Your Children's Dental Health Questions Answered by a Pediatric Dentist
We asked Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Jordan Virden, to answer the most common questions she gets from parents regarding their children’s dental health. Here's what she had to say!
At what age should my child first see a dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the first dental visit by the first tooth or first birthday to begin establishing a dental home!
I recommend this time-frame for the first visit for several reasons.
Even though your child may only have a few teeth, it is important to have an initial exam and get your questions answered about your child's dental health and home care.
At the first visit (and subsequent visits) your child's dentist will talk about important topics such as, how to brush, diet, habits, accident prevention, and so much more.
- The dentist will also look at the teeth and soft tissues.
Children can start to get cavities once the teeth start coming in so having an initial visit around age 1 helps to set your child up for a lifetime of good oral health!
What are your top tips to teach kids how to brush their teeth?
This is a great question!
I think allowing your child to have an opportunity to "play" brush when they are little is a great way to introduce brushing! It is important for parents and caregivers to be the main "brushers" until children are older around age 7-9 depending on their dexterity and ability to brush.
Here are a few tips to teach brushing:
- Mirror correct brushing for your child, they really look up to you so watching you brush can help them learn.
- Give children time to practice and get used to holding the toothbrush. Emphasize moving the toothbrush around the teeth and brushing the tongue.
- Have children take a turn brushing first then follow up to "check" and go over any missed areas helps children learn how to reach difficult areas.
- You can use plaque finding tablets that dye the plaque a purple/pink color and have them work to brush it away, this really helps children visualize where the plaque is located!
- As children get older you can have them brush on their own in the morning and then do the check system at night, this helps increase their independence, but also allows you to make sure they are doing a good job brushing.
Are there any snacks/drinks you recommend avoiding?
This is a question I get a lot from parents and caregivers. An easy way to think about it is this saying: "Foods/Drinks that are good for the body are good for the teeth." I think giving treats or having special food/drink items for certain occasions is okay, (I like to have a special treat every now and then too!) but the problem comes from having them frequently.
Sticky, chewy, gummy candies are probably the #1 food I would say to avoid! Sticky, chewy, gummy foods get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and can stay there for a long time. The bacteria that live in our mouths use foods that we eat to make acid that can break down tooth structure aka cause cavities! By eating foods that linger on our teeth can increase our risk of cavities.
Juices, sodas, sweetened teas, flavored milk, and other sugary beverages are the main beverages to avoid. These beverages are especially harmful to teeth if they are consumed throughout the day. This is because the teeth are constantly exposed to sugar and/or the acidic nature (soda for example) of these beverages and it can lead to tooth breakdown.
Juice is a tough one because it is commonly marketed as a healthy alternative, but it is important to remember juice offers no nutritional benefit. Whenever possible it is much better to eat the whole fruit. Instead, I recommend water throughout the day. This is another reason why I love KidsLuv drinks because they have 0 sugar and have a flavor that children will like!
What should I do if my child is complaining of tooth pain?
The feeling of tooth pain can stem from many different causes such as teething, infection, cavities, dental trauma, food impaction, among others. Having the tooth pain evaluated by a dentist can help determine the source and what the next steps should be.
If your child is having dental pain try to determine:
- When is the pain happening? When eating? Randomly? Is it waking them up at night?
Where is the pain coming from?
- Does your child have any other symptoms like swelling on the gums/face? Fever? Inability to eat?
- If you can visualize the area that is bothering your child, try to take a picture on your phone. This can help the dentist along with the history.
Once you have gathered this information, call your child's dentist for evaluation.
What's the best piece of advice you can offer parents about their children's dental health?
My biggest piece of advice about children's dental health is even though it can be challenging at times to care for children's teeth, it is so important!
Through brushing, flossing, choosing food/drink options that are good for the teeth, and regularly seeing the dentist parents and caregivers can help prevent dental problems and/or catch them and treat them early.
Baby teeth are so important, they help children eat, smile, and hold the space for the adult teeth.
Dentists, especially pediatric dentists, are here to work with parents and caregivers to help you set your children up for a lifetime of great oral health!
Thank you, Dr. Virden! We really appreciate you answering our pediatric dental health questions.
You can follow Dr. Virden on Instagram at @smallteeth_bigworld and find out more about her here.