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Three things all parents should know about kids and cavities

Caries teeth decayI’ve been seeing lots of kids at the office lately. For whatever reason, the few weeks before Halloween tend to be full of kids at Mead Family Dental. I’m not sure how that works, but I’m actually kind of glad. It’s a great time to remind kids and their parents how they need to be taking care of their teeth. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of kids with cavities lately which frustrates me a lot. I used to get frustrated with the kids and I now realize that’s a silly strategy. How often do I see a child at my office? Usually twice in a year or maybe a couple more times if they actually need to have cavities addressed. That’s not very much at all.

So who do I need to talk to? Mom and Dad. They’re with their children every single day and that’s who needs to hear my lecture. So, if you’re a parent I have three important things that you need to read.

  1. It’s not normal for kids to get cavities: Cavities are not inevitable! Most communities have fluoridated water supplies which give kids great start toward a cavity free future. Along with this, a healthy diet and good habits can and will prevent tooth decay. In most cases, when kids get cavities it’s because of poor diet or poor habits. Clean teeth don’t get cavities!
  2. Kids that develop cavities will become adults that get cavities: If you, as a parent, accept your child’s tooth decay you are creating a standard. If a parent isn’t bothered by a child’s tooth decay, why should the child be? This will lead to further apathy and will make creating good dental hygiene habits that much more difficult. Parents…do not accept tooth decay in your children. If you can keep your child cavity free until they reach their late teens, you will have given them an amazing gift. Kids that reach that age without cavities are much less likely to experience decay in the future.
  3. You should brush your kids’ teeth until they are 1o years old or older: No exceptions. You need to brush your child’s teeth. Your six year old may be brilliant. Maybe even a child prodigy in a lot of ways but they won’t get their teeth as clean as you will. Who do you think gets your teeth cleaner…you in your mirror or a dental hygienist? Obviously, the hygienist can do a better job because they can see every single surface that needs cleaning. And that is why you need to brush your child’s teeth.

weareadventurers.comI’m O.K. with you and your child “sharing” the responsibility of cleaning their teeth, but you need to brush them first. And completely. Here’s how:

  • Get yourself an inexpensive electric toothbrush. We’re fans of Captain America and Iron Man at my house.
  • Grab their beautiful little head tightly between your non-dominant arm and your body
  • Make sure they open wide. Help them tip their head in such a way that you can see each surface of each tooth. If necessary, you can prop their mouth open or retract their lips with the fingers of your non-dominant hand.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste as soon as the child can rinse and spit (around 3 or so). There are many non-fluoridated alternatives for children that might still swallow toothpaste.
  • Gently brush each surface of each tooth with your dominant hand. Make sure you can see the brush clean each surface!
  • Have them rinse with water and spit out the excess. If you’re doing it right, especially with an electric toothbrush, there will be a lot of foamy excess.

Once you’ve finished, let the child go through the same motions if they like. How long should you brush your children’s teeth? It may be different for each child. A rule of thumb might be that if you trust your child to wash dishes without you checking the results, you may be able to let them brush their teeth unaided. As much as you want your child to be confident and independent, you really cannot trust that they’re getting their teeth completely clean until they’re older! I see many 15 year olds (or even adults) that cannot or will not clean their teeth effectively. Why should an 8 year old be able to handle it any better? The difference is, that 8 year old is your responsibility as a parent!

Kids rely on their parents for almost everything. Keeping their teeth clean and healthy is no different. You can give your children the gift of a healthy mouth and teeth. But there’s some work that goes along with it. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty. Regular dental office visits are a small part of the puzzle, but frankly the dentist has little influence. Your child’s diet and dental hygiene is a choice you make as a parent. Every. Single. Day. Are you up to the challenge? Your little peanut is counting on you!

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If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!