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Looking After Children’s Teeth in the Early Years

There are lots of ways we can support children to have the best start in life and looking after their teeth is one way. Tooth decay is largely preventable, yet it remains a serious problem as a quarter of 5 year olds have tooth decay with on average 3 to 4 affected teeth.

Early Years settings play a huge role in supporting families and children to develop an understanding of how to look after their teeth and reduce the risk of dental caries.

Here at Early Start we recently ran a National Smile Month competition where we encouraged early years setting to promote the following key messages to children and families:

  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste (once before bedtime and once during the day)
  • Brushing should start as soon as the first tooth appears and children should be supervised up to the age of seven
  • Take children to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears and go as often as their dentist recommends
  • Have a meal routine in place for children and offer food and drinks that are tooth friendly.Winners Hamper

During National Smile Month we encouraged settings to be creative and to involve the children and their parents as much as possible. We were overwhelmed with the response and were happy to see so many early years settings working hard to reduce children’s risk of dental caries!

The winner of our competition was Alphabet House Nursery – Windmill Lane.

Well done to the whole setting and to the children and their families for getting involved! The setting used a range of resources and activities to ensure oral health messages are embedded in the setting. We’re delighted to share some of the fantastic examples of best practice from Alphabet House Nursery and hope they will inspire other settings.

Week 1: Create a an eye-catching display

The nursery developed a display that clearly highlights the importance of maintaining good oral health for children and adults. Their display uses a range of resources from the nutrition team and local dental practices. It is interactive and eye catching with useful top tips to take home. The display encourages conversation with parents on a daily basis.

Week 2: Run an activity session with children:

The nursery talked to children about brushing their teeth twice a day for 2 minutes and how to do so. They made mouth mats and used toys to show the children how to clean their teeth. The activities were adapted based on the age of the children.

Activity with childrenWeek 3: Run a practical activity with children and families:

The setting highlighted healthy, tooth friendly drink and snack choices by asking the children to sort food that is good for their teeth vs. which are not. This was a really good activity to encourage children’s learning and understanding and a great way to talk about food choices. The nursery also ran a competition asking parents to create healthy snacks with their children at home. This is a great way to support parents to promote these messages at home with the children. They are now using the recipes as books which will make sure key message are continued beyond National Smile Month.

Week 4: Promote the dentist and how often you should visit the dentist:

Children playing

Special Mention:The setting role played a visit to the dentist and all the children had the opportunity to take a closer look at teeth. The creation of ‘Mr Croc’ the patient, showed imagination and supported children’s learning. Overall it created a positive experience of what a visit to the dentist might look like.

We would also like to give a special mention to the following settings who showcased a range of interactive and informative sessions with the children and families across National Smile Month.

Plaistow Children’s Centre

Alphabet House – East Ham

Newtec Cumberland Road

Thanks to everyone who took part in our competition and for putting oral health on the agenda across their settings!

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