush to do the other side. I talk her through why she needs to brush her teeth, and we make it an activity to do together.”
Tip from Henry: “Katie has adopted some brilliant ways to get Belle enthusiastic about brushing. It should always be a fun experience, and tools such as a special step stool to the sink, their favourite character’s toothbrush, songs, reward brushing charts, and copying parents all help enormously.”
What difficulties do you face in getting Belle to brush her teeth?
“It is difficult because it depends on her mood as to how enjoyable the teeth cleaning process is! With younger children you must make it fun or else it will become a chore which they do not understand. Two minutes is a long time for Belle – she won’t quite do two minutes but I’m really trying and persevering.
“The whole teeth cleaning process can be quite stressful for parents of a young child. Especially when you have other crucial parts of their routine – eating, sleeping etc. It’s important they realise it’s a daily must and my husband and I take it in turns which eases the pressure!”
Tip from Henry: “Katie is right that two minutes of brushing can feel like an eternity to young children! Brush for as long as you can. Brushing timers can give them something to focus on, or you can play their favourite song for two minutes and challenge them to brush to the end, and then reward them with a star or sticker on their brushing chart every time they manage this.”
Has Belle had her first trip to the dentist yet?
“She had her first trip to the dentist a while ago and has been two or three times. The dentist has seen her a few times now and is really good and gives her stickers. It depends what kind of day she is having though, once she wouldn’t open her mouth at all so I said: “Do the lion, raar do the lion” and she just looked at me and the dentist just looked at me like I was mad! I said: “Honestly she does the lion at home!” She’s not scared of going to the dentist because I’ve never said or suggested it’s a scary or bad thing. I’ve always tried to say it’s fun and a trip out for us together! I think it helps that she goes to the hospital with me so she is familiar with clinical environments.”
Tip from Henry: “It’s great that Katie has already established regular visits to the dentist into Belle’s routine. It’s best to take your child for their first dental appointment when their first baby teeth start to appear, which is usually around six months of age. Taking your child to the dentist from an early age helps them to get used to the sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice and get to know the team. Also any dental problems, such as tooth decay, can be more easily spotted and treated early on.”
Why do you think a good oral health routine is important?
“I recently just did a show on Channel 4 called ‘Never Seen a Doctor’, so I worked really closely with people who haven’t been to the dentist for ten or more years. Some of the worst things were people losing teeth, not being able to have a healthy diet, and not being able to have an enjoyable life full stop. Often people think of teeth as just an aesthetic thing, just to look nice but actually if you don’t look after your oral hygiene, your general health can suffer, your diet and then your organs. I want Belle to live a long, healthy and happy life and I truly think that starts with good teeth and good oral hygiene.”
What is your advice for parents struggling with getting their children to adopt a good oral health routine?
“My advice for parents dealing with the same nightly struggle is to hang in there and persevere. The message to the child is it’s not just a thing we do now and then, an option, it is a necessity we do every night. If you back down, you make it not as important, and you don’t show how important it is for them to be doing it. So we suffer the meltdowns and we make her do it. We persevere so that it will just become normal like getting dressed is. Never feel bad if they aren’t enjoying the process because know what you are doing is for the greater good for them.
“If you are struggling, or you just want to use the summer holiday period to get into a better oral health routine with your kids, I’m supporting the Big Summer Brush-Up campaign. They’ve got brilliant tips, tricks and brushing guides from dental experts to make adopting a good oral health routine that little bit easier. All of this great help and advice is available at www.bigsummerbrushup.co.uk."
Published: 22nd July 2016