Today is World Oral Health Day, a day which aims to empower people with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to secure good oral health. Within our Early Years settings, promoting good oral health and hygiene is incredibly important.
A new focus on Oral Health in Early Education
With the introduction of the new EYFS Framework in September 2021, a significant change in welfare requirements highlighted the need to promote the ‘good oral health of children.’ This shift was prompted by research conducted by Public Health England, revealing that 1 in 5 children aged 5 has encountered tooth decay.
A child’s first experiences with oral health can have an impact on the rest of their life and so it is very important to teach young children about their mouth and introduce good habits as early as possible. Milk teeth are important and if children get used to good tooth brushing practices when they are young, they are more likely to continue these later on in life.
- Birth to three years: Teeth should be brushed twice a day using just a smear of a fluoride toothpaste. This should start as soon as the first tooth appears and be closely supervised.
- Children over 3 years: Teeth should be brushed twice a day, using no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children should be helped or supervised by an adult until at least the age of 7.
A healthy diet for teeth
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria on teeth converting sugar into acid, which can make holes in teeth. Tooth decay is the number one reason why children aged 5 to 9 are admitted to hospital for dental treatment under general anaesthetic.
Sugar is the general term used for a variety of substances that are used to sweeten foods and drinks. It is a good idea to watch out for the different types of sugars, such as sucrose, glucose & fructose on food labels. While we automatically tend to think of sugar being in sweet foods, such as biscuits and cakes, sugar is added to many other foods too, for example tomato sauce, baby foods, cereals, yoghurts and juices. The Government’s Eatwell Guide advises that sweet treats should be limited and, if eaten, should be consumed as part of a meal as the increased saliva produced will help to limit damage to the teeth.
Guidelines for different ages
Birth to one year:
- Salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners should never be added to the food of young children
- Fruit juices are not recommended before the age of one year
- From around the age of 6 months, children should be encouraged to drink from a free-flow cup
- From the age of 1 year, feeding from a bottle should be discouraged
From age one:
- A balanced diet, with 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day should be provided
- Limit the amount and frequency of foods and drinks which contain sugars and ensure these are only consumed at mealtimes
- Avoid processed foods and drinks, including baby food
- Dried fruits, such as raisins are high in sugar, and also stick to teeth and so should not be eaten regularly, and only during mealtimes, not as a separate snack
Visiting the Dentist
It is a good idea to take babies to the dentist as soon as teeth begin to appear so that they can be monitored. This also helps to ensure children are familiar with visiting the dentist from a young age, and as long as these visits are made into positive experiences, it should avoid children worrying about dentist trips in the future.
Further Reading: Children’s books to help support their oral health
- Tooth – by Leslie Patricelli
- Brush, Brush, Brush! – by Alicia Padron
- Tusk Trouble – by Jane Clarke and Cecilia Johansson
- We’re Going to the Dentist: Going for a Check-Up – by Campbell Books & Marion Cocklico
- Why should I brush my teeth? – by Katie Daynes and Marta Alvarez Miguens
- Brush Your Teeth Please – by Leslie McGuire
- Open Wide…What’s Inside? by Alex and Helen Rushworth
- Peppa Pig: Dentist Trip
- The Shark Who Bit Things He Shouldn’t – by Denis Bond
Blog written by: Julie (Nursery Manager at The Old Station Nursery Henley)