How can I look after my child’s teeth?

As a family friendly dentist in Marbella, we get a lot of questions from parents who are worried about their children’s teeth and don’t know what to do to keep them healthy. So we have taken the most commonly asked questions and got our paediatric dentist Dr Pilar Rios to answer them for you.

What age should you take a child to the dentist the first time?

This is a good question, as it’s a lot earlier than most parents think. A baby should come to the dentist before his first birthday, or at least 6 months after his first baby tooth comes through. Coming to the dentist very early on in life allows us to get the kid used to the dentist. We recommend taking your child to the dentist every 6 months for a check-up.

What are your tips for making sure children are brushing correctly?

It’s difficult to be sure if your child is brushing correctly. One of the most effective tricks we recommend is to use plaque test tablets, which are chewable tablets that contain a harmless dye used to make dental plaque visible and show you and your kids the trouble spots to focus on and ensure teeth are totally clean.

What are the biggest threats to children’s dental health?

Of course sugar and sweets are a major problem for children and tricky for parents to manage. We should not forget fizzy drinks, flavoured waters, or even fruits juices given in between meals as all of these are also damaging.

As a guide, the stickier sweets are more damaging to the teeth, but it isn’t just what you eat, but how. If you allow your kids to eat sweets over a long period, or snack regularly on sugary food, or sip fizzy drinks over long periods, the saliva in their mouth can’t reverse the effects of these sugars. This means that for a long time during the day, the pH levels in their mouth are into the danger area where the teeth are demineralising and causing cavities. This is what you want to avoid!

Are there any foods or drinks that are good for teeth?

The best drink in the world for our teeth will always be water, so make sure your kids are drinking plenty of water through the day and after eating anything sugary. There are two great foods that we’d recommend too – cheese and apples. Cheese is good as it helps our saliva to balance the acid and regain a healthy pH after meals and it also contains calcium and phosphorus which are two very important minerals in the development of our teeth.

Apples are best eaten whole, as the action of biting into the skin and flesh actually helps to remove plaque build-up on the teeth and produces saliva which rinses away bacteria and food particles. This is a good way to end a meal for your teeth and of course has many nutrients, water and fibre.

Finally, sugar free chewing gums are good for older children, as the act of chewing produces saliva, which neutralizes the acid in your mouth. We recommend choosing a gum with xylitol, as this has antiseptic properties.

What are the signs that your child is experiencing problems with their teeth?

Watch out for bad breath, black stains or cavities in the teeth and behaviours such as avoiding cold drinks or ice creams, as this can signify that they are experiencing sensitivity.

What can we do to make sure our children are getting enough fluoride?

In Spain, there is a very low concentration of fluoride in the water, so some people have concerns that their kids aren’t getting enough. However, we shouldn’t forget that plenty of foods that we eat also contain fluoride and so it’s important to make sure you aren’t getting too much.

We recommend only giving fluoride supplements to children under the supervision of a dentist, as excess fluoride causes dental fluorosis which actually damages the enamel. Using a good toothpaste containing fluoride will often give your child the right amount of fluoride, so don’t worry too much. We would only recommend using fluoride tablets if the patient has a high risk of decay.

What can we do to prevent future tooth decay for our kids?

Overall you should make sure they develop a good oral hygiene routine and that it becomes an ingrained habit. Avoid sweets and fizzy drinks as much as possible. We would recommend using them as a treat to reward good behaviour, or cleaning teeth well, rather than regularly. Kids shouldn’t be eating sweets or drinking fizzy drinks more than twice a week.

Is it true that juice is bad for teeth? What’s the best alternative?

Juice is a good drink, the problem with juices starts when they drink them between meals and if they are not fresh juices, as most of them are very acid. It’s best to limit the amount of juices to two per day and encourage them to drink water as a much better alternative.

We want to encourage kids to get their teeth checked out and help them to keep their teeth healthy, so during the month of September we have a special offer where a child’s first check-up will be free and we will also offer one free topical fluoride application per year up to the age of 12. Contact us to make an appointment. Read more advice about tooth decay and children here.