Caring For Milk Teeth: Everything Parents Need To Know

And how to help them brush.

Parents want the best for their children’s health and oral hygiene is no different.

But NHS data shows families in England are falling short when it comes to their children’s milk teeth, as the number of under kids under 10 requiring hospital treatment because of tooth decay, is now double the number who need help for a broken arm.

Previous research has suggested that some parents view milk teeth as a practice run, but Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Denplan, told HuffPost UK that this is certainly not the case.

“Milk teeth are not practice teeth and learning to care for their teeth is a major milestone that every child has the potential to reach with the right guidance and plenty of practice,” he said.

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What Is The Extent Of The Problem With Children’s Oral Health in the UK?

According to the NHS Children’s Dental Survey, a third of five-year olds and nearly half of eight-year olds in the UK are showing signs of decay in their primary teeth.

Research by Denplan revealed, that worryingly, 30% of parents think that it is acceptable for a child to have experienced tooth decay before they have reached their teenage years.

Even more concerning is that 14% of parents claim they think that decay in children’s teeth is acceptable as all children will inevitably lose their milk teeth as they develop.

Henry Clover, said: “It is clear that while parents have the best of intentions with their children’s dental health, it can be difficult to keep up good habits amongst a backdrop of hidden sugars in our foods and drinks and children’s reluctance to follow a good oral health routine.”

What Are Milk Teeth?

The NHS explains that milk teeth are the teeth that your child first develops as a baby - usually before they are born - but they don’t come through (so that you can see them in the mouth) until they’re between 6 and 12 months old.

Most children have a full set of 20 milk teeth by the time they’re three years old.

When Should My Child Lose Milk Teeth?

The NHS says that when your child reaches five or six years old, they will start to lose their baby teeth to make room for their adult teeth.

This process takes years (and can involve lots of trips by the tooth fairy) but by the age of 12 to 14, most children have lost all their baby teeth and have their adult teeth.

Your child will have 32 adult teeth (compared to 20 milk teeth) but the last four in this set emerge later as these are your ‘wisdom teeth’ between the ages of 17 and 21, and sometimes later.

Should I Supervise My Child’s Teeth Brushing?

Henry Clover at Denplan advises that parents should be supervising their child brushing their teeth until at least the age of seven, making sure that they are doing it throughly for two minutes, twice a day.

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What Is The Best Way To Protect Milk Teeth?

Scrap sugar: “Parents who actively control their children’s sugar intake are helping their child enormously to establish good habits for the future. Just beware of hidden sugars found in things like dried fruit, fruit roll-ups, smoothies and fruit juices that can trip up even the most conscientious of parents.

“But beware: tooth enamel is softer for up to an hour after eating or drinking sugary or acidic things, and can be damaged if teeth are brushed straight after eating. Instead, encourage children to brush their teeth before they eat breakfast or at least an hour after dinner.”

Visit the dentist: “You should take children for their first dental visit as soon as their first tooth appears, which is around six months of age. After that, regular bi-annual appointments allow for the dentist to check for signs of health complaints and also provide an opportunity for the dentist to see if any areas of the mouth are being missed through brushing ineffectively.”

Don’t think of milk teeth as practice teeth: “While it’s true that children will eventually lose their milk teeth, some may not fall out until they’re around 12 years old so they do need over a decade’s worth of care.”

I Struggle To Get My Child To Brush Their Teeth, How Can I Help This?

Henry Clover says: “If you find brush-time tricky, brushing apps, reward charts and songs can help to make this a fun time for children, rather than a daily battle. To help reach the back teeth of little children, get your child to pretend to be a lion or dinosaur and give you a big roar! This helps them to open their mouth wide for you.’’

Are There Any Online Tools To Help Parents With Teeth Brushing?

This animated brushing guide contains all of the information you need to know about how to look after young teeth: