Children’s Dental Care Facts and Myths
Did you know your teeth can say a lot about your overall health? The same is true regarding our children’s dental care and health. Most of us should plan to see a dentist twice a year — every six months — unless we are experiencing more serious dental issues, of course. As parents, we should start taking our little ones to the dentist as soon as they begin developing teeth. This allows the doctor to check for any developmental issues, and also helps our tots warm up to the idea of seeing a dentist more regularly. There are so many myths about baby teeth out there, though. So we though we’d take a long, hard look at some of the most prevalent myths regarding kids’ teeth and oral care.
Kids’ Teeth Myths and Facts
Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay.
False! While sugar can lead to cavity formation, it’s not the real culprit when it comes to tooth decay. The big, bad villain is actually acid from bacteria. This bacteria eats away at our enamel. True, the bacteria love refined sugars (like the ones found in candy and sugary drinks) — but they also love simple carbohydrates like fruits, veggies, and grains. So brush your kids’ teeth, and brush them well! And don’t forget to floss.
Baby teeth aren’t important. They’re just going to fall out anyway!
Not true! Before the tooth fairy sees all 20 of your little one’s baby teeth, they serve many important functions. Baby teeth are natural space maintainers for permanent teeth. If my daughter, Savannah, loses a baby tooth too early, this could cause crowding of her permanent teeth. The health of her temporary baby teeth can have long lasting effects — tooth decay left unchecked can cause pain, abscess, and swelling. An infection can even spread to other parts of her body. Yikes!
Whitening toothpaste and similar products are unsafe for teens to use.
Maybe not. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using a conservative approach to tooth whitening in children under 15. Over the age of 15, if the child has all of his permanent teeth, whitening should be done under the supervision of a doctor. Overuse of these products can cause the enamel to become fragile or porous. Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common side effects. If this occurs, discontinue use immediately.
Wisdom teeth serve no purpose.
Not necessarily. Wisdom teeth are a product of evolution. It is believed that our ancestors ate course food that caused the jaw to grow larger and stronger, allowing for more teeth in our mouths. Over time, our mouths began to shrink to make room for our growing brains, leaving many folks with overcrowded mouths and painful impactions when the little buggers decided to break through. Most people will have them removed to make room for other teeth, but if they aren’t causing you problems, it’s probably best to leave them alone.
Knocked-out teeth are gone forever.
Good news! It’s possible to re-implant a knocked-out, adult tooth. (Once those baby teeth are gone, and the more permanent teeth have appeared on the scene.) The key to success is how the missing tooth is stored, and for how long. Dentists recommend rinsing the tooth gently with a saline solution, handling it carefully by the crown. If possible, they say place the tooth back in its original socket, or store it in a small container of saline or milk. (Yes, milk.) Put pressure on the gums to reduce bleeding and pain en route to the dentist. You can expect a full recovery in about two months. Good to know, right? Especially if your little goblins are particularly rambunctious!
You should brush immediately after every meal.
False! Believe it or not, this isn’t necessary. The acidic environment in your mouth temporarily softens the enamel on teeth while it breaks down food particles and washes them away. Brush too soon and you’ll end up scrubbing away tooth enamel in the process. Try waiting 30 to 60 minutes before grabbing that toothbrush — and make sure you get in at least two good brushings a day.
Don’t forget about your own teeth — especially after that midnight trip to the pantry to rifle through your secret stash of chocolate. Or maybe that’s just me?