Pediatric dentistry: part 1 – FAQs

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(photo taken with iphone…snapping a pic with my nice camera during our morning routine is wishful thinking…)

If there’s one thing I know for certain about parenthood it is that it is a constant learning process. I honestly feel like I learn something new every single day whether it be through other moms, mom blogs, or personal experience. There seem to be “experts” on almost every single subject when it comes to raising kids, but the one topic that I feel is a huge unknown to a lot of moms is dentistry. What should we be doing as a parent? When do we start brushing our kiddo’s teeth? When should our little one have their first dental visit? So. Many. Questions.

Well, have no fear because today is part one of my pediatric dentistry series! My cousin and best friend, Dr. Erika Eaton, is the Program/Clinic Director at OU Medical Center/Children’s Hospital and is here to help answer all of our questions! Dr. Eaton received her undergraduate degree from Baylor University and her DDS degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. What I love about Erika is that she has a wealth of knowledge and experience on this subject coupled with a realistic view of motherhood. I find myself constantly going to her with questions about Emma Grace and thought you all might like to hear some of her advice. Today is part 1: FAQs and be sure to stay tuned next week for part 2: parental tips.

Common Questions Parents Have for Pediatric Dentists:

  1. When should my child have their first dental visit?

The AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) recommends that every child visit the dentist when the first tooth appears or by the child’s first birthday. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a child visit the dentist by age one as well. When does one plus one equal zero? One baby tooth + One pediatric dental visit = ZERO cavities.

  1. What does the first dental visit entail?

First dental visits are mostly educational. This “well check” for the teeth can establish a dental home and helps ensure that parents learn the tools they’ll need to help their children remain cavity free. It also helps your child become more comfortable and familiar with the dental office. It usually consists of a knee/lap exam and home care instructions.

  1. Do you have any tips to help get toddlers to brush their teeth?

Oral B has a manual toothbrush with a free phone app called Disney magic Timer available on the App store and Google play; whatever theme or character is on the toothbrush will have a coordinating song that plays the amount of time your child needs to brush their teeth. Most electric toothbrushes have built in timers or music that plays and some can even light up. Both manual and electric are fine methods, it will just depend on what your beginning brusher prefers or likes better. Some young toddlers have more trouble with an electric toothbrush at first but will eventually get the hang of it or like it later. Also, you can try singing one of your child’s favorite songs and/or having child hum along while they brush if you don’t have a toothbrush that plays music.

  1. When should I start flossing my child’s teeth?

In general, when there are contacts between the teeth (when the teeth are touching), you should start flossing. Some children have spacing between all of their baby teeth, which means a toothbrush and proper brushing would reach all surfaces of the tooth. When the teeth touch each other, there is no way the toothbrush can reach in between the teeth, (hints flossing). Since children do not have the manual dexterity to floss themselves, parents need to do it for them and/or help them.

  1. How many times should my child floss his/her teeth?

If necessary, floss daily. If you have a question about if you need to floss or cannot tell if the teeth have spacing or not, ask your dentist.

  1. How often does my child need to have a pediatric dental visit?

Children need to visit the dentist every 6 months.

  1. How should I clean my baby’s teeth prior to their first visit?

A soft toothbrush can be used to brush the gums before the teeth erupt; or use a cloth with water. If teeth are present, use a soft bristle toothbrush, brush at a 45 degree angle towards the gum in a circular motion. Do not brush the teeth horizontally.

  1. Is it really that important to clean their baby teeth?

Yes, it is very important. Many people have the misconception that because baby teeth fall out, they are not important. Baby teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children to chew naturally and speak properly, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they erupt. A decayed baby tooth can become abscessed and cause pain for a child. Early childhood caries is the most common chronic childhood disease; at this point it is even more prevalent than asthma. Left untreated, dental caries can result in a range of functional impairments that have broad implications for development, growth, performance at school, and relationships.

  1. Are thumb sucking or pacifier sucking bad for my child’s teeth? If so, when should they stop sucking their thumb/pacifier?

AAPD votes for pacifiers over thumbs to comfort new babies in this debate. A pacifier habit is typically easier to break at an earlier age. The earlier a sucking habit is stopped, the less chance the habit will lead to orthodontic problems. Sucking on a thumb, finger, or pacifier is normal for infants and young children and most children stop on their own. If your child does not stop by themselves, the habit should be discouraged after age 3. Thumb, finger and pacifier sucking all can affect the teeth the same way. If your child repeatedly sucks on a finger, pacifier or other object over long periods of time, the upper front teeth may not come in properly or may tip outward. Other changes in tooth position and jaw alignment also may occur. Some oral changes caused by sucking habits continue even after the habit stops. Continued sucking can create crooked teeth or bite problems. Early dental visits provide parents with information to help their children stop sucking habits before they affect the developing permanent dentition. If encouragement from the dentist along with a parent does not work, your dentist may recommend behavior modification techniques or an appliance that serves as a reminder for children who need to stop their habits.

xx – anna