Healthy Kids, Healthy Teeth: Children's Care FAQ
Parents have a lot of questions about children’s teeth. We’ve rounded up the most common concerns and provided you with the answers you need to help raise happier kids with healthier teeth.
I’m confused about fluoride. I know that it’s been proven to decrease dental decay, but I’m worried about what might happen if my kids get too much fluoride.
You’re right. Fluoride has been proven to decrease dental decay. While breast milk and most powders contain safe fluoride levels, adding fluoride-containing water to dry formulations can bring the fluoride content to higher than 1.2 ppm (parts per million), which may lead to brownish discoloration of your child’s teeth. This staining is called fluorosis.
What can I do to make sure there isn’t too much fluoride in our drinking water?
If you use community or well water, take a sample to your local health or state water department to make sure the fluoride content is optimal for your children’s teeth and health.
My child has brown spots on her teeth; should I be concerned?
It is important to see the dentist to determine if this is dental decay, which can also look like brown spots. If excess fluoride is found in your water source and is determined to be the cause of your child’s enamel discoloration, you should correct it with proper water filters or reverse osmosis systems. Correcting fluoride problems now can prevent your kids from having this problem in their secondary or permanent teeth.
When should I first take my child to the dentist?
You should bring your little one to the dentist when her first tooth comes in or by the first birthday. While this may vary slightly from dentist to dentist, bringing a child in to meet the dentist, experience a ride in the chair and play with a mirror can help build good will later.
How often should I take my child to the dentist?
Dental visits should be performed twice a year to check for cavities, clean your children’s teeth and administer a professional fluoride treatment.
Can I give my child juice at night in his bottle?
No, this will cause their teeth to decay. In fact, never leave any liquid that has sugar, whether it’s milk, juice or cereal, in baby bottles overnight. The dental decay it causes (known as bottle caries) can require dental extractions, pain and infection. It is 100 percent preventable.
Is soda okay for children?
The United States Centers for Disease Control indicates that tooth decay is the most prevalent infectious disease affecting children today, and sugar from drinks like soda is a major cause. There is no nutritional benefit to soda. It causes tooth decay, obesity and hyperactivity, and you should avoid if for as long as possible. Teach your kids that it is a “dessert” or special treat, and have them brush, floss and use fluoride after they drink it. The bubbles in soda, carbonic acid, can also lead to dissolution of the enamel on teeth. Even sugar-free sodas are bad for teeth.
How about sports drinks?
Sports drinks are basically soda without the bubbles. They usually contain sugar, caffeine and taurine. The only time these drinks may be beneficial is when your student-athlete is involved in intense physical activity for hours with profuse sweating that can lead to a loss of electrolytes.
What should my child be drinking?
Children should primarily be drinking milk and water, period! Even juices should be used in moderation because they are calorie-laden and sugar-rich and will also lead to tooth decay when over-consumed.
How should I clean my infant’s teeth?
Use soft cloths to gently wipe the teeth twice daily. Use children’s toothpaste that will have gentle abrasives without fluoride to begin cleaning debris off of the teeth. Only use fluoride toothpaste once your child can spit the toothpaste out of their mouths.
When can my child brush her own teeth?
Children can brush on their own as soon as they display an interest. However, you should still oversee the cleaning until they’re about 10 years old. Until they are 10, they don’t have the manual dexterity, and having a parent “double check” the flossing and brushing will ensure all teeth are properly cleaned.
What time should we brush and floss?
It’s a good idea to brush and floss at night before your children go to sleep to avoid any food or debris left on the teeth overnight. During sleep, saliva decreases, so there’s not enough of it to protect teeth from the acid of food left between the teeth. As well, teeth should be brushed after breakfast in the morning.
My child’s teeth look crooked. Should I be worried?
While it is possible that there will be a problem with crowding of teeth or spaces, these things may resolve themselves as skeletal and dental growth continue. The dentist can examine your children’s teeth to determine if there is a skeletal growth problem or just a dental problem. Usually orthodontic or orthopedic correction with appliances or braces won’t be started until the child’s front four incisors are erupted in the upper and lower arch or around age 6 or 7.
My child is scared of going to the dentist. What can I do?
Children usually mirror what they see from their parents. So, if you talk negatively about the dentist or past dental experiences, your child may act out on these emotions. Avoid giving your kids scripts, or using anxiety-producing language that can scare them from going to the dentist. If you have extreme fear and anxiety, seek help if possible from a qualified therapist or psychologist.
Why won’t the dentist let me come into the treatment room with my child?
Most dentists do not want the child to play off the parent and receive negative cues during the visit. Allowing the pediatric dentist to develop a personal relationship with your child can make all the difference in terms of how your kids view going to the dentist.
If you insist on being with the child in the room, it is important to stay quiet and supportive so that the dentist can help the child with dialogue and technique that will be formative and nurturing for their dental experiences. If you are supportive, it can give a child the confidence to face their dental visits and empower them to enjoy it throughout their lives.
It’s a big task, but you are responsible for your kids’ teeth. Emphasizing good nutrition as well as proper dental home care will help build the habits that keep their teeth healthy for life. Your child will only drink what you buy. If you don’t buy the drinks and foods that are detrimental to their health, they won’t consume them at a young age, and they will learn to love the healthy alternatives you do provide.