Dr. Agnes, Pediatric Dentist at The Children’s Medical Centre, offers dental tips and tricks for kids on how to maintain terrific teeth.
How many times a year it is recommended that kids should visit the dentist?
Many parents have a tough time judging how much dental care their kids need. They know they want to prevent cavities, but they don’t always know the best way to do so. Dentists now recommend that children see a dentist for the first time by their first birthday. Children should then see the dentist every six months. Some dentists may schedule interim visits for every three months when the child is very young to build up a comfort and confidence level or to treat a developing problem.
What does a typical check up involve?
Many first visits are nothing more than introductory icebreakers to acquaint your child with the dentist and the practice. The first session often lasts between 15 and 30 minutes and may include a gentle examination with a mirror of the teeth, jaw, bite, to monitor growth and development. If indicated, a gentle cleaning, which includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar build up or stains.
What is the most common problem that kids visiting the dentist experience?
There are a number of problems including tooth decay, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and early tooth loss. Even though baby teeth are eventually replaced with permanent teeth, some primary (or baby) teeth will be in your child’s mouth until the age of 12. Broken teeth or teeth that are infected can hurt your child’s health and the way your child feels about him or herself.
How do you deal with kids who are terrified of visiting the dentist?
My first rule is not to do anything on the first visit when the child is apprehensive or scared. We have to be aware that from a child’s point of view, a trip to the dentist can be a scary event – lying on a chair in an unfamiliar room filled with unfamiliar noises and objects, all while a stranger is poking cold, metallic, and unusual instruments in his or her mouth.
We use that first visit to get to know the child, evaluate behaviour that will help determine the best approach to take for future necessary treatments, assess the child’s dental needs, and help gain his or her confidence in the doctor and staff.
And at the end of the check up, comes the most difficult part of the visit: picking up a prize and choosing between the different stickers and tattoos - and trust me, this can sometimes take more time than the check up itself!
Are there any wallet-friendly products or homemade formulas kids can use to keep their teeth clean and sparkly?
The problem we are facing with homemade toothpaste formulas is that most of them contain baking soda. A major disadvantage of baking soda is that it is slightly abrasive to the teeth’s enamel. As children’s teeth are more fragile and there is a continuous growing process in a child’s mouth, it makes these toothpastes not suitable for children.
What we have to keep in mind, is that it’s essential to use toothpaste that is specific for children.
The concern parents have about toothpaste is the need of fluoride in the toothpaste. While a little fluoride is a good thing for your child’s teeth, swallowing too much of it over time can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which can cause white spots to show up on your child’s adult teeth. This is why it’s important not to use too much toothpaste, especially before your child learns how to rinse and spit it out.
What top tips you can offer to parents to maximise the appearance of kids’ teeth at home?
When you start introducing the brushing, make it a family session, as kids like to imitate their older brother or sisters. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day, evening time being the most important one. Tell your little one that teeth like sleeping in a clean mouth. Remember that brushing should last a minimum of two minutes! To avoid your child getting bored with brushing, choose one of his favourite songs, and let him brush until the song is finished. At the age of six, start using a fluoride mouthwash: a very efficient and safe way to prevent dental caries. Until the age of eight, you should still supervise their brushing. They need your help with their brand new permanent teeth. These ones need to last forever!
What foods or drinks should parents avoid giving kids to maintain healthy teeth?
Avoid eating sugary sweets or sugary snacks. In between meals, drink only plain milk and water; these are the only safe drinks for children’s teeth. Remember that even juice labelled ‘no added sugar’ still contains fruit sugars which can be harmful to kids’ teeth. If you offer your child juices, restrict these to mealtimes only. Avoid carbonated fizzy drinks. Don’t give babies a bottle containing milk, formula or juice in bed; remember ‘fed then bed’, not the other way around!