February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! In honor of the occasion, we sat down with Dr. Kiley Boss from our South Jordan practice to answer some questions around oral health in children.
At what age should children begin seeing a dentist?
I like to start seeing children when they turn one. I like to start with just a happy visit to introduce them to the dental office and team members and to get them comfortable with the office surroundings. It is also a good opportunity to talk with parents about stopping bad habits earlier rather than later, such as going to bed with a bottle or using binkies.
Does it really matter how children treat their baby teeth since they will eventually lose them anyway?
Yes, absolutely it does! Problems with baby teeth can affect the development of permanent teeth. Whether it be an infected baby tooth, a baby tooth that is lost early because of too much decay, or just cavities, these things can all affect the way permanent teeth develop and erupt. Also, it is so much easier to start good habits young instead of trying to change bad habits when the children are older.
What is the best way to keep my child’s mouth clean before teeth come in?
With my own children, I have always used a regular children’s toothbrush without toothpaste, even before they get teeth. It’s good for their gums and when you use a toothbrush at a younger age it becomes part of their routine even before they get their first tooth.
Are thumb-sucking and pacifier habits harmful to teeth?
Yes, they can be. They can interfere with the development of the palate and prevent full eruption of the teeth causing an anterior open bite. This can lead to major orthodontic treatment in the future. Also, they can act as a harbor for bacteria and prevent proper cleansing of the teeth.
What is the biggest cause of cavities in children?
In my opinion, based on what I have seen in my office, it is parents not educating their children enough and letting them brush their own teeth at too early of an age. Two, three, four, even five year olds don’t have the manual dexterity needed to brush their teeth adequately, nor do they have the cognitive ability to understand how thoroughly their teeth need to be brushed.
How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Teach them to brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day. You should still be helping your children brush their teeth when they are young. At about 6 years old you should still be checking their teeth after they brush to make sure they are doing an adequate job of brushing the plaque off their teeth.
How do I know which kind of toothpaste to give my child? Is it safe to use one that has fluoride?
You want to use a toothpaste that has fluoride. This is very important in the prevention of cavities. Don’t let your child use a fluoridated toothpaste until they can reliably spit the toothpaste out and not swallow any of it.
When should children begin brushing their own teeth?
In my opinion, at age 6 they can start brushing their own teeth with lots of observation and coaching in the beginning. I would also recommend checking their teeth after they brush every time to make sure they are doing it properly.
What should I do if my child has a toothache?
Go see your dentist so he or she can diagnose the cause of the tooth ache. It could be something urgent like an abscessed tooth or it could just be pressure from new permanent teeth coming in, but a proper diagnosis is the only way to know.
If you could only provide one piece of advice for parents when it comes to their children’s teeth, what would it be?
Teach them at an early age the importance of taking care of their teeth by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. And don’t let them brush their own teeth without supervision at too early of an age. Bad habits are hard to break.
Learn more about Dr. Kiley Boss by clicking here.