I’m so excited to have the opportunity to work with Fairfield Moms this year and even more excited that my first blog post here happens to coincide with National Children’s Dental Health Month! My dental practice, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry, offers dental care for the whole family, including kids. Below, I’ll answer some of the most common questions I hear from parents about their children’s dental health.
When should a child start going to the dentist?
The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that children start seeing the dentist by the age of 12 months, or within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth. These early dental visits are important because they allow your child to become familiar with their dentist and the process of having their teeth examined and cleaned. It also gives us the opportunity to make sure your child’s teeth are erupting as they should and answer any questions you might have about caring for your little one’s smile.
There are so many different products and tips available online! How do you brush a baby or toddler’s teeth?
It’s certainly incredible the number of toothbrushes and toothpastes available for babies these days! You don’t need to invest in a pricy toothbrush and toothpaste to get the job done right, though. Before your child’s teeth erupt, I recommend using a clean wet washcloth to rub their gums in the morning and at night, after their last bottle of the day. This keeps the mouth healthy and gets babies used to the feeling of brushing.
When their first tooth (or two—because they often come in twos!) erupts, switch to a soft-bristled or silicone infant toothbrush and brush their teeth twice a day with a dab of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. (Note that the recommendation to use non-fluoride toothpaste for the first few years has recently changed.)
How often should children see the dentist?
Children should see the dentist every 6 months for comprehensive oral evaluations and dental cleanings.
Since baby teeth fall out anyway, do cavities really need to be filled?
In decades past, primary (or baby) teeth were simply regarded as placeholders until the secondary teeth came in, so many people didn’t give much thought to their health. These days, we know better so we do better—cavities that are left untreated can cause pain, nutritional issues due to difficulty eating, and other oral health problems. Primary teeth that are extracted rather than restored with a filling or crown can leave kids susceptible to orthodontic issues and impact speech development.
In short, yes, cavities do need to be filled, but we have technology to make the process trauma-free. (Read on to learn more about that!)
Why does my child get so many cavities when they brush everyday?
There are a few reasons why kids might get cavities even if they brush. First, many simply don’t brush well—they may be too young to understand how to brush, they might not have the manual dexterity to do a good job, or they might want to rush through brushing to play or eat breakfast. The sugar in kids drinks and snacks leaves their teeth vulnerable to decay and the pits and grooves in the chewing surfaces of teeth making it easy for food debris and bacteria to collect.
While we can’t help with all of these issues, one thing we can do is apply dental sealants to your child’s molars. Sealants are fast, affordable, painless, and very effective. Aside from routine dental visits and good oral hygiene habits, they’re one of the best tools we have to protect teeth against cavities.
Why do you recommend fluoride treatments if it’s already in toothpaste and drinking water?
I know that many parents have concerns about fluoride, but it’s been used for decades to protect teeth from decay. The fluoride in drinking water is systemic fluoride—in other words, it’s swallowed, ingested, and distributed throughout the body, including in the blood and saliva. The small amounts of fluoride in saliva essentially bathe your teeth in fluoride all day long.
Toothpaste is a topical application of fluoride. This is just as important as that systemic fluoride, but even the amount of fluoride in toothpaste doesn’t compare to the concentration in professional fluoride treatments at the dentist. Systemic fluoride and topical fluoride from toothpaste and professional treatments are all needed for optimal oral health.
My child’s sports team is requiring every player to have a mouthguard. Can you recommend one?
I tell all of my patients who are involved in athletics—even the adults!—that the best protection available is a custom-fitted mouthguard from the dentist. I’m not just trying to sell a product—there’s been a lot of research on the topic and even the boil-and-bite mouthguards don’t offer the same level of protection as a mouthguard from the dentist. We use superior materials and a completely customized process for maximum comfort and efficacy. Dental injuries can be devastating, time-consuming, and costly to treat, so this simple preventive measure is an investment worth making.
My child is scared to get a dental filling. What can you do to help them?
I think children’s dental anxiety is often misunderstood. For most patients, it’s not the dental filling itself or even the drill that causes them anxiety—it’s the needle. And who can blame them? I even have adult patients who dread that shot before getting a tooth filled!
This is why I use a tool called DentalVibe at my practice. It’s an incredible technology and while I use it for all patients no matter their age, it’s been particularly popular with children (and their parents) because it makes their visits trauma-free. DentalVibe is a handheld device that uses vibrations to eliminate the discomfort of novocaine injections. Essentially, these vibrations confuse the nerves and all that your child will feel is the vibration, not the injection. Most don’t even realize that they’ve had an injection at all! Click here to learn more about DentalVibe.
Schedule an Appointment During National Children’s Dental Month
This month is the perfect time to book a dental check-up for your child! My team would love to welcome you to our office right here in Fairfield. Call us at 203-255-6878 to schedule an appointment.