Parenting Fails #1 Toothbrushing - Are you sure you are getting it right???

children colgate dentist teeth

Found out I am failing as a parent this week - Tooth brushing horror! 

So back last year we went to the dentist and were told Lilbit had to have a filling, which she had after prying her mouth open and promising her a toy as a reward BUT only a few months later a painful abscess popped up and she had to have the tooth removed (this was an interesting experience for all involved..children apparently hate large needles coming anywhere near them, especially to the inside of their mouth which already hurts like hell) see the damage had already been done to the tooth and gum before she had the filling, all that had done was delay the inevitable!

The dentist gave me advice and asked about her diet...its GREAT I said she has hardly any crap (forgetting about the weekend just gone where we ate popcorn and ice-cream and sweets during family movie night)  You see I always gave her sugar free things when she was small and I never have squash in the house (well OK....maybe sometimes but its not a regular occurrence as I knew it was bad) so in my head I was pretty much doing everything the dentist said already.  Nevertheless, myself and Lilbit went home empowered by the advice the dentist gave us and we started off really well..............

But what I had not realised months down the line is that we had stopped doing really well and I had stopped monitoring the tooth brushing as I thought she was 'doing it right now'!  I took my eye off the ball - ill blame the pregnancy - it gets blamed for everything else! 

So fast forward to the weekend just gone and Lilbit is in tears and she has a tooth ache so knowing what happened before I book an emergency appointment at the dentist the very next day!  The hubby takes her as I am down the road getting flu and whooping cough jabs and acting like a right baby for the nurse and while I am sat there getting five minutes rest reading a magazine (honestly the nurse told me to sit there in case I had a reaction I wasn't just hiding out in the waiting room) I get some messages:

"Erin is refusing to let the dentist give her an injection",

"She wont let the dentist do anything"

"She wont open her mouth"

"Dentist has given her a filing, you have to go back with her in a couple of weeks to take the tooth out"

I am like OMG! I cannot believe this has happened again....I am so careful....we eat so well, I always watch her do her teeth.....Then I think about it more.......Have we been eating well?? Do i watch her brush every night?  Really do i???  I may have been convincing myself a little too much that I was doing enough.......

So they get home and its the same story as before, she has a cavity in her tooth causing her pain and they have filled it in as she would not let them take it out (she clearly remembers the last time all too vividly) and she has to go back in a few weeks to see whats happening..but it will have to come out...most probably at the dental hospital if she refuses to let the dentist near her again! 

So what are the main reasons for this happening: 

Too much sugar!

Not enough brushing time!

So I have vowed to change our ways and get this sorted out now before she has to have ALL her remaining baby teeth removed!

The first thing we have put in place is a visual sand timer for them to use when brushing their teeth so there is no guessing on the time being taken and they have something to focus on like a game...everything is better when it is like a game!

Secondly to ensure that she knows HOW to brush her teeth by being with her and explaining where she may have missed bits - I think as parents we forget children need to be reminded of many things along the way...this is one of those things!! Just because they do it well in front of you a few times does not mean this will continue...repetition is key, as with all learning!

After the outcome of this appointment I did a video explaining what had happened and how I am going to be using sand timers to get this part right! 

3 Minutes each time! Remember this!! If you do not take anything else away from the blog post! 3 Minutes - its not long and could save a lot of pain and upset in the future!

And finally to ensure your not entering this parenting fail realm anytime soon take the advice from the professionals that we have spoken to and try and get it right! 

Below is advice from dental nurses we have spoken to so that we can all be reminded of how we can take the power back and help ensure our children do not end up losing teeth too soon! (we want them to stay in for as long as they should and allow the children to know how to look after the adult teeth once its time for them to come through too!)


1. Give sugary treats on a weekend only or if they have to have them, have them with a meal so it’s all in one hit of sugary treats - Keep sweets and chocolate to a minimum.

2. Drink water or milk only and if having fruit juice do this at meal times only

3. Clean teeth twice a day do not rinse toothpaste so the fluoride stays on their teeth for protection.  

(Our own dentist recommended this toothpaste which you can normally find on offer when you shop around:  Colgate Kids Maximum Cavity Protect)

4. Use a fluoride child friendly mouthwash inbetween cleaning for added protection. 

5. Regular 6 monthly checkups at the dentist to ensure you catch any issues before they get out of hand (lets face it life gets in the way but I am starting to realise that this is something we need to get in the diary, so have a look if you have not had a check up in a while give the Dentist a call)


Did you know that the super easy snack of raisins is one of the worst culprits when it comes to being bad for your teeth, actually dried fruits in general are the worst culprits!

And lets face it we all know what's bad for our teeth, crisps, biscuits, sweets, cake, chocolate (I expect wine is too!) but it's the way we eat them causes tooth decay.

NICE guidelines state our mouths should have no more than 4 acid attacks a day so in theory if we all ate 3 meals a day we wouldn't have a problem with decay, what happens with children is they snack and pick at food and the grazing of recurrent food going into their mouths leads to decay!

So what needs to happen:  if a child wants a cake give the cake to them for a pudding straight after a meal or if they have a packet of crisps, they need to eat them all in go and not snack on them all afternoon! 

Try and limit the amount of snacks children have and as in the five top tips, limit sweets and treats to weekends

Another bad one is when children drink squash all day and takes sips of it throughout the day the teeth can't handle it, to stop this they should be given squash only at meal times and water in between (giving water is so important anyway as we all know as adults we need to drink more of it so lets give the kids a good start by getting them used to drinking water throughout the day and other drinks as one offs!) 

Another thing some dentists (including my own) recommend is eating cheese after meals as this neutralises the acid left by food.

Replace sugary snacks with food such as cheese, crackers and tiredness means I can literally only think of these three examples! 

I know all of this sounds achievable and most of us think we do all of this already - I did - but when I sat down and had a good think about it I realised I had become lazy with it and liked to give treats to the children alot more than I remember getting when I was a child myself! 

Small steps will make big changes! And maybe stop large dental bills.....



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  • Hayley on

    An extra tip from my dentist, don’t brush teeth soon after drinking fruit juice, thinking it prevents acid damage. The acid will have softened the tooth enamel which you can then damage by brushing. Better to wait 45mins so that the acid has been neutralised.
    I also read that a dry mouth is more prone to bacteria and so sipping water frequently helps.
    Cow’s milk is good for its calcium content, which contributes to strong teeth, however if you check the packaging you will see it is naturally sweet, less good for the teeth.
    At least all this learning is happening before the adult teeth come through XxX

  • Julie hawkins on

    These tips are so useful to all of us!!
    Even when we’ve brought up our own children, when Grandchildren come along, we all need the right advice from the experts!!
    Love reading your tips xx

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