12 Pediatric Oral Care Updates For Your Child

Sarita Shah John, DDS
Consultant and Diplomate
American Board of Pediatric Dentistry

Dental disease is the #1 disease in American children so I need to give you a quick pediatric oral health care update.  Some of this may contradict even what your own dentist told you.  I assure you this is the latest and greatest from the people who write the written and oral examinations for my specialty board.  They are educators and researchers.  They know what they are talking about!

1)  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child/infant have their first oral exam no later than 12 months of age.  If your child’s primary care physician told you otherwise, they are not up to date with the AAP.  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the age 1 dental visit.  This has nothing to do with how many teeth they do or don’t have.  There are many anatomical structures in the mouth other than teeth.  🙂

2)  A 5 year old is too young to adequately brush/floss on their own…..so is a 6 year old and 7 year old.  Until what age should you brush for your child?  Until they go to college!

3)  This may surprise you, but the following “foods” really have kept me in business:  juice, granola bars, fruit roll ups, fruit leather, fruit snacks, juice, sour candy, juice boxes, juice pouches, any sports drink, gummy anything including vitamins, sour anything, raisins, dried fruit, juice, anything that sticks to your fingers, sweet tea, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry milk, sweetened soy milk, fruit punch, cereal,  lemonade, and did I mention juice?  Hint:  If YOUR grandmother didn’t eat it, it probably comes out of a box/package, is likely bad for your teeth, and even worse for your body.  (Read any book by Michael Pollan)

4)  The following can contribute to acid erosion of teeth: anything pickled, salad dressing, anything citrus, vinegar, soda.  If your child gets ‘hot burps’ they may have gastric reflux (GERD), which can lead to tooth destruction.

5)  Biofilm on teeth needs to be disrupted every 12 hours.  Translation:  If you are human, brush twice daily!

6)  If you have an infant/toddler ages 0-2 you should be brushing FOR THEM twice daily with WATER and toothbrush.  If a tooth exists, it needs to be brushed.  Do not use the non fluoridated toothpaste gels.  They inhibit biofilm/plaque removal from teeth.  Do not use fluoride toothpaste unless your pediatric dentist told you to based on your child’s caries risk.  At this age floss any teeth that touch.  If your baby has no teeth, wipe out the mouth after feedings with a clean damp cloth.

7)  If you have a child ages 3-6 please BRUSH FOR THEM twice daily with a lentil bean size amount of fluoride toothpaste.  That’s pretty small.  Fluoride has mostly a topical effect (the positive systemic effect is almost negligible), so there’s no benefit to using it in excess.  Too much can be harmful if swallowed, so don’t use a large amount of fluoride toothpaste.  Don’t forget to floss daily FOR THEM.  Over the counter fluoride rinses are not terribly effective.  Buy and use floss instead.  In general, I don’t care for mouthwashes/rinses for children.

8)  Speaking of fluoride, please mix infant formula with bottled water (which is non-fluoridated).  (The amount of fluoride in tap water + the fluoride in the formula) x several bottles per day=fluoride excess for your baby.

9)  Cavities are caused by bacteria that destroy enamel, and are transmitted from person to person via saliva…i.e. kissing or sharing cups and utensils, and can be transmitted from one tooth to another in the same mouth.  So…..dental caries is an infectious disease!  If you or your child has cavities, please get the cavities fixed ASAP to prevent spread from tooth to tooth, and mouth to mouth.  Hmmmm…..Is this why “bad teeth” run in families??????  Also, sugar is food for the bacteria and allows them to multiply quickly.  Hint:  Starve the bacteria.

10)  Babies should NEVER be put to bed with a bottle, and should be weaned off the bottle by their first birthday!11)  Sippy cups/bottles should not be used ad lib, but only at mealtimes.  Also, only water, formula, or plain milk are advisable.  Juice is not nutritious.  It is liquid candy, and just as harmful to teeth as soda.  Don’t start the ju ju habit.12)  Prevention will cost you much less than putting out tooth fires.  If you are human, you need a dental check up at least every 6 months starting at age 1.Dr. Shah John
Sarita Shah John, DDS
Consultant and Diplomate
American Board of Pediatric Dentistry


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