Do you know when your child should start going to the dentist?
Is your toddler resistant to daily brushing? Are you curious about the effects of sugar consumption on teeth?
Today I’m talking with Dr. Naomi Sedani, a pediatric dentist to get some of your questions answered. Dr. Sedani graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Dental School and currently practices at Dental Care Kids in Stamford, Connecticut.
Mom Loves Baby: So what age should children begin seeing a dentist?
Dr. Sedani : So children should have their first dentist appointment when their first tooth emerges so usually 6-8 months old or by their first birthday, which ever comes first.
MLB: I feel like I was always told to wait until after their 2nd birthday or when they are able to somewhat sit still in the chair.
D.S. : Yes there is a huge misconception out there about that. We [pediatric dentists] try to go out to pediatrician offices to try and spread awareness because we know many parents think they should wait later rather than sooner.
Lots of parents tell us their 1 year old won’t sit still for an office visit but we have different techniques to help with that. We don’t expect a baby to sit in a chair. Sometimes the parent can hold the baby while laying down, other times the pediatric dentist will even hold the child in their lap while brushing the baby’s or toddler’s teeth.
MLB: Okay so speaking of brushing, should parents be brushing their toddler’s teeth twice a day like adults?
D.S : Yes and often times they should be brushing their toddler’s teeth even more if they can. Baby teeth are not like adult teeth. Why? Well, I like to think of a tooth like an onion because they both have a lot of layers. Baby teeth enamel (the outer layer of the tooth) is much thinner than adults’. This means baby teeth can be penetrated much easier by foods and sugars which can turn into cavities a lot faster than an adult.
On a side note, I also tell parents to not let their child go to sleep with a bottle of milk after brushing their teeth at night. The sugar naturally found in the milk will sit on their teeth overnight increasing the likelihood of a cavity developing.
MLB: That’s a good point and makes a lot of sense. So what do you say to those parents who say “But it’s just baby teeth, they don’t matter because they are going to fall out in a few years anyway.”
D.S. : I answer this questions in two ways. One, is that while yes they may get start to get new teeth around ages 6-7, that is only in the front. The teeth in the back don’t fall out until around 11 or 12. So that’s basically a decade of having baby teeth. These teeth guide the adult teeth into place and make sure the adult teeth remain healthy.
The second part is that a child who has cavities or other issues with their teeth tend to be more restless and pay less attention in school because they are in discomfort often times and not even aware of it.
Studies even show that children with cavities struggle more in school.
“A cavity, for example, in an adult will take much longer to get to that inner layer versus a child who can a cavity develop much faster.”
MLB : So do you have any tips for parents whose child is resistant to brushing?
D.S. : Preventatively, I will say start young! Even before their first tooth emerges rub their gums and tongue with a damp washcloth. This will help them get use to something being in their mouth.
If your child is older, I don’t mean to be harsh, but you have to just get in there and not let tantrums deter you. The long term consequences of not brushing your child’s teeth will far outweigh the trouble they are giving you right now.
I will also say use positive reinforcement. What gets your child excited and motivated to do things? Stickers? A gold star? A special toy? You won’t have to do it forever just long enough for the habit of brushing daily to stick.
Also, try to figure out what specifically your child is resistant to. Is it the toothpaste? The toothbrush?Maybe switch to an electric one. Young children tend to think those are more fun.Tweaking little things in the formula can change the entire outcome. Your pediatric dentist can also show you maneuvers in their office as well that can make it easier to brush and get to all the teeth.
(I can attest to this. Savannah was very resistance until we bought her an electric one.)
MLB: Okay last one, I feel like most modern parents are conscious of sugar consumption and small children. So what comments do you have about juice and baby teeth?
D. S. : I have a personal and professional stance on the issue of juice. Personally, I say babies do not come into this world craving sugar. There is no need to introduce it in liquid or food form to a child before the age of 1.
Professionally, the recommendation is no juice before age 1, then between ages 1-3 they should not be consuming more than 4 ounces a day and even that should be diluted to cut the sugar concentration. Children ages 4-6 should not have more than 4-6 ounces of juice a day. Children older than 6, no more than 8 ounces a day.
Parents should also know frequency is what causes cavities. So it’s much better for a child to consume sugar all at once rather than small amounts broken up over the course of the day. For instance, have the juice with a meal. Additionally, the body has barriers to protect teeth like saliva and natural alkalinity. So, If you are giving your child sugary substances throughout the day, you are basically asking those barriers to decrease its protective function over and over again.
To find a pediatric dentist in your area click here.
You can find Dr. Sedani on Instagram at @dr.beauty.mark
Cieara is a wife and mom of two, passionate about empowering parents to not just survive but thrive. She offers practical and expert advice on topics related to parenthood.