Pediatric Dentistry: How to Ensure Healthy Teeth for Your Children
June 12, 2023 From the ages of two to five, an average of 23.3% of American children have at least one cavity in their baby teeth. Just over 10% of those cavities go untreated. Now, look at children ages six to eight. The number of children with at least one cavity increases to 52.1% and 16.4% of them are untreated. Once the baby teeth loosen and fall out as a permanent tooth comes in, parents need to ensure their child’s permanent teeth are in the best shape possible. Looking at children between the ages of six and eleven, an average of 17.4% of children have at least one cavity in permanent teeth. These are the teeth that have to last a lifetime, so these are the things parents need to ensure their children do to keep their teeth healthy.
Schedule the First Visit When the First Tooth is Visible You want to schedule your child’s first dental visit as soon as a tooth is visible. If your child reaches the age of one and still doesn’t have teeth, schedule a dental visit. For most families, you’ll be going to the dentist by the time a baby is six months. During this visit ask about fluoride. If you have city or town water, fluoride is likely added to the water, and that’s important for protecting the teeth from cavities. If you have a well, fluoride is not common and may need to be prescribed in drops or tablets.
Avoid Sugary Drinks Sugary drinks should be avoided as much as possible. This includes fruit juices as they have natural sugars and can also be acidic. If your child has a glass of fruit juice in the morning, make sure it’s followed with a glass of water to rinse the mouth out. Soda, sports drinks, and sugary drinks in pouches or boxes are best avoided. They may be convenient, but they offer no nutritional value and are one of the biggest causes of tooth decay in children.
Pay Attention to the Foods Your Child Eats Raisins and dried fruits may seem like healthy fruit snacks, but some have added sugar or have sugary coatings. Dried cranberries are an example of dried fruit with added sugar. The yogurt coating on some brands of raisins contains around 12 grams of sugar in just two tablespoons. If your child loves dried fruit, take the time to read the ingredients. If you’ve been feeding your child breakfast cereals with whole grains and dried fruits, ensure the dried fruit isn’t coated in sugar. Candy isn’t great for the teeth. The same is true of items like ice cream, cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats. Make sure your child eats them in moderation and rinses away crumbs with a glass of water after. Instead of having treats like potato chips and candies, look for healthier options like nuts, vegetables, and cheese cubes. Apple slices, bananas, and avocado slices are all good options.
Use a Straw When your child uses a straw, it skips having the beverage of choice hit the front teeth first. Liquids go directly to the back of the mouth, closer to the throat. This can help lower the exposure to acidic beverages like unsweetened iced tea, fruit juice, and water or seltzer that has a slice of lemon or lime for flavoring. There are also flavored seltzers. Make sure it’s plain seltzer if you choose a fruit-flavored option and not a sugar-added version. Consider investing in a soda machine and let your child make seltzer at home. Fill the bottle with water, press the button, and turn the water fizzy in seconds. Your child may drink extra plain seltzer in order to get to use the machine frequently. That’s an excellent way to get your child away from soda and sugary drinks.
Encourage Proper Brushing and Flossing When your child is a baby, use a damp cloth to wipe the teeth and gums twice a day instead of brushing. Once a tooth erupts, it’s a good time to introduce a soft-bristled brush. Use fluoride toothpaste designed for children or ask your dentist for a recommendation. Children should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing their teeth. Make sure they spit it out and don’t swallow. For a baby, use a portion that’s equivalent to the size of a grain of rice. When your child can hold a pencil properly and write, it’s a good time to let your child start brushing without your help. Stay nearby and set a timer for two minutes. You might want to get a rechargeable toothbrush that has an app that tracks how long the child is spending on each quadrant of the mouth. If any teeth are getting less brushing than they should, you’ll know. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day. A good time is an hour after breakfast and right before bedtime. Encourage your child to drink water all day. If that’s difficult, sparkling water (seltzer) may be more appealing because of the bubbles. You want to help your child floss. If it’s causing your child distress, there are hand-held flossers that look a little like a toothbrush and help avoid having to put your fingers in your child’s mouth. A water flosser can be a fun, gentler way to get your child used to flossing. Start with water cleaning between the teeth and work up to normal floss.
Ask About Sealants Once the permanent teeth are in, ask your dentist about sealants. Sealants are a thin plastic coating that’s painted onto the surfaces of premolars and molars to protect against cavities. Bacteria that cause cavities cannot cling to the surface of the tooth. Most insurance plans cover sealants in children 18 or younger. The application of sealants is pain-free. The tooth is cleaned and prepared for the sealant using a gel tooth etching product and making sure the tooth is dry. Once it is, the sealant is painted onto the tooth, much like you’d brush nail polish on a nail. A light or air is used to set the sealant. It’s a procedure that doesn’t take long and typically sealants last nine years if properly applied.
Tips for Choosing a Dentist Are you looking for a Nashville dentist for your child? When choosing a pediatric dentist, look for dentists who are trained in dental anxiety. Children will be nervous going to the dentist, so it helps to have a dentist who knows techniques that help make every appointment fun and stress-free. Aim for dentists who work with children of all ages. Providing dental care to a toddler takes a different skill set, and a dentist who isn’t experienced in dental care for children may not have the patience. Make sure the dentist you choose is just as patient with children as they are with adults. Dr. Jody Jones specializes in dental anxiety. He and his team work with patients of all ages and can help your child get used to dental exams and check-ups without stress and anxiety. Going to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary, and Jody Jones DDS is here to show your children how taking care of their teeth is a rewarding experience.