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Brush Up on Children’s Dental Health with Dr. Sara Rashedi

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month – and there’s no better time to brush up on dental care tips for your little one!

While friends at many of our schools enjoyed educational visits from pediatric dentists and dental hygienists throughout the month, we sat down with Dr. Sara Rashedi from Oaks Dental Specialists to tap into her expertise on the topic.

Q:        What is the official word on when children should begin visiting the dentist?
A:         The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents establish a dental home for their children no later than 12 months of age. Dental problems can begin at a young age and the idea is to begin comprehensive preventive care early.

Q:        How can parents help ease children who may be afraid of the dentist?
A:         It’s important to keep a positive mindset. Reassure your child that going to the dentist is fun – you can pick out the flavors for your toothpaste, choose a color for your new toothbrush and earn a toy from a treasure chest at the end of the visit.

Try not to go into too many details about the dental visit. However, if you would like to do some preparation, there are many tools parents can use, from dental books to read to children to role-playing exercises at home, such as practicing counting and cleaning a stuffed animal’s teeth to mimic a dental appointment. You may also want to introduce a battery-driven toothbrush for brushing at home to desensitize your child to the vibrations and sounds they may encounter at a dental office.

Q:        What are some common mistakes that parents caring for young children, or young children themselves, make when it comes to dental care?
A:         Don’t wait to make the first appointment: “First visit by first birthday” is a good philosophy. Make sure to set up regular dental visits every six months after that.

Don’t let your child brush alone since they don’t have the motor dexterity to brush thoroughly or long enough. As children get older, use a team approach for brushing. Continue supervising and teaching until they’re about nine years old, making sure they are brushing long enough and effectively.

For infants, at-will breastfeeding should be avoided when teeth begin to erupt. Babies should only have water in their bottles or sippy cups when they fall asleep. For older kids, try to avoid soda or sports drinks.

Avoid snacks that are sticky (i.e fruit-snacks or candy) since these will sit in the grooves and crevices of teeth. Pick healthy options to snack on.

Q:        What red flags should parents be looking out for in their children that may signal a need to visit the dentist outside of regularly scheduled cleanings?
A:         Baby teeth serve important roles, enabling proper chewing to eat, providing space for the permanent teeth and allowing normal development of the jaw. Listen to what your child says about their teeth. Take them to see their dentist if they are complaining of any pain, tenderness or sensitivity in their mouth, and especially after any dental trauma. The tooth could be loose, broken or suffer from invisible dental trauma below the gum line.

Q:        Beyond regular brushing and flossing, do you have any other tips/recommendations for children’s dental care?
A:         When it comes to oral health of infants, you can start by wiping the gums after feeding prior to teeth erupting.

For older children:

  • Use age-appropriate sized soft toothbrushes.
  • Begin with a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for children 3 and younger, and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste for children 3 to 6 years old.
  • Remember to brush their tongue.
  • Flossers may make flossing easier than using regular floss.
  • Use mouthwashes when children have mastered spitting.

Q:        What else is important for parents to know?
A:         Establish the idea that brushing twice a day, flossing daily and visiting the dentist every six months is not a choice but a necessity for excellent oral health.

To learn more about Oaks Dental Specialists, visit www.oaksdentalspecialists.com/.

The information here is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult your dentist for guidance and any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s dental health.

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