Did you know that February is “Children’s Dental Health Month.” In honor of that we are posting a blog on...you guessed it – Children’s Dental Health! We are going to cover when your child should see the dentist and how often, oral hygiene habits, and preparing for your dental appointments.
This is a great question and the definitive answer from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that a child be seen no more than 6 months after the appearance of their first tooth or by their first birthday whichever comes first. This sets the child up for long term good overall dental health. By starting at a young age and doing “Happy Visits” which is a visit filled with praise, prizes, and positive dental experiences, the child will be have less dental fear or anxiety and have more motivation to care for their teeth.
This early visit also help parents with guidance and instruction on healthy home habits. There is a lot that goes into keeping kids mouths healthy that go beyond twice daily brushing and flossing. Many children develop habits that may be detrimental to their future oral health. Some of these habits include thumb sucking, pacifier use past age two, tongue thrusting, open mouth postures and chewing objects to name a few. Early visits can help parents be aware of these habits and allows the dentist to teach and coach parents on ways they can prevent them.
Its very simple in theory and very hard in practice – If children brush their teeth twice daily with ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once per day they will be set on the right path for healthy teeth long term. Oral hygiene habits are paramount and parents can plan on being directly involved for at least the first 8 years. Children before 8 years old do not typically have the dexterity and the focus to properly brush all surfaces of their teeth. A simple “Go Brush Your Teeth” is often not enough for proper plaque removal. This can lead to gingivitis and cavities.
The other side of healthy teeth is a healthy diet. Sugar and Acid are the two things that increase the risk of tooth decay. The biggest two sources of sugar and acid in a child’s diet is candy or sweets and soda or sports drinks. Candy, especially sticky candies (gummies, taffies, Skittles, Starburst, etc) get caught in the grooves of teeth and in between teeth and feed bacteria that causes cavities. Soda and Sports Drinks are filled with sugar and typically have a pH (Acid Level) around 3.0 – Our teeth begin to breakdown at pH 5.0. On the pH scale 3.0 is 100x more acidic than our teeth can take. Along with the acid there is significant amounts of sugar. If you child does have candy or soda its not the end of the world. They key is to eat it or drink it quickly (Less than 15 minutes) and drink water and swish vigorously afterward to clear the acid and sugar from the mouth.
Please don’t ever threaten your child with going to the dentist as a consequence or punishment for bad behavior or bad diet. Along that same line don’t say the four letter “S” word- you know SH*T. SHOT don’t say SHOT! to your child. We work very hard with children to keep their fear at bay and if a parent says the “S” word it makes it a lot harder to gain your child’s trust and confidence. The way you feel and speak about the dentist can be sensed by your child and they will mimic you. If you treat going to the dentist as a positive experience, where they will have Praise, Prizes, and Positive dental experiences then that is what they will expect, and that is what they will experience.