Below are some of the commonly asked questions we receive regarding children’s dental health. Simply click the question to reveal the answer. We hope this is a useful resource to you!
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- The Importance of Primary Teeth
While they can seem “disposable” as kids will eventually lose them, primary teeth, commonly known as “baby teeth,” are vital to your children’s dental and oral health. Proper maintenance must be a priority! Primary teeth play a crucial role in properly chewing food, and they also provide space and correct positioning for the permanent teeth. The primary teeth also allow for healthy development of the muscles of mastication as well as the jawbone. What’s more, healthy primary teeth play a large role in your child’s ability to develop proper speech patterns and correct pronunciation.
Did You Know? Although the front four primary teeth last until about 6 or 7 years of age, a child’s back primary teeth usually stay in-place until 11 or 12 years old!
- At What Age Should I Start Brushing My Child’s Teeth?
Oh my! Your baby’s first tooth has surprisingly arrived! What do you do?
Once this happens, it’s time to introduce a daily brushing routine. A pea-size dot of fluoride toothpaste should be incorporated once your child is old enough to know not to swallow it. Between ages 5 and 6, children should have the ability to brush their teeth twice daily as you supervise them. After your child reaches the age of 8 or 9, ensure that they can properly and thoroughly brush their teeth on their own. During the course of your child’s check-up appointments , Dr. Callen will speak with you regarding your child’s ability to brush their teeth on their own, and she is pleased to offer further advice if necessary.
- Correct Brushing and Flossing Skills for Your Child
Proper brushing technique eliminates plaque build-up from the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of your child’s teeth. When instructing your child how to correctly brush his or her teeth, demonstrate proper placement of the toothbrush by using a soft-bristled brush and setting it at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Begin to gently brush along the gum line in a circular motion – then proceed to brush the outer surface of the upper and lower teeth. Repeat this method on the interior surfaces and chewing areas of the teeth.
Pro Tip: Before finishing, brush the tongue! This will help remove bacteria, resulting in both a cleaner mouth and fresher breath!
Should my child floss?
Flossing reduces plaque build-up in between teeth in areas that a toothbrush normally is unable to reach. Practically speaking, introduce your child to flossing once any two teeth begin to touch. We recommend flossing your children’s teeth until they are able to complete the task on their own. Using traditional floss can be a challenge, but incorporating a floss holder can make this a much more pleasant and easy process for your child and you as well.
Pro Tip: Be sure to floss all your child’s teeth, including the surfaces on the back four teeth in your child’s mouth. These can be somewhat difficult to reach and are often missed.
- Proper Diet = Healthy Teeth!
As you can probably imagine, a steady diet of candy, treats and sugar-loaded drinks is NOT the best scenario for the dental health of your child!
Healthy eating habits directly affect the health of your child’s teeth. Just like the rest of your child’s growing body, bones, teeth and soft tissues of the mouth require well-balanced diet. We recommend children eat a range of foods from the five major food groups.
Most snacks, treats and sugar-coated candies lead to the formation of cavities. Remember, the more junk food and unhealthy foods your child consumes, the greater the chance of tooth decay.
Did you know that the length of time food stays in the mouth plays a major role in the prevention or encouragement of cavities? Take hard or sticky candy for example. These stay in the mouth a substantial length of time, and this can lead to prolonged acid attacks on the tooth enamel. Staying away from these types of long-staying foods can also increase dental health.
Assist your children by offering them nutritious snacks such as low-fat yogurt, vegetables and even low-fat cheese, all of which are healthier and promote your child’s dental health.
Pro Tip: Many people equate “healthy” with “boring,” but this doesn’t have to be the case. Try to find sweet yet healthy alternatives to sugary snacks and keep these in your home for snack time. There are a variety of sweet snack foods available without having to take a trip down the candy aisle.
- Preventing Cavities in Young Children’s Teeth
Cavity prevention is important even for infant children. To clean your infant’s teeth, use a wet washcloth or wet gauze to gently wipe the plaque from the gums and teeth. A child should never be put to bed with a bottle filled with anything but water, as other beverages can contribute to the development of Early Childhood Caries, also known as “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.”
We recommend scheduling check-up appointments with Dr. Callen twice yearly once your child is one year old. This schedule ensures your child is off to a great start for healthy check-ups through their childhood years and into adulthood!
- What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Many parents are unaware of a serious form of tooth decay in infants, babies and young children known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. This can occur when your young child’s teeth are exposed to sugary liquids for long periods of time. Even liquids like breast milk, fruit juice and formula contain notable levels of sugar. Prolonged exposure to these and other sugary liquids can encourage the development of cavities.
If you put your baby down at night or even for a nap and give him or her bottle as a comforter, think before you do this: are you giving them a bottle containing any amount of sugar? Since the child is lying, the sugary liquid will be even more likely to pool around the child’s teeth, enhancing the opportunity for plaque to produce the acid attacks that break down tooth enamel.
A good rule of thumb – have teeth brushing as the last step in the prep-for-bed routine each night. This is a simple, practical way to ensure sugar is eliminated from the mouth, along with the increased risk of tooth decay.
- What Is the Best Type of Toothpaste for My Child?
Ask this question of any doctor or dentist, and you will receive a wide range of answers. But one thing is clear: your choice of toothpaste should be carefully decided based on what’s both effective and safe for your child. Select a toothpaste approved by the ADA (American Dental Association) to ensure it has been thoroughly tested and it is safe to use.
If you have children under 2 years old, use a rice grain size of fluoride toothpaste if recommended by Dr. Callen, or non-fluoride toothpaste. Once the child reaches the 2-5 age range, a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used.
Always encourage your child to spit toothpaste following brushing as this minimizes toothpaste swallowing.
- Facts About Teething
Teething can create minor discomfort in the gums as the teeth begin to appear, as well as irritability and an increase in saliva. That said, most children don’t suffer major difficulties during this time.
If your child is teething, you have a variety of options to help ease their discomfort – using oral analgesics can provide relief, as can chilled teething rings that your child can “gum.”
You may have seen over the counter teething gels, but we discourage these because of the potential of toxicity these products can create in infants.
If your child is displaying signs or symptoms more severe than apparent irritability or mild discomfort, we recommend contacting your pediatrician.
- Thumb Sucking
Most children suck their fingers or thumbs from a very young age, and most of them grow out of it by age three without causing permanent damage to their mouth or teeth.
If your child continues thumb sucking as permanent teeth start to come in, we recommend proactively helping your child break this habit. The reason: sucking of fingers or thumbs beyond age 3 can begin to affect the teeth, mouth and even face shape, and it can require orthodontic correction at a later age.
How Can I Help My Child Break This Habit?
If you have a child whom you need to help break a finger- or thumb-sucking habit, here are some tips:
– Stay positive and be supportive at all times. Rather than punishing your child for sucking his thumb, congratulate and praise when your child does not.
– Place a Band-Aid on your child’s thumb or even a sock over his or her hands at bedtime. Reassure them that you are not punishing, it’s simply a way to help them remember not to suck their fingers.
– Chart your child’s progress on a posted piece of construction paper or poster board. Allow your child to place a sticker or a star each day they refrain from thumb sucking. After a straight week of stars, your child can choose a prize – a small toy, a day at the zoo, etc. After a month of no thumb sucking, the reward becomes larger. At this point, the habit should be broken as you have made your child an active participant in his treatment.
– If you find your child is sucking his thumb due to anxiety, focus your attention on eliminating the anxiety-causing activity or atmosphere vs. focusing solely on the thumb sucking habit.
– Note any particular times your child has a tendency for sucking his thumb (while reading a book, during long car rides, while watching movies) and make it a point to create a diversion during these times
However you choose to help your child break the thumb sucking habit, continually remind yourself that your child needs the understanding and positive encouragement during the process. If these recommendations do not work for you, Dr. Callen is happy to discuss other options with you.
- When is it Best for My Child to Have Orthodontic Care?
“Bad Bites,” also known as malocclusions, arise over time and are seen in kids as young as age 2-3. Even at this young age, parents can take steps to reduce the possibility that significant orthodontic treatment will be required at a later age. Remember, it’s never too early to start monitoring the oral development of your child.
During your child’s visits to the dentist, Dr. Callen can identify “bad bites”, which often display as crooked or crowded teeth or even misaligned bites. Upon noting these, Dr. Callen may refer you to a trusted orthodontic specialist for further assessment. Every child’s need in regard to orthodontics is different, and because of this referrals can vary greatly by age.
- Other Topics for Your Child’s Smile Healthy
Dr. Callen wants to ensure you are completely aware and in-the-know of how to take excellent care of your child’s teeth. You are welcome to speak with Dr. Callen or any of our knowledgeable team members if you have any questions about your child’s dental health.