Ask the Dentist: Survey finds gap in parents' knowledge about babies' teeth

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says many parents know little about early oral care for their babies

Start brushing their teeth as soon as they break through the gum – your baby will soon get used to the soothing feeling
Lucy Stock

NEW survey data have revealed confusion among mothers concerning their babies' oral care. Conducted by paediatric oral health company Brush-Baby, the survey results state that just 13 per cent of surveyed mothers believe they should first take their baby to the dentist at six months of age, while 72 per cent of mothers said they have never seen any information on gum care for babies.

The study also showed a lack of information from health professionals on baby oral care and teething.

Over half of mothers (53 per cent) reported turning to their own mothers for information on managing their babies' teething pain, and 17 per cent asking their grandmothers, with only 10 per cent saying that they get this information from their dentist.

"A lifetime's good oral health starts from birth, with care of baby's gums and emerging teeth and supervised brushing to at least eight years of age," Professor Liz Kay, of Peninsula Dental School at Plymouth University, and contributor to NICE guidelines on the role of schools and nurseries in children's oral health, said.

“Getting the whole family involved is crucial, because if parents and grandparents are not providing dental care and good oral health role models, a child's teeth are pretty much doomed. It is an outrage that, in this country, there have been more than 34,000 tooth extractions per year for the last two years in children under the age of nine, most in hospital under general anaesthetic.”

‘The Singing Dentist', Dr Milad Shadrooh, who has appeared on TV shows including ITV's This Morning, is supporting Brush-Baby's push for consistent messaging. He said: "I recommend to mothers to wipe their baby's mouths and gums before teething starts – and I'd love it if mothers did not wait for their baby's first tooth to appear before taking them to the dentist."

If you are caring for a baby, start brushing their teeth as soon as they break through the gum. At first your baby may find it a bit strange but they will soon get used to the soothing feeling. For children under three years use a small head, soft bristle brush with a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Buy the toothpaste that is appropriate for the age of the child – it should have between 500 and 1,000 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. Always supervise toothbrushing and never leave a baby or small child alone with a toothbrush or toothpaste.

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