Baby & Toddler Teeth Brushing Guide
We promised to publish a guide to brushing infant teeth in our article about fluoride for under-fives earlier this month. That time has now come, so we explain below what’s generally accepted as the best approach for brushing teeth for babies, toddlers and under-fives in the UK.

When to Start Brushing Children’s Teeth

First, though, it’s important to start brushing children’s teeth — and in the right way — as soon as your baby has any teeth showing. That’s the case even if it’s only one or two teeth initially. Getting the brushing approach right will protect your child from tooth decay and oral health problems, of course, but will also reinforce the importance of a good oral hygiene regime to the child. They learn from adults all the time so, when parents make a habit of cleaning children’s teeth at least twice a day, children are also more likely to continue to do so once they reach an age when they take over teeth brushing completely, by themselves. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to let them see you brushing your teeth too. Their totally independent brushing comes usually around the age of 7, by the way. However, they should be encouraged to actively brush teeth themselves — under close parental supervision and often with hands-on help — well before that. Let’s take it step by step:

Brushing Babies’ Teeth

Just a smear of the toothpaste is needed for babies & children up to the age of 3Babies’ teeth usually start to appear around the age of 6 months of age, although it varies. In fact, some babies are even born with one or more teeth that have already erupted, as it’s called, through their gums. Whichever age it is that they first appear, that is the age parents should start to brush their teeth.
So, how do you brush a baby’s teeth? Firstly, you need to ensure that you’re using the right toothpaste, with the right fluoride content, so ensure that you carefully read the label. For babies and children up to the age of 3, use either ‘children’s’ fluoride toothpaste that has at least 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in it, up to a maximum of 1,500ppm if using a ‘family’ toothpaste (learn more about fluoride for children here).

Just a smear of the toothpaste is needed, up to the age of 3. You can use an infant’s toothbrush, a ‘finger brush’ or even simply a small piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger. The easiest method is to sit your baby or toddler on your knee, facing away from you with their head resting on your chest, with their head tilted backwards a little. Taller toddlers can stand, but the same approach works. Facing a mirror is an excellent way to do it, since you can then both see how you are brushing your child’s teeth — and the child will learn from this. Use small circular movements to smear the toothpaste on all areas of their teeth and also on their gums. They should spit out any foam that’s been generated but they do not need to rinse. Indeed, not rinsing means that the fluoride will continue to protect their teeth for longer.

Once they’re used to this happening at least twice a day, you can start to encourage them to use their own hands, which you can help to guide. They will soon pick up the idea, but you’ll need to continue to closely supervise.

Brushing Teeth from 3 to 6 years of age

The same approach works fine for children once they reach the age of 3 upwards, except now they should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Clearly this will generate more foam, so it’s important for them to spit out the excess foam but, again, they do not need to rinse as not doing so will continue to protect their teeth from plaque and possible decay.

Brushing Teeth from the Age of 7

By the time they reach the age of 7, children should have picked up exactly how to brush their own teeth unaidedBy the time they reach the age of 7, children should have picked up exactly how to brush their own teeth — unaided — and should be doing so at least twice a day. They should use children’s or family toothpaste containing between 1,350 and 1,500ppm of fluoride when doing so and, again, a pea-sized amount.

Tips for Terrific Toddler Teeth!

  • One of the daily times for teeth brushing should be at the end of the day, before they go to bed. In this way, children’s teeth and gums will be protected overnight — quite a few hours of protection when you think about it.
  • Dental treatment for children is free under the NHS, so make the most of this; for example, if your child needs a check-up for possible treatment. Going to the dentist regularly for check-ups also sets a good example that they can follow. Going from an early age is more likely to put them at ease at such visits.
  • Give teeth individual attention when brushing. Ensure front, sides/edges and back are all thoroughly brushed along with the adjoining gums. If this approach is used, every tooth will get a great clean. There’s even an app for teeth cleaning, which makes it thorough, educational and fun (available on IOS and on Android).
  • A typical teeth brushing session should last no less than 2 full minutes. That way, each tooth and all gums should get ample attention.
  • Teeth brushing should always be supervised for young children. Don’t let them play, walk around or run with their brush in their mouth — it would be very dangerous for their safety.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and anything with added sugar contentAvoid added sugar in drinks and unnecessary added sugar in food as this leads to plaque build-up and eventually to decay. Moreover, the longer sugar is in the mouth, the worse it is likely to be. So, check labels, avoid added sugar, sweets, and sugary biscuits etc. except, perhaps, as occasional treats. Even with fruit juice there will be lots of natural sugar, so this can be diluted with water to reduce its concentration. 1 part fruit juice to ten parts water is a good guide. Generally speaking milk and water are, of course, the best drinks for young children. Even though natural milk contains sugars, it’s far less likely to cause tooth decay.
  • Brush teeth immediately after meals or any sweet drinks if at all possible, especially if anything sugary has been included or if fruit juice was drunk. This will stop the build-up of plaque in its tracks at an early stage and, in the case of fruit juice, also wash away the natural fruit acids (which can otherwise also harm teeth).

The Benefits of Good Oral Hygiene

Achieving a good approach to teeth brushing and oral hygiene, right from an early age, is great for children. It sets up a good habit for them to continue independently and protects their teeth and gums from decay as well as from unsightly discolouration — or worse. Regular teeth brushing also gives children fresher breath along with great-looking teeth — and that’s also great for their self-confidence. What’s more, studies show that there is a link between good oral health and general health.  People who have poor oral hygiene are statistically at greater risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, so looking after teeth and gums is incredibly important.

People who have poor oral hygiene are statistically at greater risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

About Our Nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16We, at Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery, hope you find this guide useful. We offer the highest quality childcare for babies and children aged up to five in our outstanding nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Our nursery and pre-school is near Bearwood, Smethwick, Harborne and Ladywood, making it convenient for anyone living or working in those areas. We even have our own Forest School, which gives children wonderful learning experiences in nature. Do get in contact as soon as possible if you are looking for weekday childcare for your little one in the Birmingham area, as spaces are limited. We’d love to tell you more, so please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or to show you and your little one around the lovely setting.

Fluoride for Under-5s: Facts & Myths
Fluoride helps protect against tooth decayIn this article, we look at fluoride use and its importance during children’s early years in the fight against tooth decay. This includes useful facts and guidelines for parents, the recommended fluoride content in toothpaste for babies and under-fives, as well as dispelling a common myth around unproven fluoride health concerns.

Fluoride

As well as being found in commercial toothpastes, fluoride is naturally found in several foods, including fish and tea, as well as in the drinking water supply. It’s a natural mineral that hugely benefits the population by significantly reducing tooth decay. This is achieved through a reduction in the effects of acid produced by bacteria in the mouth, as well as by strengthening tooth enamel.

It’s interesting to note that children whose teeth are regularly exposed to fluoride when their young teeth are developing tend to have a reduced amount of grooving in the surface of their teeth. This allows harmful plaque to be removed much more easily, again helping to fight tooth decay.

“Research over 60 years shows that 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million of fluoride in the water supply reduces tooth decay by between 40 and 60%”

For that reason, where the natural water supply falls below this fluoride strength, additional fluoride is often added by the water companies, in order to make up the shortfall. The amount varies from place to place, though, and can be checked by contacting your local water supplier.

Fluoride in Toothpaste – How Much is Right for Your Child?

How much fluoride is right for babies and under-fives?The correct fluoride content in toothpaste usually* depends upon the age of your child.

For babies and toddlers aged under 3, use a children’s or family toothpaste containing at least 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride, but no more than 1,500ppm. Just a smear is enough for children of this young age and the little one does not need to rinse their mouth afterwards. Indeed, leaving a tiny bit of toothpaste residue in the mouth will protect their teeth for longer. Their teeth should be brushed at least twice every day from the moment the first tooth appears.

Children aged between 3 and 6 should also use toothpaste containing between 1,000ppm and 1,500ppm of fluoride, but this time they should use a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush. As with babies, the children do not need to rinse (so that the effects of the fluoride last longer) but they can, of course, spit out after brushing. Again, they should brush twice a day as a minimum.

* If a child has a higher risk of tooth decay for any reason, a dentist may recommend a higher strength toothpaste.

Brushing Should Be Supervised

Children’s teeth brushing should be closely supervised by a parent or responsible adult until they are at least 7 years old. This is to ensure that teeth are being brushed properly and thoroughly, as well as for safety reasons. Children must never associate toothbrushes with playing, and certainly must never run around with them in their mouths.

Fluoride Varnish

The NHS suggests that children aged 3 or more would benefit from a coating of fluoride varnish two or more times per year. This is something that’s available from dentists and involves a coating of varnish being applied to the teeth. The varnish contains high levels of fluoride and helps the teeth to resist decay and it also strengthens enamel. Even baby teeth can be protected by fluoride varnish. The varnish is particularly useful to anyone who is particularly at risk of developing, or is naturally prone to, tooth decay, or who suffers from a condition called dry mouth.

Does Fluoride Do Any Harm?

Learn the facts about fluorideFluoride has been of enormous benefit to millions of people around the world, significantly reducing tooth decay in rich and poor communities alike, even when present only in the water supply. According to both the Oral Health Foundation and the NHS, fluoride is absolutely safe for both children and adults. While there are some that say it can be linked to a variety of health conditions, there has been no compelling evidence to scientifically back up the claims.

One exception to that rule is the possibility of developing dental fluorosis, which is a condition caused by exposure to too much fluoride when young teeth are developing (typically below the age of 7). In mild cases, it may cause flecking or white lines on the surface of the teeth. In more severe cases, pitting and discolouration may occur. However, in the UK, the condition only rarely occurs in a way that adversely affects the appearance of teeth, not least because fluoride levels in water supplies are carefully monitored by an official body set up to do so — the Drinking Water Inspectorate (‘DWI’).

A Note About Sugar

This article is geared towards increasing parent knowledge around fluoride use and its importance during children’s early years. Before we sign off, though, it would be remiss of us not to mention that one of the best ways to avoid tooth decay is, of course, to avoid added sugar in both food and drinks. When sugar coats teeth, plaque is likely to build up and then your children are more at risk of tooth decay. It’s even worse when the sugar coating and subsequent plaque are left for longer periods. Hence, it’s important to both avoid unnecessary sugar in the first place and to brush children’s teeth regularly to remove it. We cover this and related brushing guidelines in our separate teeth brushing guide for babies, toddlers and young children, here.

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16This article was brought to you by Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery, a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, near Birmingham. We’re one of just a few nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick, so would suit parents living or working in any of those locations. We’re also one of the rare Birmingham nurseries with a Forest School, which will allow your child to benefit from everything that nature and the outdoors has to offer. We offer daytime childcare and early years education to babies and children aged up to five, Monday to Friday, for 51 weeks of the year. Healthy food, drinks and snacks are all a part of this.

For more information about about a possible nursery place for your child here at Leaps & Bounds, please call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here and we’ll be very happy to help.

How to Help your Infant Sleep
A young girl struggles to stay awakeWe all know how lack-lustre we feel when we don’t get enough high quality sleep. Following a bad night’s sleep, work can be a struggle and concentration levels can suffer as we fight to stay focused or, at times, even awake — especially come mid-afternoon!

If adults feel like that, imagine how babies, toddlers and preschoolers feel after a bad night’s sleep. Adults understand why they’re feeling fatigued and what they need to do about it. However, young children simply don’t understand why everything is such a struggle. They may throw tantrums and even become a danger to themselves when they’re too tired. With too little sleep, they often become tearful, lacking in energy, intolerant and — dare we say it — very grumpy to be around!

“I don’t know whether to take a nap … or cry about being tired.”

Toddlers and under-fives at nursery or pre-school will not learn so effectively if they have not had enough sleep. Concentration levels, memory and general cognitive function are all adversely affected when sleep has been lacking. There are even some serious health risks associated with the lack of regular sleep. These include mental health issues, possible blood pressure problems and diabetes. If poor sleep goes unchecked, the release of growth and repair hormones could also become deficient — and that is absolutely critical in the early years when children are growing and developing.

So, what can be done to improve both the quality and length of your infant’s sleep, and how much is enough?

How Much Sleep is Enough for Babies & Under-5s?

Newborn babies are asleep more than they are awakeBabies and toddlers require significantly more sleep than adults. The recommendations for sleep below are from the NHS:

  • Newborn babies will generally be asleep more than they are awake and this is normal. They can be sleeping anywhere between 16 and 18 hours per day in total, although usually wake during the night at some point(s) to be fed. During the day, sleep patterns for newborns can be erratic and made up of lots of shorter sleeps rather than one huge multi-hour one. By the time they reach approximately 3 months of age, they may begin to sleep right through the night.
  • Babies aged between 4 months and a year should be getting 12 to 16 hours of sleep per 24-hour day. This includes naps, so don’t expect them to sleep this long in one go, of course.
  • At the age of 1 to 2, toddlers should be getting between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours, again including any daytime naps.
  • Between the ages of 3 and 5, this reduces a little to between 10 to 13 hours of sleep per 24 hours, including daytime naps, dropping to 9 to 12 hours from 6 to 12 years of age.

How Can Parents Help?

‘Sleep Hygiene’ is all about setting a suitable routine for the baby or child, and sticking to it, so that it becomes a pattern that everyone follows. With such a routine, children will naturally adjust and more easily go to sleep at the appropriate, planned times. And, once asleep, they should remain so under a good sleep hygiene regime. There are several things that can help to achieve this:

  • A comforting cuddly toy may help some under-fives sleepAvoiding caffeine in drinks, from lunchtime onwards, will help. Caffeine can be found in tea and coffee as well as in some fizzy drinks. Warm milk is better.
  • Similarly, electronic screens are a brain stimulant that should be avoided several hours before bedtime. That includes TVs, mobile phones, tablets and games consoles.
  • Avoid letting your child exercise or play vigorously close to bedtime. This too can act as a brain stimulant.
  • Meal times should also not be too close to bedtime.
  • Your child’s room should be in a quiet part of the house and not contain anything that will stimulate your child close to bedtime. The ability to have low/dimmed lights will help. TVs, mobiles and other electronic screens should not be accessible in the child’s room. It should be cosy and peaceful, perhaps with a cuddly toy or two rather than any toys that will stimulate the child’s mind. In essence, their room should be associated with sleep … not play.
  • In the run-up to bedtime, parents should encourage their little ones to wind down physically and mentally. A leisurely bath or warm shower followed by a gentle bedtime story with dimmed lights should set the mood.
  • Last but not least, parents must not allow children to dictate the rules around bedtime and sleeping routines. For example, if they creep into your bedroom or bed at night, gently settle them back into their bed, without fuss or unnecessary conversation, and repeat if necessary. They’ll soon get the message even if it takes repeated attempts. If they are scared of the dark, then a well-positioned (dim) night light may help.

“Don’t talk to me right now … I was up all night keeping my parents awake — and I’m exhausted.”

Sleep at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston

Babies and toddlers benefit from two sleeping sessions each dayThe very young at Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery benefit from two sleeping sessions each day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is particularly good for babies and very young toddlers. Older preschoolers can choose whether or not to take a nap during these sessions although, of course, staff will always be aware when a child is overly tired and could benefit from some rest in a peaceful, quiet environment. We also encourage parents to let us know if they would like their child to sleep in a particular daily pattern and we’ll always do our best to accommodate their wishes and any personal preferences or needs.

Nursery Places Available in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16We currently have a few limited spaces available at our outstanding nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It’s near Ladywood, Bearwood, Harborne and Smethwick too, so may be a good nursery choice for those living or working in those locations. We’re also a Forest School for those who are keen for their children to enjoy and learn from everything that nature and the Great Outdoors has to offer.

Telephone 0121 246 4922 for further details or book a nursery visit here and we’ll be happy to show you and your little one around.

Childhood Obesity Matters
There are many dangers posed by obesity in childhoodHere we look at the dangers of obesity in very young children, why it’s crucial to avoid it and how parents and carers can help. Some statistics will help focus the mind on why this is so important.

Childhood Obesity – the Shocking Statistics

Virtually one in every three children aged 2 to 15 is overweight or obese.

More and more children are becoming obese at younger and younger ages. Statistics show that, once obese, children are far more likely to remain so longer term.

Obesity DOUBLES the risk of dying early.

What’s more, people are more likely to suffer from depression and heart disease if they are obese.

The risk of obese adults developing Type 2 diabetes is SEVEN times greater.

That’s another shocking statistic. Here’s another:

Under-fives from low-income families are TWICE as likely to become obese. Eleven year olds are THREE times more likely to do so.

That’s why children living in deprived, low-income areas tend to experience an unfairly high level of weight issues, along with the health problems that are associated with them.

It’s clear that childhood obesity needs to be avoided if at all possible. So, what can be done?

Avoiding Childhood Obesity – How to Help Little Ones

Generally speaking, the avoidance of childhood obesity comes down to a good balance between two key things; regular exercise and a healthy diet. Parents can help children in both areas.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy bodyRegular exercise is a great tool in the fight against obesity in children, as well as in adults of course. Excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat can be burned off through exercise. Exercise, when done regularly, is more likely to speed up the metabolism, making the burning of calories more efficient (i.e. easier).

Exercise also has a number of additional, important benefits including improving general fitness, building stronger bones and muscles, reducing the risk of heart disease, depression and Type 2 diabetes as well as improving sleep quality. Perhaps surprisingly, research suggests that regular exercise and sport is also likely to improve academic performance. And, of course, active sports and group exercise opportunities are great for social interaction and bonding with peers — that’s beneficial for children of all ages.

So, the message for parents and carers of young children is to encourage them to get active. Too much sitting looking at electronic screens like tablets, phones, computers and TVs is detrimental to their health. Regular, energetic, physical games and activities are good and, of course, sport is a great way to exercise while having fun. Getting children outdoors is also a way to encourage more active play.

A Healthy Diet

Junk food and sugary food/drink should be avoidedIn tandem with regular exercise, children’s diets need to be balanced and healthy. So, they need to eat healthy foods and in the right amounts. Junk food should be avoided. Indeed, the Government’s “Plan for Action” to help fight childhood obesity aims to reduce children’s exposure to the advertising of junk food. The scheme has also included measures to cut sugar levels in food and soft drinks and even to stop unhealthy foods from being displayed near supermarket checkouts. The scheme was launched in recent years to combat the childhood obesity issues that seem to have become so prevalent in the UK in recent years. Another key aim is to reduce the strain on the NHS caused by obesity, which is significant:

The NHS spends more on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than it spends on the police, fire service and judicial system combined.

A healthy diet is crucial to avoid obesity in childhoodSo, parents and carers of children can help by carefully choosing what their children eat and drink. Junk food is to be avoided. Sugary drinks too. High-sugar foods like biscuits, cakes, ice cream, confectionery and sugary cereals should only be given as occasional treats, if at all. Portion sizes should also be right for the size and age of the child in question. In regard to food groups, 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day are much more suitable, along with some protein, dairy and some starch. The balance of the food types children eat needs to be right for them. We’ll write a separate, more detailed post about healthy eating for little ones in due course. It’ll include guidance on portion sizes, food groups and more, so watch this space.

How Leaps & Bounds Nursery Helps to Combat Childhood Obesity

Leaps & Bounds Nursery understands all of this and indeed you can read all about our healthy eating and exercise mission in our Healthy Eating & Getting Active post from last year. In a nutshell, it explains how we ensure that children accomplish just the right amount of physical activity every day, avoid sedentary activities, eat healthy food and drink and even any snacks are carefully chosen, healthy choices. Our incredible equipment, facilities and Forest School also, of course, encourage active play, much of it in the outdoors to keep children’s minds and bodies at their most healthy.

An Outstanding Nursery, Pre-School & Forest School in Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16If you are looking for the very best start for your baby or child under five, look no further than Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We are an outstanding nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Ladywood, Bearwood, Harborne and Smethwick. We also have our own Birmingham Forest School so children have ample access to the Great Outdoors and everything that the natural world can offer a young child. Our weekday childcare services are on offer from Monday to Friday for babies, toddlers and children under five. Call 0121 246 4922 or book a visit or call-back here for further details.