Children’s Dental Care: Before the Candy, Tooth Trivia
Did you know your teeth can say a lot about your overall health? (The same is true regarding our children’s teeth. 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.
In the spirit of Halloween, we thought it would be fun to take a long, hard look at some of the most prevalent myths regarding teeth and oral care. So put down the candy corn, and let’s start debunking!
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 your child’s Halloween candy bucket) — but they also love simple carbohydrates like fruits, veggies, and grains. So brush those 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 — dental decay left unchecked can cause pain, abscess, and swelling. An infection can even spread to other parts of her body. Yikes! Now that’s a Halloween nightmare.
Whitening toothpaste and similar products are unsafe for teens to use.
Nope! Most dentists agree that over-the-counter white strips, trays, and pastes are generally considered safe. Moderation is important, and the safest teeth whitening is 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.
According to Dr. Gerry Curatola, founder of Rejuvenation Dentistry in New York City, 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. He says 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.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween! Don’t forget about your own teeth — especially after that midnight trip to the pantry to rifle through your child’s candy stash. Or maybe that’s just me? 😉