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.