Kid’s Teeth: Common QuestionsFeb 19, 2014
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Oral Surgeon, Dr. Bryce Williams, answers common questions about your kids teeth: at what age should your child go to the dentist for the first time, do kids really need to brush three times a day, any tricks to motivate my kids to brush, how to care for baby teeth, and more.
Interviewer: February is National Children's Dental Health Month, and we're going to find out what you need to know to keep your kids' teeth in tip top shape, coming up next on The Scope, medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope. Today we're going to tackle some common questions parents have about keeping their kids' teeth healthy. We're with Dr. Bryce Williams. He's an oral surgeon in the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department at the University of Utah Hospital. First, let's kick off with the big one that I'm sure a lot of parents struggle with; getting their kids to brush their teeth. It's good for them. They need to do it, but they won't. What advice do you have?
Dr. Williams: I think a pediatric dentist has a lot of different tools they can use to kind of teach and motivate the child to get them to brush and floss. Sometimes when it's coming from the parent, it's not as effective as when it's coming from someone else. But certainly getting them a fun toothbrush, a different colored toothpaste, a toothpaste with sparkles in it, or a toothbrush that makes noise can certainly motivate them to brush a little bit. Sometimes those things need to be changed every so often to keep their interest.
Interviewer: Yeah. And bottom line, how often do they need to brush their teeth every day?
Dr. Williams: Three times a day.
Interviewer: So, seriously, bottom line. Can you get away with two?
Dr. Williams: Yes. Two is acceptable.
Dr. Williams: Two is acceptable. That's probably what most people end up doing, but if you can do three, it's certainly the best.
Interviewer: What about baby teeth? Do you have to really care about baby teeth as much as the real teeth?
Dr. Williams: As far as baby teeth, they're set up to kind of make it through those first couple of years without a lot of disease. Baby teeth generally have spaces between them so you don't have to worry about flossing. Children under two generally produce a lot of saliva that kind of naturally protects the teeth. Also the grooves on the molar teeth aren't as deep, so it's usually not as much of a concern. But after the child turns two, that's when getting in there, brushing, and being more diligent about it is more important.
Interviewer: I remember my mom told me if I had a cavity in my baby teeth, it would go to my grown-up tooth underneath. Is that true?
Dr. Williams: That would be a pretty darn big cavity.
Interviewer: Yeah, I would think so.
Dr. Williams: Typically not. But certainly, baby teeth can become infected, and the infection can involve the tooth below it. But that's pretty rare.
Interviewer: All right. So the condition of the baby teeth is not necessarily indicative of what the adult teeth are going to be like?
Dr. Williams: Right.
Interviewer: All right. What else as a parent should I know for having really healthy teeth for my children?
Dr. Williams: One thing that's important for your child to know is about fluoride, and there's a lot of different ways to get fluoride. The good thing about fluoride is it's typically in your tap water. So if you turn on the tap and take a drink of water, you're getting fluoride.
Interviewer: Unless you have a filter system. That filters it out, doesn't it?
Dr. Williams: No, it doesn't. But the thing you want to know about Utah is only about 50 percent of the communities around here have access to fluoride. So if you don't have tap water with fluoride in it, you need to seek it out in a different way, either in toothpaste or going to your general dentist and getting a fluoride varnish put onto your teeth. A good way to check to see if your community has fluoridated water is going online, and there are several websites that can pull up a map of your area and show how much fluoride is in the water, if there's fluoride in the water, and where you can go to get fluoridated water.
Interviewer: What about the people that say fluoride in the water's bad for my kids? When you go on the Internet, you read that, right?
Dr. Williams: Right. That certainly is a concern. Anything that a government entity puts in the water, you're kind of concerned about.
Interviewer: Yeah, a little suspect, though.
Dr. Williams: Exactly. But there's no evidence to show or prove that fluoride has any deleterious effects on the human body.
Interviewer: All right. So it's not a mind control plot?
Dr. Williams: Hopefully not. It's just about getting better teeth.
Dr. Williams: Another thing that you want to know is going to a pediatric dentist doesn't have to be a stressful event, and it doesn't have to be scary for your child. Pediatric dentists are trained in several different techniques to deal with an anxious child. In my experience, from what I've seen being around pediatric dentists, they do a very good job in calming down the child and doing treatment quickly, but doing quality treatment to treat any disease that might be in the mouth.
Interviewer: Is that a new type of dentist, a pediatric dentist?
Dr. Williams: No.
Interviewer: When I was a kid, I went to the grown-up dentist, and I hated it.
Dr. Williams: Well, grown-up dentists can do it as well, and some of them have an affinity to treatment children, and they certainly know how to do it. But pediatric dentists, that's all they do all day. So I think they're very good at it.
Interviewer: Any final thoughts? Is there anything you wish parents knew or anything that we forgot to talk about that you feel is important?
Dr. Williams: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends seeing your pediatric dentist or general dentist when the child's one year old, whether there's teeth in the mouth or not. So that's a recommendation that I would give parents to keep in the back of their mind and certainly not to be anxious or scared about taking your child that young. I think starting early will get their child prepared to see the dentist throughout their whole life.
Interviewer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, the University of Utah health sciences radio.