Everyone knows that as part of a good oral hygiene routine it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day. So why is it that so many children under 10 years of age are being treated in hospital as a result of tooth decay?
Healthy teeth and gums are important not only to help you eat and drink what you like, they are also important for a number of other reasons which you might not realise. Firstly, they give shape and structure to the face. Second, they play a vital role in facial expressions – everyone loves a toothy grin! Thirdly, being able to properly chew your food means it’s easier to digest. Lastly, teeth are vital to one of the most important means of communication – speech. Speaking uses all the parts of your mouth – not just your lips and tongue; your teeth help you make important sounds like ‘th’ and ‘sss’, without which it can be difficult to say simple things!
So, although you may lose your baby teeth when your adult teeth come through, it doesn’t mean that it’s not important to take good care of them just because they don’t last forever. When you’re learning to speak and try different foods, your teeth are necessary.
To help pupils understand the importance of looking after their teeth, St Helen’s Primary School and Nursery in Ipswich invited Harbour Dental Care to come and speak to all their Key Stage Two students (ages 7-11) about how and why to properly brush and care for their teeth.
Principal dentist, Malcolm Harbour, spoke to four groups of 60 children, telling them the reasons why it’s important to look after their teeth. He also show them all how to properly brush and make sure that every tooth gets cleaned, in order to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar which cause tooth decay.
To help encourage all the children to brush regularly, HDC provided goody bags containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and a timer to ensure that brushing is done thoroughly. Leaflets were also given out with reasons and instructions for brushing to help remind both the children and their parents how to follow a good dental hygiene routine.
Lena Shete, a teacher at St Helen’s, said; “Malcolm was great. The children listened intently and asked relevant and thoughtful questions. The teachers felt that Malcolm had a very warm and friendly manner, and they even learned not to wet the toothbrush or rinse after brushing! They also felt that Malcolm was patient and took time to answer the children’s questions.”
Some of the comments from the children include:
‘I have been using the timer and have been putting a pea-sized bit of paste on my brush.’
‘I now don’t wash my mouth after brushing. I’ve been using all the things that we were given.’
‘My whole family uses the timer.’
‘I have used the timer since the dentist came.’
‘Due to what the dentist told me, I have been less frantic with my brushing. I clean each tooth individually.’
How to help children clean their teeth
Parents should be helping their children to clean their teeth at least once a day from when their first tooth appears up until around age six. Brush using a small headed, soft bristled brush and using a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. The most effective way to clean your child’s teeth is to sit them on your lap so you can both look in the mirror together, and reach the brush around them, so that your hand is in the same position as if you were cleaning your own teeth. It may be a challenge at first, but persevere – the more regularly you do it the more they will get used to it and get into the habit of doing it daily. In addition, do not let children go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of anything other than water – the sugars in milk, juice and other drinks can cause plaque to build up overnight. In addition, teats encourage liquids to remain around the teeth, whereas drinking from a child’s or adults cup encourages quick swallowing of the liquid.
For more help or advice on children’s oral health and tooth-brushing, please don’t hesitate to contact Malcolm or another member of our staff at the practice.