8 Common Questions About Kids’ Oral Health and Dentistry

Here's what you need to know to maintain your kids' oral health

Find the answers to your questions about your child’s oral health and dentistry needs.

Every parent wants their child to grow up to have a beautiful, bright smile, and this oral health journey begins with how their teeth are cared for during childhood.

To help you get started on the right path, we’ve answered 8 questions we’re often asked by our youngest patients’ parents.

1. When should my child start seeing a dentist, and how often should I schedule appointments?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry strongly recommends parents take their kids in for their first dental appointment no later than their first birthday. Being a family dentist, Dr. Sexton begins accepting young patients when they are three years of age. For appointments for children between ages one and three, ask Dr. Sexton for a referral to a dedicated pediatric dentist.

Most children will follow the basic six-month schedule for appointments after their initial checkup. Your child’s dentist may want to see them more often if they suspect a problem, such as keeping an eye on a troublesome tooth.

2. If my child has a cavity on a baby tooth, do they still need to have it treated?

Baby teeth may be temporary, but their health is still very important. Untreated cavities can cause a painful toothache, and if the tooth structure becomes too weak, your child may need to get it pulled. Pulling a baby tooth isn’t ideal, as it can cause surrounding teeth to shift, resulting in alignment issues once the adult tooth begins to erupt.

Tooth decay can spread fast, which is a big reason why regular dental appointments are important for your child.

3. What happens if my child loses a baby tooth before it’s ready to come out?

In addition to tooth decay leading to the premature loss of a baby tooth, trauma from a tooth accidentally getting knocked out can also occur. If your dentist isn’t able to save the tooth, they will add in a spacer to ensure the nearby teeth don’t crowd into the gap until the adult tooth is able to come in.

4. Aside from brushing, flossing, and limiting sugar, what else can I do to protect my child’s teeth from decay?

Dental sealants are a fantastic option for tooth decay protection. According to statistics from the CDC, dental sealants on the rear molars can prevent upwards of 80% of cavities.

Dental sealants are made of a plastic material and are painted directly on your child’s premolars and molars. This creates a barrier that prevents food debris and bacteria from sticking on the chewing surface of these teeth.

5. My baby’s teeth are just starting to come in. When should I start brushing them?

You should begin cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as you notice them coming in, even if they are still just little white nubs in their gums.

Initially, you can use a clean, damp washcloth to wipe down their gums. Once the teeth actually begin to come into place, you can change to an infant toothbrush and begin getting your baby used to teeth brushing. It’s OK to use an ADA-approved, child-safe toothpaste at this time, but be very careful to use only a tiny amount (rice grain) until your child is old enough to spit.

6. At what age can my child start brushing and flossing on their own?

Children develop skills at different rates, and this includes brushing and flossing. Most kids will be eager to brush on their own at around six years of age, but it isn’t usually until eight or nine years of age that children can reliably brush their teeth on their own without immediate supervision.

You know your child best, so trust your instincts. Keep brushing and flossing sessions supervised until you are confident they are thoroughly brushing their teeth using proper technique.

7. I’ve had problems with my oral health. Should I be worried about my child having issues too?

Certain oral health issues may be genetic, such as a propensity for tooth decay, gum disease, and misaligned teeth or malocclusion; however, the genetic risk of your child developing the same issues you might have largely comes down to their environment. Taking them to the dentist regularly, providing a nutritious diet, and ensuring they are brushing and flossing properly greatly minimizes any potential genetic risks.

If your child is seeing a different dentist than you, it’s still a good idea to mention any family history of oral health problems.

8. My child’s teeth are coming in and they look crooked. Does this mean they need braces?

Crooked baby teeth aren’t unusual. The good news is crooked baby teeth don’t mean crooked adult teeth!

There isn’t a whole lot that can be done to keep baby teeth straight aside from proper oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and avoiding pacifiers/thumbsucking after one year of age. Be sure to maintain regular six-month dental appointments so your child’s dentist can keep an eye on their progress as they begin to get their adult teeth.

In the event pediatric orthodontic care is needed in the future, Dr. Sexton will help you figure out your child’s options for treatment.

Dr. Sexton is eager to answer any other questions you have about your child’s oral health.

Whether you still have unanswered questions or you’re ready to book your child’s next dental appointment, Dr. Sexton and his dental team are ready to help.

To schedule an appointment or consultation, please give our office a call to find a time that works for your family.