Children’s dental care can leave parents with many questions. There’s so much more to caring for a child’s teeth than just brushing and flossing! To help us solve our most common toothy conundrums, we asked local pediatric dental specialists to share their wisdom on tooth care.
Courtney Bradshaw is a licensed dental hygienist and practice ambassador at Fishers Pediatric Dentistry. Ashley R. Thurman is a dental assistant and team coordinator at Children’s Dental Center in Fishers.
What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
Bradshaw: According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, “pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry” and have had at least two to three years of specialty training following dental school. As parents, we know that a trip to the dentist can be an intimidating thing for our little ones. Working with a doctor who is trained specifically to work with a child’s view is extremely important for laying down the foundation for positive visits in the future.
When should I take my child to the dentist for their first checkup?
Thurman: The American Board of Pediatrics recommends that children see the dentist no later than the child’s first birthday. Teeth are at risk for dental caries (cavities) as soon as the tooth appears in the mouth. Childhood caries is five times more common than asthma.
When should we begin using toothpaste? How much should we use?
Bradshaw: Begin brushing twice a day and use an ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste as soon as the first tooth begins to appear. We suggest using a smear or rice-sized amount of toothpaste for children less than three years of age, and no more than a pea-sized amount for children ages three to six.
My six year old still has all his baby teeth. Is this normal? When do kids start losing their baby teeth?
Thurman: Yes, it is normal. The eruption of permanent teeth is determined by the eruption of their baby teeth. If a child’s baby teeth come in later, they will lose them later, resulting in their permanent teeth erupting later. Typically, the age range is 6 to 7 years to lose their first tooth.
My four year old still sucks her thumb. Will this harm her teeth?
Bradshaw: This habit will normally cease without any concern or effort, but the best time to discourage a sucking habit is around the age of four. By this time, prolonged sucking could begin to make changes to the mouth and teeth. The pressure from the sucking motion could begin to affect your child’s developing jaw, causing skeletal changes and potentially causing permanent teeth to be misaligned. The sooner the habit is stopped, the better the chance that the bite will correct itself.
My baby nurses and/or bottle feeds to sleep. How can I prevent tooth decay?
Thurman: “Baby bottle caries” is very common in young children who nurse before bed. We recommend that the parent still brush or wipe the teeth off with a wet cloth to remove the milk. Milk has natural sugars that can be cavity causing if not removed.