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National Children’s Dental Health Month: Q&A with Dr. Dana Awad

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! In honor of the occasion, we sat down with Dr. Dana Awad from our East Washington practice to answer some questions around oral health in children.

At what age should children begin seeing a dentist?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD),  a child should see the dentist when the first tooth appears or no later than his/her first birthday. This will help in establishing a dental home for the child and prevent future dental problems.

Does it really matter how children treat their baby teeth since they will eventually lose them anyway?

Although children eventually lose their primary or baby teeth, it is still important to take care of them. Baby teeth help children chew naturally and speak clearly as well as aid in maintaining the space for the permanent teeth to erupt when they are ready. It is also a good for children to learn good oral hygiene and healthy dietary habits early on to help take care of the permanent teeth when they are older.

What is the best way to keep my child’s mouth clean before teeth come in?

Clean the child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Once teeth start to erupt, a soft bristled toothbrush with a small head should be used at least once a day at bedtime.

Are thumb-sucking and pacifier habits harmful to teeth?

According to the AAPD, thumb- and pacifier-sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. If the child is still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of three, a mouth appliance may be recommended by the dentist to help break this habit.

What is the biggest cause of cavities in children?

A diet that is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to a high risk of developing cavities. Some of these foods include milk, soda, raisins, candy, cake, fruit juices, cereals and bread. The sugars and the bacteria that are in the mouth create an acidic environment that can break down the enamel and eventually cause decay.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Make sure your child has a balanced diet, limiting the servings of sugars and starches. It is very important to avoid having the child sip on juices or milk,especially at bedtime. Establishing a dental home for the child at an early age and maintaining good oral hygiene habits at home will also help in avoiding tooth decay.

How do I know which kind of toothpaste to give my child? Is it safe to use one that has fluoride?

Once the child is able to spit the toothpaste and not swallow it, it is recommended to use children’s toothpaste with fluoride to help strengthen the enamel and prevent decay. If your child is swallowing the toothpaste, then use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride in it (training toothpaste).

When should children begin brushing their own teeth?

Every child is different but if your child likes to brush his/her own teeth, it is okay for them to do it as long as you follow up before or after to make sure they are reaching all the spots and cleaning their teeth properly. Plaque disclosing solutions can aid in the process of learning to brush properly.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

Schedule an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible. You can rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Alternating children’s Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) may help alleviate the discomfort.

Learn more about Dr. Dana Awad by clicking here.

Posted in: General Oral Health

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