If you are a mom or dad, cultivating a healthy self-image, good nutritional
values and effective study habits are certainly at the top of your list of
parental do’s. And while healthy habits are a must for raising happy and
well-balanced kids, at times, something out of the ordinary can go a long
way to help drive the point home. For us, an emergency dental visit after
an accidental playground fall by my then two-and-a-half year old, would
be just the thing to make this momma totally serious about good dental
care for the whole family. Though scary and absolutely nerve racking, the
events of that day proved to be informative and eye opening! After care-
ful examination and being reassured by our family dentist that our little
toddler would be fine, Dr. Carol Morales DDS, provided me with a crash
course on the common misconceptions and best dental hygiene prac-
tices to ensure healthy smiles for years to come.
Misconception: Kids don’t need to go to the dentist until they enter their
school age years.
Early dialogue with your family dentist is a wonderful way to establish early
dental practices i.e., brushing and flossing techniques for your school age
child and how to clean your toddler’s teeth, gums and tongue – an especially
important practice for the bottle-fed toddler. Considering that most accidents
of trauma occur between the ages of 2 and 3, when little ones become mobile,
yet not very stable (as I learned for myself), it is important to have a family
dentist in place should bumps or falls occur that could potentially impact
their first set of teeth and consequently their permanent ones.
Misconception: You don’t need to worry about cavities in baby teeth.
Baby teeth hold the space for permanent teeth. Tooth decay in baby teeth is
possible, and can result in damage to the developing crowns of the permanent
teeth growing below them. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, the permanent
teeth may erupt mal-positioned and require orthodontics later on. Untreated
cavities in baby teeth can cause serious pain and develop into abscesses.
Occasionally the infection can spread to other areas of the body, and in rare
occasions can even result in death.
Misconception: All snacks are made equal.
Left to their own devises, kids of all ages would simply love to gorge them-
selves on candy (and with Halloween right around the corner and store-
shelves filled with every imaginable sweet treat, there will be no lack of
opportunity to indulge). Instead of freefalling completely into the craze, why
not try mixing things up by adding a piece of fruit, possibly a cheese and
cracker snack and steering clear from a lot of the more popular fruit juices,
(which are more often than not, laden with sugar). Adopting these and other
similar stratergies are essential ways to maintaining a good and healthy oral
PH balance, while keeping unhealthy levels of bacteria and consequently
tooth decay at bay.
Misconception: Sugar eats tooth enamel, causing cavities.
Believe it or not, it’s not the exposure to sugary treats but the frequency of
exposure that is problematic. As mentioned before, the true culprit is the acid
produced by bacteria in the mouth, which converts sugar into enamel-eroding
acid. Tooth enamel does not grow back, and once destroyed, exposes sensi-
tive dentine to decay. Cutting back on sugary foods provides less fuel for bac-
teria, and brushing and flossing regularly are vital to keep bacteria and
cavity counts low.
Misconception: Younger kids can be trusted to brush on their own.
Even your most independent toddler should not be trusted to brush their teeth
completely on their own. In our home, earning the right to do so would only
come after an extended period of good brushing and flossing. Though I would
love to allow them the freedom to do so a lot sooner, this generally happened
somewhere between the ages of 5 to 7 depending on the child. Before reaching
that benchmark, the task at hand required checking their handy work often and
re-enforcing brushing and flossing techniques. It has been my experience that
checking their smiles and going over their handy work every few days or so, is
the best way of encouraging some personal independence in this area, while
keeping their teeth strong and their beautiful smiles in great shape.