Establishing good habits can help your child avoid oral health problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Can I let my child have sweets?
Most children want sweets, but you can help prevent problems by making sure they don’t eat them often and encouraging them only to eat their sweets with a meal. This way, your child avoids the extra acid caused by eating sweets between meals.
Try not to give sweets or sweet drinks as rewards.
What are the best snacks to give my child?
The best snacks are fruit and raw vegetables. Try tangerines, bananas, pieces of cucumber or carrot sticks. Other good snacks include breadsticks, crackers, rice cakes and plain popcorn.
Should I let my child have fizzy drinks?
No. Fizzy drinks contain acids that can affect the enamel on your child's teeth, making it thinner.
What are the best drinks for my child's teeth?
The best drinks for children over one year old are water or milk. Cows' milk is not suitable as a drink until your baby is 12 months old.
Use full-fat milk (whole milk) from the age of 12 months to two years. Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced from the age of two, as long as your child is a good eater and growing well for their age. Skimmed milk doesn't contain enough fat, so is not recommended for children under five.
Fruit juices contain sugars and acids, so it's best to have these only at mealtimes and use a straw. If your child is thirsty, it's better to give them water than to encourage a taste for sweet drinks. Try to avoid giving babies fruit-flavoured 'baby juices', and never give them in feeding bottles.
Fruit juice is not suitable for babies under six months.
Will milk at bedtime damage my child's teeth?
Water is the best drink to give at bedtime, but if you do give milk, don't add anything to it. Chocolate-flavoured drinks and milkshake powder usually contain sugars, which can increase the risk of decay if given at bedtime.
Are sugar-free medicines better for my child's teeth?
Yes. Always ask for sugar-free medicines and remind your doctor about this if you're being given a prescription for your child. This is especially important if your child is taking long-term medication.
When should my child give up bottles?
Your child should begin moving off the bottle and on to a feeder cup at six months. Bottles should be given up completely by the age of one because the teats and spouts encourage children to suck for long periods of time, which can mean the drinks that cause tooth decay stay in contact with your child's teeth for a long time.
Are sippy cups good for teeth?
There's no need for a child to use a sippy cup. These are similar to a bottle, in that they require the child to suck to make them work. A feeder cup is better as it doesn't have valves and the flow of liquid is unrestricted. This means children learn to drink normally rather than by sucking.
Will a dummy or thumb sucking harm my child's teeth?
No, but they will encourage an open bite. This is when teeth move to make space for the dummy or thumb. They may also affect speech development.
Thumb sucking and dummies won't cause permanent problems as long as the habit stops by the time your child gets their second teeth, but it can be a hard habit to break. Discourage your children from talking or making sounds with their thumb or a dummy in their mouth, and don't dip dummies in anything sweet such as sugar or jam.
What is fluoride varnish?
This is a special varnish that is painted onto a child's teeth to help protect them. It's done at the dental surgery or sometimes in schools. It's recommended that all children over the age of three have a fluoride varnish every six months. Talk to your dentist to find out if your child would benefit from this extra protection.