Baby teeth do matter

Dr Gill Davies urges parents and carers to help children look after their baby teeth.

Dr Gill Davies, consultant in dental public health at Public Health England

It is easy for people to think decay in baby teeth isn’t important as they will be replaced by adult teeth.

But baby teeth do matter. Decayed baby teeth can cause pain, infection and problems with eating, sleeping and going to school.

Some baby teeth stay in the mouth until children are 12 or 13, which is too long to be suffering with toothache and soreness.

If problems become more serious it can mean a child has to go into hospital to have teeth extracted - a distressing experience for any family.

Whilst levels of decay are generally reducing among young children, in some communities it is still a big problem.

Families can keep their children’s’ teeth healthy by following some simple steps.

They should:

  • start brushing teeth as soon as they come into the mouth, beginning with just a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
  • help children to brush until they are about seven years old.
  • ensure children brush twice a day, last thing at night and at one other time
  • teach children toothpaste works best if it is spat out, not rinsed away with lots of water or mouthwash.

Families should also try to keep sugary food and drinks just to mealtimes.

Sugary snacks add to the risk of decay so it’s best to give just plain milk or water to drink between meals and fruit or other sugar-free snacks at these times.

If parents are unsure about the best ways to keep teeth healthy they should talk to their dentist.

Indeed, babies should be taken to the dentist as soon as their first teeth come through so parents and carers can be taught how to help look after their children’s’ baby teeth.

Blog comments

  • Oral health campaigns need to involve primary school teachers, school nurses and parents, making oral and general health part of the curriculum.

  • out of interest, what do you advise about using "adults" toothpaste as opposed to childrens "milk teeth" pastes, and at what age to go on to adults paste? thank you

  • Oral health campaigns only need to involve a child's parents. Over the course of my 37 years as a dentist, parents have been getting less adept at doing the right things.

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