Seven popular kids’ dental health myths debunked
By: Dr. Swati Singh, DDS of Smiling Kids Pediatric Dentistry
Did you know that childhood tooth decay is the number one chronic disease worldwide? In fact, it is four times more common than asthma, 20 times more common than diabetes and found in 20 percent of children ages four to five. While these alarming stats are 100 percent accurate, there are many ongoing debates among parents on what is and isn’t true when it comes to your kids’ teeth.
As a pediatric dentist for over 10 years, debunking the seven most common dental health myths will help parents set their children up for success when it comes to oral health.
Myth #1: Dental care for baby teeth is irrelevant. The teeth will fall out either way.
Although baby teeth will eventually mature and fall out, starting proper dental care at an early age is vital to ensure a lifetime of healthy gums and a bright smile. The main role of the baby teeth is to help guide permanent teeth into place. However, bacteria spreading to new teeth due to lack of dental care will cause extensive problems later on. Avoid long-term issue by ensuring your children visit a pediatric dentist as soon as teeth appear, which can be as early as five to six months of age.
Myth #2: My child can go to the same dentist as the rest of our family.
While a general dentist or family dentist might seem like a perfect one-stop-dental-shop for your families’ dental needs, these professionals only require one month of training in the basics of children's dentistry. Parents should look into scheduling an appointment with a pediatric dentist, as they complete an additional two or three years of training that enables them to better care for children's developing teeth.
Myth #3: My child is old enough to brush his/her own teeth.
At some point, kids will want to tackle the task of brushing his or her own teeth on their own. However, allowing them to single-handily brush their teeth might need to wait, as the majority of children under the age of seven do not normally possess the fine motor skills required to hit all of those “hard-to-reach spots” until the second or third grade. Instead of putting your kid in the driver’s seat, try monitoring your child’s brushing habits until their permanent teeth are established. This will help minimize the chance of cavities in those difficult places in the back of the mouth.
Myth #4: Products containing fluoride are dangerous for young children and should not be used.
When it comes to dental health, fluoride is not the enemy. The benefits fluoride can provide our teeth are substantial, especially for youngsters. Children who regularly incorporate fluoride into their dental regimen will have a stronger tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. Toddlers are recommended to use a minimal amount—or a “smear”—of toothpaste when brushing. At the age of three, children are allowed to use a “pea-sized” amount of regular adult toothpaste.
Myth #5: Flossing for children isn’t important until their adult teeth come in.
It’s never too early to start flossing, as cavities can form in both baby and adult teeth. Parents should start building the habit of flossing once teeth start to fit closely together, which is typically between the ages of two to six. Introducing these behaviors at a young age can help ensure regular flossing habits in a daily oral health routine.
Myth #6: Children should brush their teeth after they are done eating.
Though brushing after a meal is generally a good idea, avoid cleaning those pearly whites after consuming acidic foods. Acid softens your enamel and can often speed up tooth wear.
Myth #7: My child only eats naturally sweet or ‘no sugar added’ snacks, so why worry?
Many parents encourage children to eat snacks and lunches that are good for their bodies – including their teeth. Yet, product labels are misleading, causing parents to choose snacks that actually end up building plaque around their teeth and gums. In fact, some so-called “healthy” snacks are loaded with sugar and other ingredients that can lead to childhood tooth decay. Rather than completely reducing these snacks from your kids’ diet, let them eat in moderation. Rinsing your child’s mouth after consumption can help disperse the sugar.