Guilt Free Advice for Great Pediatric Oral Health

Parenting is no joke. It is equal parts rewarding and exhausting. Moms and dads know how much effort it takes to keep kids healthy and happy. And, everyone from mommy-blogs to mothers in law have an opinion on where parents are falling short. Are they eating a balanced diet? Is their homework done? Do they get enough sleep? Do they limit screen time? Do you spend enough time as a family – but also enough time alone to encourage their independence? Are you a helicopter or free-range parent? Are they making friends? Not just friends, but the RIGHT friends? You get it. Of course, you need to also add brushing and flossing regularly to the list. After a long day of work, school, sports and homework it’s a miracle if they make it to bed in their pajamas. All that to say, this isn’t supposed to be a guilt trip. This information is meant to help already busy parents have burning questions answered quickly in order to efficiently take care of their child’s oral health

Question: When should my child go to the dentist for the first time?

Answer: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first dental appointment happen before age one. But, if your child is already two or three and they haven’t been yet, don’t worry. Just make the appointment. If you missed the official window the best thing you can do it take them in now.

Question: Should I find a pediatric dentist, or can I take my child to my regular dental provider?

Answer: There is no absolute right answer here. If you have a great relationship with your dentist and they see children your child’s age, you can try it out. However, there are benefits to seeing specialized pediatric dentists, such as:

  • Pediatric dentists have extended education in caring for children’s oral health, including the psychological and developmental health of children.
  • Pediatric dentists use child-sized equipment (x-rays and drills) specifically made for children’s teeth. 
  • Pediatric dentists chose to work with kids, so you can be confident they want to work with little ones.
  • Pediatric offices are typically more child friendly. Often, they provide age appropriate activities, fun rewards for good behavior and other amenities specifically for children. 
  • Pediatric teams are trained on how to communicate with children and parents. For example, instead of saying plaque or bacteria, they may say ‘tooth bugs’ so children better understand what is going on. 

Question: I can’t get my kids to brush and floss like they are supposed to…and I’m at the end of my rope, what can I do?

Answer: Take a deep breath mom and dad. Resisting brushing and flossing is a normal part of being a kid. These days there are some fun and engaging ways to encourage good oral hygiene. Try a few and see what sticks. 

  • Shop for a fun toothbrush and new toothpaste. 
  • Gamify tooth brushing and flossing. Let them earn points or stars that lead to a reward. Or, find a free dental app to help gamify the experience. 
  • Pair the activities with something they already do. Have them brush and floss in the shower or while they watch TV.
  • Reward brushing and flossing with the home WiFi password.
  • Set a reminder or an alarm on their phone.

Question: My child has a cavity in a baby tooth – can’t we just pull it? It’s going to fall out anyway.

Answer: Baby teeth, or primary teeth are more important to the long-term growth and development of your child than you may realize. Baby teeth assist in chewing healthy foods, speech development and proper growth and shaping of the jaw. If baby teeth are extracted unnecessarily you may risk normal development of these things. The best course of action is what Dr. Walker or Dr. Barr suggest. 

Keeping kids teeth healthy isn’t easy. Kids can be stubborn and strong-willed and it’s hard not to feel like a failure if they aren’t cooperating. However, there are resources available to you to help. First, ask your dentist for advice. If you don’t know how to handle something or notice your child having issues – make the call. Think of your dentist and dental team as both your cheerleaders and experts when it comes to your child’s oral health. If you have burning questions or concerns, contact Walker-Barr DMD for an appointment today! 

“The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.”

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