A winning smile can go a long way for our kids. It can be the difference between radiating confidence or projecting self-doubt. We all want our kids to excel and be the best they can be. That is why it is so important for us to teach them how to properly care for their teeth, even the little baby ones that eventually fall out.
Starting an oral care routine while they are young sets them up for life and instills great habits for when they grow up. I’m preparing to take my one-year-old to her very first dentist visit and am all sorts of nervous. How will she react? How in the world is this dentist going to look in her mouth if she refuses to open it? Will she be traumatized?
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My eldest was no problem because she is super friendly and loves the attention. But my baby? Not so much. That is why I decided to enlist the help of Houston-area Orthodontist Dr. Brad Jennings from Jennings Orthodontics.
I asked him a few questions that would help me prepare for our visit and those to follow. If my girls end up with my teeth, then braces are definitely in their future. Dr. Jennings was also kind enough to list his top 10 oral care tips that the girls and I will be following today!
At what age should a child visit the dentist for the first time?
Age 1 or 6 months after the eruption of the 1st tooth. This is to build rapport with your child and make them feel comfortable with people looking in their mouths. I assure you that you don’t want the first visit to be a toothache.
What is the best way a parent can prepare their young child for their first dentist visit?
Visit the website of the dentist to familiarize them with the office and read some books to them about a first dental visit. Please do not say anything that would give them the feeling that the dentist equals pain. I’ve heard some parents say “shots, pulling teeth, extractions hurts” around their children. Heck, I’d be scared!
What are the best and worst foods for children’s teeth?
Best: crunchy whole foods like carrots, nuts, and cheese.
Worst: sticky processed sugary foods: airheads, fruit roll-ups, skittles, starbursts.
What bad habits are most damaging to the teeth of your young patients?
Thumb-sucking or pacifiers: It literally changes how the jaws develop if the habit is not stopped at an early age and definitely no later than age 6. If stopped prior to this time, a lot of the damage can self-correct.
What factors help you determine whether a young patient is a candidate for Invisalign rather than traditional braces?
For me, all patients are a candidate for Invisalign clear aligners. Patients get to make that choice. I can get the same result with either treatment. I tell the parents and child the differences between the two and see which one gravitates to them more. Now if hygiene is a concern, I prefer Invisalign clear aligners because they are removable and brushing is much easier than braces.
Top 10 Oral Care Tips For Kids
1. Brush for 2 minutes twice per day– brush when you wake and before bed. Two minutes is the magic number to hit. People only average 30 seconds!
2. Floss before you go to bed- This removes debris caught between your teeth and strengthens your gums
3. Use mouthwash- This kills harmful bacteria. It also takes the edge off morning “zoo breath”!
4. Make good food choices- Sticky sugars like candy stick to teeth and create a buffet for bacteria.
5. Use a mouth-guard in contact sports- They don’t call them accidents because we can predict when they’ll happen. You never know when trouble is around the corner. I once had a patient get hit in the mouth by a baseball 3 timesÂ in one year!
6. Get sealants on your back teeth at your dentist’s office– Sealants “plug” the tiny fissures in your back teeth where it’s impossible for toothbrush bristles to clean. Think of them like a cavity insurance policy. They are inexpensive when you consider the cost of eventual fillings.
7. Open your eyes while swimming– I know this sounds goofy, but do you know what the #1 way I’ve seen how kids chip their teeth? Swimming. Not from diving but from swimming into the side of the pool because they close their eyes. Buy goggles!!
8. Limit sodas and sports drinks- Acidic drinks, like sodas, literally soften the enamel. Have you ever seen how much sugar is in sports drinks? Juice bags are just as bad. I’m just as guilty of this myself as I write this! Try some water.
9. Visit an orthodontist by age 7 or 8- Rarely do kids need treatment at this age, but it allows the orthodontist to identify the “train wrecks” out there were waiting until age 12 can have detrimental effects. Most exams are complimentary anyway!
10. Visit your dentist every 6 months- It builds rapport and good habits from an early age
Wow! I can honestly say that I am those people who average only 30 seconds a brush. I have some work to do. My eldest is really good about brushing her teeth and she loves to use the one-time flosses. Sometimes I catch her brushing her teeth in the middle of the day, but I’m not stopping her.
And if you’re in the Houston area, be sure to check out Jennings Orthodontics and his rock and roll-themed office.