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Preventing Dental Problems In Kids

Dr. Nana Odoom

If you’re a parent, you likely have a lot on your calendar – doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, school projects and more. It’s easy to put off taking your child to the dentist when they aren’t having any problems. However, helping your child get in the routine of caring for their teeth each day, including regular visits to the dentist, is a very important step for their future.

Dr. Nana Odoom, Pediatric Dentist at Keystone Dental Care, and her colleague, Dr. Victor Amarteifio, often see children who have dental conditions which could be prevented. In today’s article, she shares what parents can do to help their children have healthy teeth and avoid painful, and sometimes costly, dental problems in the future.

What conditions do pediatric dentists treat?

Pediatric dentists primarily focus on treating toddlers, adolescents and all special needs patients. After four years of dental school to treat not only growing children, but children with additional medical needs and special needs patients of all ages, we receive two to three years of extra training with a great focus on orofacial growth and development. Our training focuses on enhancing our skills to best address all forms of behavioral challenges that a child or a special needs patient may present at a dental office. Those skills include advanced behavior guidance and management techniques, and sedation and treatment in a hospital setting depending on the needs of the patient.

Some of the most common procedures we perform are routine checkups and cleanings, treating caries (cavities), abscesses and swelling. We also see patients for traumatic injuries that may sometimes include needing stitches to the mouth and face as well.

What can parents do to help prevent childhood dental problems?

The best thing you can do is to establish a dental home as early as possible – find a pediatric dentist to see your child for regular care as soon as your child has their first tooth. This dentist will be able to establish a relationship of trust with your child from an early age and get to know them and their needs.

With my patients, I try to remember their hobbies and interests so we have something to talk about when they visit. If your child feels comfortable around his or her dentist, appointments are more enjoyable and less intimidating. If an emergency situation would ever arise, children usually feel much more comfortable being treated by their regular dentist instead of someone they are meeting for the first time.

Nutritional counseling is a major part in preventing cavities from the standpoint of a pediatric dentist. We encourage discontinuing bottle-feeding at 12 months of age.  Not putting your child to sleep with a bottle with anything other than non-flavored water is also beneficial to limiting the rate at which your child can get cavities. Also, cleaning your child’s teeth after night-time feeding is highly recommended. Children should definitely not share utensils with siblings, parents and other caregivers who have had cavities before or have active cavities. Minimizing processed carbohydrate food products helps to decrease your child’s ability to get cavities. Limiting frequent snack intake as well as sugary drinks (flavored water, juice, soda, sport drinks and flavored milk products) during the day will decrease cavity formation in your child.

Cleaning your child’s teeth twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, especially at night time, will help prevent cavities from forming in their teeth.

Parents can check with their county about water fluoridation in their neighborhood and have a conversation with their dentist to determine if further fluoride supplementation is necessary for their growing child.

What dental habits should parents teach their children?

Parents should start cleaning their child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. They can use a toothbrush or washcloth, or can buy a finger brush which is a small, soft brush designed to fit on the parent’s finger. Even if your baby only has one tooth, you should still clean it. Be consistent with brushing every day.

After brushing their teeth at bedtime, they should not eat anything else and should drink nothing other than water.

As your growing child becomes more independent, parents should follow up afterwards to check if the brushing has been properly done.

What should parents know about taking their child to the dentist?

Contrary to popular belief, you should not wait until your child is 2 years old for their first dental appointment. You should schedule your child’s first dental appointment when his or her first tooth appears, or no later than 12 months of age.

Don’t wait to see a dentist until problems arise. Instead, be proactive. Make caring for your child’s teeth a regular habit, and make time to see their dentist twice a year. By getting into good dental routine, many problems can be prevented.


This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.