Research has discovered that the Tooth Fairy must have very deep pockets as she left almost £25million underneath children’s pillows last year.

In a poll run by the Oral Health Foundation as part of National Smile Month, it was found that Britain’s youngsters are receiving an average of £1.58 per tooth. With roughly 15 million milk teeth falling out annually in the UK, it is estimated that the Tooth Fairy is shelling out £23.7 million each year, a whopping 43.6% more than in 2011 (£16.5million).

Children typically have around 20 milk teeth, so it’s little surprise that the Tooth Fairy has been so busy over the years, but are we doing enough to make sure the teeth they take are healthy?

National Smile Month is a charity campaign, run by the Oral Health Foundation, that encourages people to re-evaluate their oral health routines and consider ways to make it better. This applies especially to children who will be taking their first steps into looking after their own health.

It’s essential that children are guided in the right direction when it comes to learning how to take care of themselves, including their tiny teeth. Giving children the best possible start in life, as far as their oral health is concerned, will have several benefits and that is why the Oral Health Foundation is offering the following advice for parents looking to ensure their children’s teeth and gums get the best possible care.

Attend dental appointments

A huge part of getting children on the right path when it comes to looking after their teeth is to take them to the dentist as soon as possible. There is no problem at all with bringing them along with you to your dental appointments, even when they’re babies. It gives them the chance to get used to the different sights, sounds and smells they’ll grow to associate with a dental practice. This also makes it less likely that they will grow up wanting to put off dental appointments in the future.

There is a nationwide campaign, called Dental Check by One, that has been launched by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry in partnership with the Office of the Chief Dental Officer England, which aims to increase the number of children who access dental care aged 0-2 years. This gives you an idea of how important it is that children’s first visit to the dentist is sooner rather than later.

Brush better together

Throughout your adult life you may have been told to check your toothpaste has the correct amount of fluoride because it can help to protect your teeth. What you may not know, is that it is equally important for children to use a fluoride toothpaste too.

Fluoride is vital for children’s oral health because it strengthens their teeth and makes it more resistant to decay. For children up to the age of three, it is best to use a smear of toothpaste with at least 1000ppm (parts per million) fluoride, followed by a pea sized blob of 1350ppm fluoride toothpaste for older children. Many toothpastes have the recommended ages on their labelling so finding the right one for your little ones is usually pretty easy.

It’s more likely that you’ll encounter an issue when it comes to getting your children enthusiastic about taking care of their teeth and regularly brushing. Once again, there are very simple things you can try to remedy this.

Start by getting them to choose their own toothbrush. If they see one with their favourite character on, it can help them to get excited about brushing their teeth. After they’ve got their toothbrush and toothpaste, make sure that they are brushing for two minutes last thing at night before they go to bed and at least one other time during the day. You will find that many electric toothbrushes now have built-in timers which will indicate when two minutes has passed. 

Making sure your children clean their teeth for the right amount of time will be a lot more pain-free if you try your best to make brushing an enjoyable experience for them. Games, reward charts and songs are a great place to start. Thanks to advancements in technology, there are even mobile apps which they can use to brush along to as part of a game or in time with their favourite song.

With time, you’ll eventually see that toothbrushing will become a natural part of their everyday routine and you won’t even need to remind them. Just to be on the safe side, it’s recommended that children are supervised while brushing their teeth until they are at least seven years old.

Cut out sugar

There’s a popular myth that you may have heard about children being born with a sweet tooth. Children don’t tend to develop a taste for anything until they are given it. You’ll find that good oral health, whether you’re a child or not really does boil down to good and bad habits. The amount and how often children have sugary foods and drinks should be limited, otherwise they may be faced with several health problems going way beyond what will happen to their teeth with childhood obesity hugely increasing.

If that’s not enough incentive, every single time we have anything containing sugar, our teeth are under attack for around an hour. Imagine giving a child a sugary treat or drink every few hours. From the moment they wake up to the minute they drift off to sleep, their teeth will be under attack constantly.

In short, good diet from birth is essential. Still water and milk are the best things a child can have throughout the day. Sugary drinks, including fruit juices, should be restricted to meal times only, if you have them at all!

Try not to give children sweets as a form of reward for good behaviour either. Growing up being used to having a sugary treat frequently will not do them any good at all and there are plenty of healthy products children should be eating on a regular basis.

Generally, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fresh fruit and vegetables will give children the best chance of preventing oral health problems like gum disease and tooth decay later on in life. Do be careful when you’re out doing your weekly shop though. Have a close look at food labels because many of them contain more sugar than you think. “No added sugar” products are guilty of this particular crime! Remember it does not mean sugar-free.

If in doubt, technology can again guide you in the right direction. The Change4Life Food Scanner app is designed to show you how much sugar, fat and salt is inside your food and drink. All you’ve got to do is scan the barcode.

Those are our ABCs for helping children maintain fantastic oral health. If you would like more information please go to the "Your oral and dental health" section of our website.