When it comes to children’s dental care, parents often have all kinds of questions. Dr. Derek Blank, a board certified pediatric dentist and founder of DC Pediatric Smiles in Bethesda, answers some of them in this guest post.
1. When should I schedule my child’s first dental appointment?
Ideally, ages 1-2 tend to be a good time to start seeing the pediatric dentist. Kids gradually warm up in the dental setting over the course of a few initial visits. So, the earlier a child first visits the dentist, the more comfortable their experiences will typically be as a preschooler.
During those initial visits please, keep in mind that we definitely don’t expect your toddler to sit still. That is why you take your child to a pediatric dentist! Pediatric dentists are specifically trained to work with loud, wiggly children. We also recommend making an appointment in the morning — kids tend to behave their best early in the day, and we see positive results in the morning.
Bottom line, regardless of when the first visit is, our team is committed to providing children with a fun, approachable introduction to dentistry. We understand the importance of connecting with children to help ensure that their first impression is positive.
2. Fluoride toothpaste… yea or nay?
With adult supervision and in small amounts, the use of fluoride toothpaste is a safe, effective way to prevent cavities. #teamyea
We recommend that parents brush their children’s teeth 2x daily — in the morning after breakfast and at night before bedtime. For children ages 0-2, a small smear (or grain of rice size) of toothpaste applied by an adult is the appropriate amount. For children ages 3-6, a small pea size amount (again, applied by an adult) is recommended.
Occasionally, some parents express strong views one way or another regarding the use of fluoride. As a pediatric dentist, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the risks and benefits of fluoride toothpaste with our patients and families. As a father, I choose to brush my children’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste. But at the end of the day, the choice to use fluoride or not is completely up to a parent which I respect and take seriously. Honestly, as long as we all work together to help keep children’s teeth healthy in whatever way parents feel most comfortable, I’m all for it!
3. My child has special needs. How does this impact visiting the dentist?
Pediatric dentists have years of specialized training caring for the dental needs of children with autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy, anxiety, and many other underlying medical needs. While each patient is unique, these children in particular can benefit from an individualized pace of introducing care that the pediatric dental team is familiar with providing.
For instance, a casual tour of the office can be a beneficial way for an autistic child to learn about the sights and sounds of a dental office without the stresses or fears so often associated with a visit to the dentist. Some of my most meaningful experiences as a pediatric dentist come from watching a child become more comfortable in the dental setting over time. I take great pride in being able to help promote positive dental care for all children.
4. When and why are x-rays taken?
X-rays can be a valuable component to a complete dental exam. They are especially useful when children have teeth that are touching and the surfaces between those teeth cannot be seen. A patient’s age does not determine when x-rays are recommended; instead, the position and spacing of teeth actually determine this.
For school-aged patients, diagnosing decay is often a two-part process. First, a clinical exam is completed to visually look for any cavities on the “exposed” tooth surfaces. Next, x-rays are a helpful tool to ensure that no “invisible” cavities are developing between tightly-aligned teeth.
At our office, each patient is approached individually with specific, unique needs. This is particularly true for x-ray recommendations. For instance, if a patient is low risk for developing interproximal cavities (decay occurring between teeth), we likely will recommend that x-rays are taken relatively infrequently (perhaps only every 2-3 years). This can be compared to a younger patient with active decay and high risk requiring x-rays more frequently (every 6-12 months).
5. Can cavities in children be prevented?
While there are genetic factors that certainly can play a significant role in a child’s predisposition to decay, the short answer to this question is… Yes, most cavities can be prevented.
A strong prevention plan can help to reduce or even eliminate the development of decay in children. A healthy, well-balanced diet avoiding juice, gummy fruit snacks, and other sugary beverages helps to lay a foundation for a healthy mouth. Strong brushing and flossing habits at home contribute significantly to cavity prevention.
Most importantly, find a pediatric dental home where your child looks forward to visits, feels comfortable asking questions, and is motivated to improve diet and oral hygiene habits. This routine is so critical at a young age in creating the foundation for a lifetime of healthy teeth.
Giveaway! To celebrate spring, DC Pediatric Smiles wants to give away a $100 Whole Foods gift card to one lucky KFDC reader! To enter for a chance to win, simply leave a comment below letting me know your favorite recent activity with your kids. Get an extra chance to win by entering on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page, too! This giveaway will run through Wednesday, April 4, 2018, then a winner will be picked at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!
Dr. Derek Blank is a father of three young children: Anderson (5), Brinkley (2), and Beckett (1) and a board certified pediatric dentist who is the founder of DC Pediatric Smiles in Bethesda, MD. Dr. Blank is strongly committed to helping children have fun at the dental office and develop an early appreciation for the value of healthy teeth and happy smiles!