FAQs About Dentistry for Kids
Jump to Info About:
- Why Should My Child Have Fluoride?
- How Do I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
- How Does Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?
- What Are Dental Sealants and Why Are They Recommended?
- Are Sports Drinks Bad for My Child’s Teeth?
- What Accommodations Should Be Made for Special Needs Dentistry?
- Can Xylitol Reduce Cavities?
- When Should My Child Wear a Mouth Guard?
Why Should My Child Have Fluoride?
Fluoride is an element which has proven beneficial to teeth, though it must be at proper amount. Minimal to no fluoride will not sufficiently strengthen teeth against cavities. An overabundance of fluoride ingestion by children of pre-school age may lead to dental fluorosis, a chalky white to possibly brown discoloration of permanent teeth. Children often receive more fluoride than their parents realize, so being aware of potential sources can reduce the chances of dental fluorosis.
Fluoride sources include:
- An abundance of fluorinated toothpaste at an early age
- Improper use of fluoride supplements
- Hidden dietary sources of fluoride
Children aged 2 to 3 years old may not be able to sufficiently spit out fluoride toothpaste when brushing. Consequently, these children may end up ingesting a large amount of fluoride during brushing. During this critical period of permanent tooth development, toothpaste ingestion puts children at the highest risk of dental fluorosis.
Excessive intake or improper use of fluoride supplements can also lead to fluorosis. Infants under 6 months of age should not receive fluoride drops, tablets, or fortified vitamins. After this age, any fluoride supplements should only be given to children after taking other fluoride sources into account, and upon receiving the recommendation of the child’s pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
Specific foods contain high levels of fluoride, particularly powdered concentrated infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, infant chicken products, and creamed spinach. Please read the nutrition labels or contact the company if you are unsure. Certain beverages also contain high amounts of fluoride, such as white grape juices, decaffeinated teas, and juice beverages manufactured in fluorinated cities.
Parents can also take these steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in their child’s teeth:
- Use a baby tooth cleanser on a very young child’s toothbrush
- Use no more than a pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste on a child’s brush.
- Consider all sources of ingested fluoride before requesting any additional fluoride supplements from your child’s pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
- Abstain from giving any fluoride-containing supplements/vitamins to infants until they are older than 6 months.
Gather fluoride-level test results for your city/town’s drinking water (check with local water utilities), before giving fluoride supplements to your child.
How Do I Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?
Young children can develop a serious form of tooth decay, known as baby bottle tooth decay, or even “bottle rot”. Such decay is caused by an infant’s teeth being exposed to liquids containing sugar on a frequent, prolonged basis. These liquids include milk (breast or otherwise), formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby down for a nap or overnight sleep with a bottle filled with anything other than water can seriously and rapidly decay teeth. Sweetened liquids collect around a child’s teeth,providing plaque bacteria ample opportunity to form acids that degrade tooth enamel. If your baby requires a comfort bottle at bedtime, it should only have water. In cases where the child won’t sleep without both the bottle and its usual beverage, you should gradually dilute the contents of the bottle with water over a period of two to three weeks.
After a feeding, you should wipe your baby’s gums with either a wet washcloth or gauze to remove any plaque. This is easiest done with the baby’s head in your lap or in an otherwise reclined position, so you can easily see the child’s whole mouth.
How Does Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?
Once permanent teeth grow in, thumb sucking may cause problems with development of the mouth and alignment of teeth. It may also cause changes to the roof of the mouth as well. Pacifiers may affect the teeth in similar ways to sucking fingers and thumbs, but they often an easier habit to break.
Ultimately, the intensity of the sucking determines whether or not dental problems occur. Many children will thumb sucking on their own as they grow out of infancy, but in the case that the child is still engaging in the habit after age 3, we recommend parents discourage it and use positive reinforcement to help the child stop.
What Are Dental Sealants and Why Are They Recommended?
A sealant is a clear protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces/grooves of the back teeth. These teeth include the molars and premolars, where four out of five cavities occur. Sealants protect these decay-prone areas of teeth, functioning as a shield against food, plaque, and acids.
Are Sports Drinks Bad for My Child’s Teeth?
Sports beverages have high sugar and acidic content, giving them erosive potential. Even fluoride-rich tooth enamel can be dissolved, leading to cavities.
In order to minimize any dental issues, children should generally avoid sports drinks, consuming water before, during, and after participating in sports. If you are considering giving your child a sports drink, please consult your pediatric dentist first.
If your child does consume a sports drink:
- Reduce the frequency and amount of contact time
- Swallow the liquid immediately and do not swish it in mouth
- Alternate sips of water with the drink to neutralize the detrimental effect
- Rinse mouth guards in water only
- Look for more dentally friendly sports beverages
What Accommodations Should Be Made for Special Needs Dentistry?
All children deserve and need quality oral care. Some children, however, may find visiting the dentist physically difficult, particularly scary, or otherwise experience complications.
Some dentists will specialize in special needs dentistry, personalizing care according to each patient’s unique needs. Considerate dentists will account for each patient’s personality and needs so they are sufficiently prepared for the next visit.
Some examples of special needs or conditions that may require special accommodations in dentistry:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spina Bifida
- Down Syndrome
- Psychological Disorders
These are simply an example of the conditions that special needs dentists their staff are trained to accommodate. Activities that may seem simple or routine for some children may be particularly difficult for others.
Can Xylitol Reduce Cavities?
Xylitol has been recognized by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) as being beneficial to children’s oral health. The use of xylitol sweetened products has shown a strong reduction in new tooth decay, even improving some existing cavities. Xylitol serves as an enhancement to existing dental prevention methods. Low decay rates have persisted for years even after the trials have been completed.
When Should My Child Wear a Mouth Guard?
Once a child begins participating in recreational or sporting activities, there can be risk of injury. To protect your child’s smile, a well-fitted mouth guard/protector should be a crucial part of their athletic gear, worn during any activity that may result in contact with the face or mouth. Mouth guards help prevent a variety of injuries, such as chipped/broken teeth, or trauma to the tongue, lips, face, or jaw. A securely-fitted/custom mouth guard will remain in place while your child wears it, leaving it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and any suggested store-brought mouth guards.