Oral Exam on Kids' Health

Tooth Truths

  1. a. The AAPD recommends that children see a dentist when their first tooth erupts or no later than their first birthday.
  2. a. Children should see the dentist twice each year. These early visits help dentists assess the feeding patterns and hygiene habits that may contribute to tooth decay and determine what preventive measures, if any, are needed.
  3. b. Some dentists say a smear is enough, but the official word from the AAPD is to use a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste once your child is between 2 and 3. If you use more, she may swallow it; this can lead to fluorosis, which causes white spots and discoloration.
  4. b. As long as it's kept clean and dry between uses, your child's toothbrush only needs to be changed every three months or so. Choose one with a large handle, soft, rounded bristles, and a small head that reaches back teeth. Before teeth are present, clean gums with gauze, a washcloth, or a small soft-bristled toothbrush and water.
  5. d. Supervise your child's brushing until he's 11. Until he's 6 or 7, you should stand behind him and physically brush his teeth. After that, he can do it himself, but you'll need to make sure he's using the right amount of toothpaste, brushing for at least two minutes, and rinsing properly.
  6. c. By the time your child turns 4, her jaw starts to align; further thumb sucking can cause the upper teeth to tip toward the lip. For a child with several baby teeth, a pacifier can push the upper teeth out and lower teeth in.
  7. b. If your child regularly drinks from sippy cups filled with anything but water, particularly juice, he has a higher risk of baby bottle tooth decay, caused when sugars in the liquid combine with bacteria in the mouth to form acid that dissolves the immature enamel. Never put your child to bed with a sippy cup unless it contains water.
  8. a. Fluoride supplements are recommended for children between 6 months and 16 years of age who live in areas with no or low levels of fluoride in their water supply. (Your dentist can prescribe them.) To learn the amount in your municipal water supply, ask your utility company.
  9. c. Consuming calcium- and fluoride-rich foods and beverages is essential for strong, healthy teeth. Many juices, breads, and cereals are fortified with these nutrients. Check the labels to learn which ones are best.
  10. c. When your child should start flossing depends on when his teeth begin to touch -- that's when food can become trapped. If your child's teeth have visible spaces between them, flossing isn't necessary, says the AAPD.
  11. d. Believe it or not, some 2- and 3-year-olds are treated by orthodontists. But that's rare. The majority of children are closer to 10 or 11 when their dentist recommends seeing an orthodontist about wearing braces.

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