Childhood Oral Health: How the Childsmile Initiative is Helping Parents Look After Their Children’s Teeth.

Seven years ago, the NHS in Scotland launched a successful initiative called ‘Childsmile’. The purpose of this is to promote the importance of good oral hygiene from childhood and beyond and to educate parents and carers in practical ways to encourage good dental health habits in their children. Childsmile says that “good oral health in childhood means healthy teeth and gums throughout life. Childsmile is working to ensure all children, regardless of income or background, have the best possible start.” We don’t have anything like this in England yet, but at Kennett Road Dental Practice, we admire the efforts of the Scottish NHS for the work they do to educate families and to promote good dental health for the next generation. So here are some of the helpful features of the Childsmile website that anyone can access and some ways that Childsmile are pioneering a blanket improvement in oral health in Scotland.

Oral health guide by age. The user-friendly Childsmile website provides advice on age-appropriate oral care products and practices. The free guides and tips are divided by the age of your child so parents can easily make sure they are getting the correct advice for their child’s age. There is a page for children from birth to 3 years old, one for 3 to 5 year olds and also one for children aged 5 to 12. This makes it so easy for parents and carers to know what they should be doing to look after their child’s teeth and at what age they need to do something slightly differently, such as changing the fluoride content of their toothpaste.

Toothbrushing help for parents. We know that not all children like having their teeth brushed. The important thing to remember is that if you ease up on oral care because they’re upset, then when they’re older, they won’t thank you. Better a tear now, and a beautiful smile they can be proud of later in life. With that being said, we understand that toothbrushing can be a source of stress and anxiety for both parent and child. Childsmile have some great advice and tips on their website for parents to accomplish toothbrushing with small children without the drama. What is particularly great about the advice from Childsmile is that they effectively communicate that there is no one “right” way to brush your baby or child’s teeth. There are different options, various positions you can try, different toothbrushes, toothpastes and tools you can try to relieve toothbrushing time of unpleasantness. Whatever gets the job done well, with the minimum of tantrums, that is what works for you. So, do what works for your child and for you.

Visiting the Dentist. Although we don’t have Childsmile here in England, their advice is still sound. They offer advice on what to expect when you take your baby to the dentist, when you should register them with a local practice and who the dental professionals are that you might meet while your child is young. Childsmile write that “taking your baby to the dental practice as early as possible helps them to get used to the sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice and give you access to information, advice and support for looking after your child’s teeth.” We couldn’t agree more. If you think it’s hard getting at your toddler’s teeth imagine how hard it would be for us to get a good look in their mouths if they aren’t used to going to the dentist. Your child already trusts you. Us, not so much yet.

Childsmile in Scotland. Childsmile is so dedicated to providing not just life-changing information to parents, but also physical dental care equipment for children. Regardless of the parent’s earnings or background, Childsmile provide every parent through their health visitor “with a free dental pack containing a toothbrush, toothpaste of at least 1000 parts per million (ppm) fluoride and oral health messages. They can also direct you to a dental practice in your area.” Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. The Scottish government are clearly willing to spend out a lot of money to ensure that children’s dental care is a priority. Scotland, we salute you!

Once the child reaches nursery age, they are then entitled to another free pack of dental care goodies as well as access to educational talks and supervised tooth brushing at nursery if your child’s nursery is part of the Childsmile program. What an amazing resource to ensure that parents are maintaining their small children’s teeth properly. This can be a crucial age for dental care because most milk teeth will have erupted by then and children grow in independence at this age. They become more responsible for their own self-care and their parents take on a less active role. This is fine as long as teeth really are being brushed properly and consistently, but it never hurts to check that this is actually the case. Did you ever lie about brushing your teeth as a child? No? Gold star, but seriously, if children are left to see to their own dental care routines, they might not be managing it as well as an adult would. That’s why regular dental checks for young children and age-friendly dental health talks are such a good idea in nurseries.

At Kennett Road Dental Practice, we admire the work of the Childsmile scheme, and we live in hope that our NHS will adopt a similar program to encourage good dental health routines from birth. To have such a well-connected network working with families, nurseries and dentists to take care of their children’s oral health is such a great idea. With an initiative like this, we hope it will continue to provide a long-term escape for those struggling with dental poverty and lack of access to information and resources to properly look after their family’s teeth.

If you need to register your baby or child with the practice, you can get in touch with us here. We are always happy to see new faces and we’ll work with you to make sure your children have no cause for anxiety when visiting the dentist.



Which Toothbrush Is Right for Me?

There are so many toothbrushes on the market, it’s hard to know which one is for you. Should you get electric or manual? Plastic or eco-friendly? We know it’s confusing with so much choice and although we don’t want to recommend any specific brands of toothbrushes or dental care products, there are a number of factors you may wish to consider when the time comes to replace your old toothbrush.

1. Electric or manual?

There is some debate as to whether electric or the traditional elbow-grease powered ones are more effective in the fight against plaque. According to the Oral Health Foundation, a 2019 study found that electric toothbrushes may help your overall dental health better than their manual counterparts. The OHF reports that, “scientists found that people who use an electric toothbrush have healthier gums, less tooth decay and also keep their teeth for longer, compared with those who use a manual toothbrush.” Clearly the evidence suggests that electric toothbrushes are more effective at maintaining and improving oral health, but they are also considerably more expensive. It is more important that you have a toothbrush and use it than that it is top of the range. We advise that you get the kind of toothbrush that you are most comfortable with and that appeals to you visually because you are more likely to use it consistently if there’s something you like about it.

2. Plastic or eco-friendly?

There has been an increase of dental products on the market in recent years that are made from sustainable and more eco-friendly materials than the usual plastic ones. The electric toothbrush market is a little more behind in this regard, as these tend to last longer and need therefore to be made from more resistant and durable materials. There are bamboo varieties of electric toothbrushes now available from some online retailers and also varieties of degradable toothbrush heads which are compatible with big brand electric toothbrush units. That means you don’t have to replace your whole toothbrush if you want to be more eco-friendly but still use an electric toothbrush for a better all-round clean.

Until recently, finding an eco-friendly toothbrush has been a fairly niche market for online retailers. But now Colgate has brought out a very competitively priced bamboo toothbrush with degradable and recyclable packaging too. Since it is produced by such a named brand, it is available at your local supermarket making it even more convenient to be a friend to your planet. Bambooth is the only biodegradable toothbrush brand that is approved by the Oral Health Foundation to our knowledge. According to them “more than 3.5 billion plastic toothbrushes are produced every year with the majority of these ending up in oceans and landfill.” With the average plastic toothbrush taking 1000 years to degrade into microplastics, we do see the appeal of making more eco-friendly choices when it comes to replacing your toothbrush. We applaud any company’s efforts to be more planet kind in their manufacturing and we hope there will continue to be more advances in the eco-friendly oral health product industry in the future.

3. Branded or supermarket brand?

Although we recommend getting a toothbrush from a brand you trust, we would point out that the oral care products manufactured by the majority of British supermarkets are approved by the Oral Health Foundation, including those sold by Lidl and Aldi. A full list of the brands and products they approve of can be found here. As we said before, get a toothbrush you like the look of as well as one that is in your price range. Whether you feel you trust a known named brand more to look after your teeth or you’d rather save a few coins, as long as you have a toothbrush that is comfortable to use and that you like, you’re doing fine.

So now you’ve got an idea of what sort of toothbrush is right for you, when should you go about replacing your toothbrush? Most oral care brands recommend replacing your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every three to four months. According to scientific studies An investigation into the effect of three months’ clinical wear on toothbrush efficacy: results from two independent studies – PubMed ( ‘a worn toothbrush is less efficient with respect to plaque removal than a new brush’. Also, a lot of bacteria can build up on your brush over time,so, if it’s possible for you to do so, replace your toothbrush every three months. Using four toothbrushes a year means that switching to an eco-friendly alternative may be a very sensible consideration.

With life expectancy in the UK around 80 years, that’s around 320 toothbrushes ending up in landfill or in the ocean per person in their lifetime. That’s a lot of microplastics in our marine life and wildlife’s stomachs. Just one side of the argument, but now more eco-friendly alternatives to plastic brushes are more widely available, it might be worth considering making more planet friendly choices regarding your dental care products. As we’ve said before, whichever toothbrush is comfortable for you and appeals to you, that is the right one for you.

We hope we’ve given you something to think about for the next time you come to replace your toothbrush. Remember that Kennett Road Dental Practice are still here for you, even during lockdown to cater to your dental needs. Check ups and routine appointments are available as well as emergency procedures. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have any concerns over your dental health or wish to book an appointment.


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