Pediatrician Dr. Maria Marquez is passionate about children’s oral health. In this blog, Dr. Marquez, who is also the Medical Director of Mary’s Center’s new site in Fort Totten, Washington, DC, dispels some myths about dental health and shares some very useful advice on how you can protect your little one’s pearly whites.
Myth 1: “Baby Teeth Cavities Are Not A Big Deal. They Are Just Baby Teeth, And They Are Going To Fall Out.”
Reality: It is true that none of your child’s 20 “baby teeth” or “primary teeth” will survive into their teenage years. But if you want the 32 permanent teeth to come in healthy, shiny and straight, it’s absolutely essential to take care of their predecessors. Healthy baby teeth are part of your child’s health and smile for life, because the healthy roots of baby teeth help guide permanent teeth into place as they grow.
If a baby tooth has decay, it can pass the bacteria to the permanent tooth below, causing it to decay before it even breaks the surface. Not only does the decay spread to the permanent tooth, but it can also spread to the rest of the body through your child’s saliva and gum tissue, causing a slew of long-term health consequences. Tooth decay (caries, cavity) can cause chronic pain, sleep disturbances, day fatigue, learning difficulties, among other problems.
Myth 2: “I Don’t Need To Take My Child To The Dentist! He Only Has 2 Teeth!”
Reality: How can your child have bad oral hygiene when he/she’s all gums?! Believe it or not, oral health begins almost immediately after birth. A child’s first visit to the dentist should be in infancy, at the latest before 18 months of age. More than likely – if you’ve been doing a good job with their oral hygiene so far – it’ll just be a short appointment. The dentist will take a look around, warn you about any potential problem areas, possibly clean your little one’s teeth, and answer any questions you may have. After that, your child should visit the dentist at least twice a year.
Myth 3: My Child Has Cavities Because He Has “Soft Teeth.”
Reality: If you think that “soft teeth” are the reason that cavities tend to run in families, you’ll be interested to know that is not the case. The real reason may surprise you! There is no such thing as “soft teeth”, as everyone’s teeth are coated in enamel, the hardest substance in the human body. Research shows that dental caries (tooth decay) is an infectious disease. In fact, it is the most common chronic childhood disease and infection. Dental caries are associated with particular strains of bacteria, which live in the mouth. Care providers, who carry these bacteria, can pass them to their baby or child through their saliva. The bacteria live in an acidic and sugary environment. Caries or cavities occur when the bacteria eat away at the teeth to create little holes. Once a hole is formed, it becomes very hard to reach the bacteria hiding out in the hole, so the problem worsens.
But there’s good news! There’s a lot you can do to teach your child good habits and protect your child’s teeth.
“How Do I Start Good Oral Health Habits In Kids That Last A Lifetime?”
· The teething process starts very early in life, so start wiping your child’s gums twice a day with a wet soft fabric or a gauze.
· When the first tooth erupts, start brushing it with a small amount of fluoridate children’s tooth paste twice a day (the size of a rice grain until 2 years old and then the size of a pea). We parents can’t wait for the day that our child brushes their teeth independently (and hopefully willingly)! Unfortunately, that day is a long way off. It’s not a matter of intelligence or how gifted your child is. It’s simply because kids only develop the manual dexterity needed to brush all of their teeth thoroughly around the age 6 or 7. Until then, the primary responsibility for their teeth falls to the parents, who should always be present to help their child with brushing.
Habits form early, so it’s best to get your child into an oral hygiene routine from the very beginning.
“How Do I Protect My Child’s Teeth?”
Here’s what we recommend in order to prevent tooth decay:
· Don’t add flavors to water, as this will most likely add sugar, the favored meal of cavity-causing bacteria. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young kids should drink no more than 4 to 6 ounces or the equivalent of one cup of juice per day. It’s also better for your child to drink the juice with a meal and opt for water between meals. Not only is sugar bad for their teeth in general, but the consequences worsen the longer their teeth are exposed to the sugar.
· Avoid giving a bottle of milk or juice to try to help your child fall asleep. If a child falls asleep with a bottle, their teeth are being attacked by the bacteria that feed on sugar for the entire time they’re sleeping, likely leading to early caries of childhood or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
· Water is the best choice for your child. But if you’re opting for the easy-to-grab, convenient option of bottled water, you might just be missing out on one important ingredient – fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and makes teeth more resistant to acids and bacteria.
· Brush your child’s teeth, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. As soon as your child has two teeth that are touching, he or she needs to start flossing. The areas that are harder to reach with a brush are the areas that bacteria prefer to live in. Brushing the teeth may not be enough and may be missing 35% of the tooth’s surface.
· Take your child to visit the dentist regularly for a checkup and professional cleaning.
Put these tips into practice and your child will be well on the way to good oral hygiene!
If you would like to make an appointment with our caring dentists, Dr. Marquez or any of our highly-qualified other pediatricians, please call 1-844-796-2797 or click here to request an appointment online.
About Dr. Marquez
Maria L. Marquez, MD, FAAP is a Board Certified pediatrician who completed her internship, residency and chief residency in the Pediatrics Department at Georgetown University. After her training, Dr. Marquez joined the faculty at Georgetown University Hospital, where she has been practicing and teaching since 1999. She has been frequently recognized as a Washingtonian Top Doctor, and developed a medical educator career as Associate Dean of Reflection and Professional Development and Full Professor of the Department of Pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. In addition Dr. Marquez has served in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) at national and regional levels; passionately advocating children's oral health as theirs overall health, as Co-Founders of the District of Columbia’s Oral Health Coalition, and Co-Chair of the Dental-Medical Collaboration group. She is very proud to be a member of the Mary’s Center team, and to serve as Director of the Clinic at Fort Totten. Dr. Marquez values a holistic approach to health. On a personal level she enjoys travelling, music, cooking and going to the museums with her family.