Now that our kids have had their fill of Halloween candy, I have some words of advice (on the down low) from a dentist that I “grilled” (informally interviewed) recently.
But to start, I’ll tell you that I don’t really believe that young kids need to see a dentist if you are conscious to take preventative measures (which we do).
So that said, of course, my kids have not been to a dentist yet (almost three and four years old) although most people including dentists might consider that a form of light child abuse. (You may be one of them and may feel like reporting me to the authorities, but hold on and hear me out because it might surprise you to know that a dentist I spoke with agreed with me! (off the record, however to avoid criticism from colleagues.)
Why don’t I believe in dentist visits for my young kids?
A couple of reasons. One is that I don’t believe my children need a dental cleaning at this age. And second, I’ve always felt that dentists are trying to get you in as early and as often as they can in order to make a living.
The shocking thing is that this dentist said that I am right! He did say that he does see young children with cavities who do need cleanings and dental work, but they are the children who eat sugary foods, candy and drink soda or juice as a part of their normal daily diet (so if this describes your kid, please do take him or her to the dentist early and often). However, if you are a family like us, who does not eat sugary foods and cares for your kids teeth (brushing and checking for cavities) this dentist says your children can wait to see a dentist until around five or six years old! (and that is just for a general check up to make sure everything is okay.)
So what is the best way to take care of a young child’s teeth so they don’t need to see a dentist?
AVOID SUGAR AND SUGARY FOODS. That means all sugars including soda and fruit juice. Again, this dentist said the kids who have cavities are the ones who eat candy, drink soda and even fruit juice regularly. Kids don’t need juice. Eating fruit provides the fiber that is important in their diet and also in a way scrubs their teeth kind of like a tooth brush, so less sugar is left on the teeth. Drinking juice (or soda) is like washing your teeth in a sugar bath!
BRUSH AFTER YOU EAT. If you eat something sugary this will help. And here’s something you may not have thought of: carbohydrates stick to your teeth and can be almost as damaging as sugar (especially white flour types of foods). Brushing will make all the difference since tartar only forms from food or sugar left on your teeth. Flossing is good too, but just getting the brush into your kids mouths is sometimes the best we can do.
RINSE YOUR MOUTH WITH WATER AFTER EATING OR DRINKING. For kids, just having them drink water will rinse off a good amount of gunk that can turn into cavity producing tartar.
CHECK FOR CAVITIES. If you see any spots on your child’s teeth, especially on the tops of the molars, go see a dentist.
That is basically it for a healthy dental regimen.
Some other sound advice from this dentist…
When your child does see a dentist, have the dentist coat the tops of the back teeth with a sealant- a thin coating of resin. Since the molars are the most used to chew (where food can more easily get stuck in small crevices) this is where the coating can be an impervious barrier and protect the teeth without being invasive. This along with brushing can prevent kids who do eat sugar from losing their molar teeth to tooth decay.
Fluoride does help your teeth, so brushing with fluoride does make a difference, however it is not necessary to drink fluoridated water. Just getting your teeth in contact with fluoride is what matters. Fluoride strengthens the bony type material of the teeth, so if your child does have a weak spot in his tooth, the flouride can actually build up that weak spot and avert the possibility of a cavity. I personally would only give flouride toothpaste to children who are old enough not to swallow toothpaste. I believe ingesting fluoride is harmful and should only be used topically on the surface of the teeth and then rinsed out well with water. My children use a fluoride-free toothpaste since they are still in the habit of sucking on their toothbrushes. When they get older and break this habit, I’ll switch them over to a toothpaste with fluoride.
Some other tid-bits on the down low…
According to this dentist, it is true that many dentist do unnecessary cleanings and procedures in order to make money. Many dentists are not into prevention, but will “drill and fill” at the slightest sign of a cavity, where it instead could be remedied with prescription fluoride or other means. He has seen dentists take out teeth unnecessarily, and even do root canals that have done more harm than good. He agrees with me on this — if you are generally healthy with your teeth, seeing a bad dentist can put you more at risk than not seeing a dentist at all!
I am sure many dentists would refute these claims, but just think about who stands to gain and who stands to lose. My sensible advice– teach your kids to take care of their teeth and watch the sugar intake, and you can avoid most dental problems for life.
Your Sensible Girlfriend