This blog was developed in association with Dominique Tillen, founder of Brush Baby - specialists in dental care for babies and young children.
I recently attended The Baby Show in Manchester, where a host of baby and childcare experts provide a range of talks to attendees about relevant topics. As I've been paying what seems like a small fortune as The Tooth Fairy recently, dental care is pretty high on my agenda. After listening to some startling stats in a presentation by Brush Baby (40% of toddlers and young troopers in the UK have tooth decay, for example) I thought it might be useful to provide 5 top tips every parent should know about trooper dental care.
1. Start good Habits Early: Clean Baby Gums Every Day
It's never too early to start forming good habits. By wiping the inside of your baby trooper's mouth at least once a day you'll not only reduce the build-up of bacteria but also set the foundations for a tooth brushing routine later on.
Use a clean cloth and cooled boiled water and gently wipe around the cheeks, gums and over the tongue. You can also use dental wipes if you prefer.
2. 'Proper' tooth brushing starts the minute the teeth appear
Even new baby teeth get plaque, so the minute your trooper has teeth you must brush them twice a day to remove it.
To brush your trooper's teeth use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush with just a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Gums need to be kept clean, too, as food and bacteria can get trapped in small gums flaps and infect the gum tissue. Take it from me, teething is painful enough as it is (for troopers and their parents) so help prevent discomfort in this way.
3. Brush your trooper's teeth until they are six years old
Before six years old, troopers don't have the dexterity to do a good job, and in the wrong hands a toothbrush is a formidable weapon. Be warned though, you're going to need to be patient in the early stages as your trooper gets to grips with having a brush in their mouth. To understand why, put your hands behind your back and ask your partner to brush your teeth for you. It is not a thrilling experience. However, I GUARANTEE that any frustration in the beginning is going to feel a lot better than the guilt of having to take your troopers for fillings.
A common problem with tooth brushing in young troopers is that they feel they're going to choke. Sit them up to avoid this.
As your troopers get older they may want to brush their own teeth. Encourage this by letting them 'start' or 'finish' and praise them to the high heavens. But remember that you are still in charge of ensuring the teeth are clean until they are older than six.
4. Flossing starts the minute two teeth touch each other
When teeth touch - even baby teeth - flossing must become an essential part of the tooth brush routine. You need to do it once a day until they are six years old (when they can take over). To introduce flossing, very gently floss the front teeth first and then gradually include the back teeth over time.
5. Don't encourage your troopers to gargle and rinse with water
If troopers rinse after spitting out toothpaste they wash away the fluoride. By not rinsing, fluoride stays next to the teeth where it can continue to do its job. However, this isn't an invitation to use a lot of fluoride toothpaste, or let your troopers swallow or even eat it (be warned that even the pickiest of eaters will gladly swallow all the toothpaste they can get their hands on). This is because if too much fluoride is swallowed between the age of six months to three years old, troopers run the risk of developing fluorosis: i.e. white spots on their adult teeth. And it's permanent. Ouch.
During this time, you might want to opt for a xylitol-enriched toothpaste. Not only will this limit the amount of fluoride that troopers are exposed to, but there's evidence that toothpastes containing xylitol are actually more effective at preventing tooth decay than those containing fluoride alone.
So there you have it: 5 top tips for tip top trooper teeth. If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well and never more so in the case of dental health. The good routines you start now will put your troopers in good stead for a lifetime of healthy teeth. Now if that doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will.
For your chance to review a sample of Brush Baby's Dental Wipes (suitable from birth) or Chewable Toothbrush (suitable from 10 months), please register for the newsletter on the Commando Dad website.