Parents’ Edition: 10 Commonly Asked Questions About Children’s Dental Health
10 June 2022
When should my child’s first visit to the dentist be? Should my baby be using toothpaste?
It is normal for parents to have questions in all areas and stages of their child’s life. After all, parenting is a lifelong journey of learning and exploration.
When it comes to your child’s dental health, it is already known by all parents that good oral care habits should be nurtured from young.
Sometimes it may be a little tough to have a good gauge about what your child’s oral care needs are especially with lots of mixed opinions out there. We understand the challenge and so, we’ve the answers to some common dental health questions that parents might have.
#1 Can cavities among children be prevented entirely?
Some parents might assume that the health of your child’s milk teeth is not really something to worry about until their permanent teeth grow. If this is running in your mind, do know that this is not true.
Cavity prevention and education should take place from the very beginning and this is more so to nurture good oral care habits in your child to help prevent the development of cavities in the future.
Cavities (or tooth decay), is caused by a sticky substance found on the tooth’s enamel known as dental plaque. A combination of food, saliva, acid and bacteria leads to the development of dental plaque. Coupled with poor oral health, dental plaque can affect the tooth enamel and cause the tooth to decay.
Now, the development of cavities cannot be controlled but parents can help their children prevent it. Some important measures to take include:
- Practicing good infant oral care by cleaning your child’s gums gently with a cloth or gauze and water.
- Teaching your child to brush their teeth twice a day with a bristled toothbrush from when their first tooth erupts.
- Using child-friendly toothpaste when brushing teeth.
- Do not allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle of milk, juice or any sweet liquid.
- Avoid consuming high amounts of sugary food and drinks such as juices, candies, cakes and cookies.
#2 How much toothpaste should my child use?
For babies without teeth, the use of toothpaste is not necessary but parents should clean your baby’s gums daily to prevent the build-up of bacteria.
Toothpastes should be incorporated into your child’s oral care routine after his or her first tooth erupts. In the beginning, your child needs just a small amount of child-friendly fluoride toothpaste. You should squeeze only about a rice grain-sized amount.
Of course, as the child grows bigger, more toothpaste is needed. At the age of three, your child may use a slightly larger amount of fluoride toothpaste which should amount to the size of a pea.
Do not worry if your child swallows some toothpaste as small amounts will not cause any harm. When your child is ready, you may also start teaching your child to spit out and gargle.
#3 Why is fluoride not recommended for babies?
It cannot be denied that fluoride is an important ingredient that helps to strengthen your child’s teeth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
Nonetheless, for babies without teeth, the use of fluoride is not recommended as it works best only on teeth enamel. This is why the use of a child-friendly fluoride toothpaste is only recommended after the first tooth has erupted.
There is also a small amount of research indicating that fluoride may be a risk factor for children as it could be linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, more research is required to substantiate this link. As of now, some of the guidelines such as from the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, recommend children to use child-friendly fluoride toothpaste from when a child’s first tooth erupts to help prevent cavities.
#4 Is a silicone toothbrush as good as a nylon bristled toothbrush?
In recent years, parents are given more than one toothbrush option to introduce to their children.
A nylon toothbrush needs no introduction, as it’s probably the most conventional choice among children and adults.
The silicone toothbrush, on the other hand, might not be an option everyone is familiar with. A silicone toothbrush has a rubbery feel to it and is popular among babies and toddlers. It’s effective in helping to clean the teeth and gums of younger children while also gently massaging the gums as your baby or toddler chews into it. This could also help to relieve teething discomfort. The use of a silicone toothbrush can be an option considered for the first three years of a child’s life.
After that, it is recommended that your child transition to a child-size toothbrush with soft nylon bristles as it gently cleans areas in between your child’s teeth more effectively too.
#5 What are dental sealants?
You’ve probably heard a friend talking about dental sealants or you might have read about it in parenting reading materials. Dental sealants are made out of medical-grade resin and are applied to protect your child’s teeth from decay. As some teeth have natural grooves which can make it difficult for a child to clean, applying dental sealants will help to ‘smoothen’ the surface of the teeth and reduce the risk of cavities developing.
During the simple procedure, your child’s dentist will apply a thin coating of dental sealant and bind it to your child’s teeth with the use of the fibre-optic light.
Not to worry, this procedure is non-invasive and generally safe for children. It is not painful nor is any drilling required. Research shows that this protective layer helps to prevent your child’s risk of cavities by 11 to 51 percent.
#6 When should my child’s first visit to the dentist be?
You should schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist after his or her first tooth has erupted and no later than their first birthday.
The reason why regular visits to the dentist are important is not only for a professional to check your child’s oral health but to also get your child familiar with visiting a dentist. Did you know that this healthy practice helps to reduce the chances of developing dentophobia (fear of the dentist) in your child?
Plus, you could make it a fun family affair by getting your teeth and other family members’ teeth checked too!
#7 Does drinking milk at night cause cavities?
This very much depends on the situation. If your child drinks milk from a cup or bottle before bedtime and the day is completed with an oral care routine such as brushing his or her teeth or cleaning the gums, this should not be a cause for concern.
The risk of cavities developing especially along the upper front teeth, increases when milk is given in a bottle during bedtime and your child proceeds to fall asleep shortly after. Also, offering your child flavoured milk can increase the risk of cavities too. This is due to the higher sucrose content found in flavoured milk.
#8 How does thumb sucking affect my child’s oral health?
Thumb sucking is nothing out of the ordinary. Almost every child will suck their thumb during their early years. Also, unlike drinking milk, thumb sucking does not involve any sugary food that might lead to cavities. So, what could the harm be, you may wonder?
Well, in the case of thumb sucking, cavities are not the direct concern but malocclusion is. Occasional thumb sucking typically poses no harm but persistent thumb sucking might.
Malocclusion is the misalignment of the teeth. In the case of thumb sucking, a type of malocclusion known as overbite can happen. The force from persistent thumb sucking can mold the upper jaw to become narrow and the upper teeth to protrude. If left unaddressed, malocclusion can be a cause for several dental concerns such as cavities, an increased risk of gum disease and poor chewing habits that could lead to digestion problems.
#9 Should I be concerned if my child’s milk teeth are misaligned or have gaps?
As parents, it is only natural that you pay close attention to your child’s development and that includes the growth of his or her teeth. A toddler’s teeth can grow in different shapes and sizes and at times, it may not be perfectly aligned or there might be gaps in between.
While it’s natural to worry that your child might have a crooked or imperfect smile, it’s important to also note that if your child has crooked milk teeth, this does not necessarily mean that their permanent teeth will be crooked too. The milk teeth are placeholders that will help in guiding adult teeth when erupting.
Nonetheless, if you are concerned or if you find that your child’s misaligned teeth might be affecting your child’s quality of life, do speak to your child’s dentist about it.
For older children between the ages of 6 to 10, an early orthodontic treatment option known as Invisalign First can help to pave the way for a straighter smile. Invisalign First is a treatment that is suitable for children who have a mix of milk and permanent teeth. The treatment can help with bite issues, make room for existing and incoming permanent teeth as well as correct oral habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.
#10 When can my child start orthodontic treatment?
Perhaps instead of asking “When?”, it might be a better idea to shift the question to “Is my child ready for orthodontic treatment?”
As much as it is commonly believed that the pre-teen and teenage years are the ‘golden years’ to start Invisalign or braces treatment, it’s recommended to have the first orthodontic assessment done by the age of 7.
Some children might start orthodontic treatment during their childhood such as with Invisalign First and some might choose to embark on the journey a little later.
Making regular visits to the dentist will be helpful as your child’s dentist will be able to let you know if your child is ready for orthodontic treatment.
Good dental habits are cultivated at home and at the dentist. A balance of both is necessary for healthier teeth and to prevent dental problems in the future. Schedule an appointment for your child to visit our dentists at i.Dental and during the visit, feel free to ask your child’s dentist if you’ve any questions!