Health and wellbeing

Ten dental care myth-busters to mark Colgate Oral Health Month

Colgate Oral Health Month logo (September 2013)

A Colgate survey reveals some parents don’t take oral health seriously. A series of myths may be to blame… 

Earlier this month, I was invited along to a discussion all about dental care for children. It was held to mark this month’s Colgate Oral Health Month after a survey by the popular toothpaste brand revealed that 40% of parents interviewed didn’t think milk teeth matter, one in 5 has bribed rewarded their child with chocolate and sweets for brushing their teeth, and a quarter of children have had at least one filling by the age of ten.

Some startling statistics there. 

Speaking to the experts who were on hand – Dr Simon Khoury (dentist), Dr Karen Pine (psychologist) and Nigel Denby (nutritionist) – there appears to be some common myths associated with oral health and I’m certainly guilty of believing some of them. I’ve debunked ten dental care myths (with the help of the experts of course!) to help you develop a good routine with your child and encourage excellent oral health.

MYTH: Milk teeth don’t matter.

TRUTH: Yes they do! Just because milk teeth eventually fall out, that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Getting children into the habit of brushing their teeth every day encourages good oral health and a nice bright smile will give them confidence. According to Dr Khoury, the state of a child’s oral health by the age of 12 is a strong predictor of oral health later in life so if you look after their milk teeth now, you’re looking after their future health too.

MYTH: You don’t need to take your child to the dentist very often if they are only young and still have their milk teeth.

TRUTH: Regular trips to the dentist are part of a good oral health routine so don’t forget to go! Introduce your children to your local dental surgery at a young age by taking them along to your appointments (although it’s important to appear brave and not nervous about it. I’ve written about one of my experiences in the dentist’s chair with Olivia watching before now).

MYTH: You shouldn’t start brushing children’s teeth until they actually appear

TRUTH: It’s good to get children into the habit early on so start the routine when they are babies. Wrap your finger in a piece of muslin and rub it over your baby’s gums; this replicates the feel of a toothbrush. Also, do this regularly and at times when you would normally brush your teeth so that your child learns the habit.

MYTH: It doesn’t matter how long children brush for, as long as they give it a go.

TRUTH: Dentists recommend that we should all spend 2 minutes brushing our teeth and that we should be brushing them twice a day. Two minutes is widely recognised as the optimum time to clean our teeth and gums properly, but without a timer or an eye on the clock, it can be easy to think you’ve done your time when in fact you’ve done much less. We should all be encouraging our children to brush their teeth for 2 minutes at a time and a timer may help to do this. Colgate very kindly gave me one and Olivia really enjoys using to see when her 2 minutes has finished.

Brushing twice a day is also important and something we should all be aiming to do. Dr Khoury says that brushing at bedtime is very important and that we should also aim to brush our teeth at another point in the day (although he says it doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning).

MYTH: Never give children electric toothbrushes.

TRUTH: You can give an electric toothbrush to a child of any age…as long as you operate it for very young children. Electric toothbrushes do a very good job cleaning teeth and some even have a built-in timer so you know when you’ve brushed for long enough.

MYTH: Never use a fluoridated toothpaste with children

TRUTH: Fluoride is good for your teeth because it hardens them, but it needs to be given in moderation. Youngsters aged four and up can use normal adult toothpaste – making sure it’s the recommended pea-sized amount – but for younger children you should consider buying toothpaste targeted to your child’s age. These will contain the right amount of fluoride for the particular age group they’ve been made for.

MYTH: Always use water when brushing your teeth to help spread the toothpaste around your mouth.

TRUTH: No water is necessary; your saliva will do the job just fine. Water actually dilutes the toothpaste so that it doesn’t work as well. Don’t use it.

MYTH: Always rinse after brushing.

TRUTH: This may surprise you but, no! Dentists recommend spitting out as much toothpaste as you can after brushing but not to rinse your mouth out with water. By swilling water around your mouth, it will wash away the toothpaste and stop it from doing its job properly: the longer toothpaste stays on your teeth, the better it works.

MYTH: Always use mouthwash after brushing your teeth.

TRUTH: Mouthwash isn’t necessary after brushing your teeth. The toothbrush and toothpaste together do a really good job of getting rid of plaque and bacteria, hardening teeth and freshening breath. What is a good idea though, is to use mouthwash to freshen your mouth during the day and at times when you wouldn’t normally brush (for example, after lunch).

MYTH: Diet has no bearing on oral health.

TRUTH: Diet is just as important for strong and healthy teeth as it is for strong bones and healthy development. Children should get 3 servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Also, think about the snacks and drinks they have. Nutritionist, Nigel Denby advised that even healthy treats can be bad for your teeth. For example, did you know that raisins are like small ‘bullets’ of concentrated sugar? No, neither did I. And giving your child undiluted fruit juice – especially apple juice – is like giving your child sugar in water. Although fruit juice is healthier than squash, Nigel advises that it should be diluted in the following way, one part fruit juice to ten parts water. He also suggests offering a combination of snacks to balance out sugars, so giving your child a slice of apple and a slice of cheese for their mid-morning or mid-afternoon treat.

So there you have it, my debunking of ten myths to do with teeth brushing, dental care and oral health. If you have any specific questions about oral health, head on over to the Colgate Oral Health Month website where you can ask Colgate’s experts and get advice.

6 Comments

    1. Thanks. Oral health is so important and it’s scary to think that, according to a 2013 Colgate survey, about one in four children will have had at least one filling by the time they’re ten-years-old

  1. Wow, great collection of myths. I think diet really affects oral health, just leaving for work without eating anything would already cause bad breath due to gastric acid from the stomach.

  2. Thank you for writing such insightful posts for your community! I strongly believe that if you want pearly whites you need to control your diet. So we’re definitely in agreement there!

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