We are here to help your kids keep their teeth for a life-time and that starts at an early age. And... it starts with making dental care a fun experience of connection and a celebration of wellness.
Let's start with our philosophy at Fiddlehead...
When do we start brushing teeth?
If you want your child to enjoy a nice, healthy smile their entire life, it's best to get them started as soon as you see their very first tooth! Dental Care at that stage involves two things: getting the child accustomed to having their teeth cleaned and being sure their diet doesn't soften their teeth from the very beginning.
Here's two tips for babies:
- In the very beginning, put a soft, wet washcloth over your index finger and use it like a brush on the baby teeth daily.
- Keep specific "meal-times". Never let a baby or toddler get used to falling asleep with a bottle in their mouths. Milk and juice are primarily sugar, and letting those sugars sit on the teeth while sleeping will lead to "baby bottle cavities" which often involve dental repairs to be done in the operating room far too early in life.
When should children have their first visit to the dentist?
We like to tell our patients that age 3 is best if you've got an easy-going child that is comfortable with new people and situations. If not, then age 4 may be a better age to start. Once you establish a routine with visits, it should be a piece of cake to keep kids looking forward to coming back. In fact, we've had kids in our practice who ask to come see us on their birthdays because we always make them feel so special!
Here's two tips about the first visit to the dentist:
- If you've got a child who may be timid, take them to your own cleaning appointments, or the appointments with a well-behaved sibling. We have timid children get comfortable in a beanbag chair in the corner of the room where a parent or a sibling is having their teeth cleaned. They will see how much we care, that there is nothing to fear, and how we make it fun for their older sibling or parent. After a few visits like that, they usually ask to have their turn in the big chair!
- It's OK to wade them into the water with what we call a "happy visit". This appointment usually involves a ride in the chair, using our tiny intra-oral cameras to show them their own teeth up on the TV screen, and some fun with the water spray. We see how far we can get, and then call it a success. Often on the second visit, we get all the tasks done with no problem.
What's the story on Fluoride?
Dr. Chuck and I believe it's important to carefully consider the benefit/risk ratio on everything we do. So here's the bottom-line about Fluoride: the benefits are obvious every day that we look in people's mouths, and the risks are still unproven. The benefit/risk ratio still balances far in the favor of making sure your kids get some exposure to Fluoride. If not, they will almost surely have more high maintenance teeth as adults.
I know, I know... if you are a Fluoride critic, you're not going to like that answer, but I would only ask you to investigate your sources very carefully.
Because here's what we know for sure: children with careful Fluoride exposure may never have a single cavity in their life. In fact, I can look in any adult's mouth and tell them if they moved from the city to the country (or vice versa) as a child. I'm not clairvoyant. It's just that the enamel is shaped completely different when people grow up with public water fluoridation. The teeth are harder, whiter, and less groovy.
Here's what we don't know for sure: we don't know if Fluoride causes cancer or any of the other things it's accused of. Those are all speculative claims at this point. That could change tomorrow, but for now, I am glad that I gave my own kids Fluoride tablets, because they have the genes to have "soft teeth" from both sides of the family.
Do your own careful homework on this! I once had a new patient who brought in a stack of paper an inch think with anti-fluoride "evidence" she had copied from the web. The next day I had a couple hours to kill, so with good intention, I dove into her research to enlighten both of us. And frankly I was shocked. No wonder this nice person was so overwhelmed and fearful. There was enough there to frighten anyone. Anyone, that is, who did not check the "sources" for all this information.
For instance, if you find a website throwing around frightening statistics but they don't cite their sources, click away. If they do cite their sources, make sure they are credible. Take a look. What I found in that inch thick stack of papers was mostly links that brought me to "page not available" messages, or their source turned out to be just other anti-fluoride website, not real research institutions or solid science. Most of these anti-fluoride websites are all just referencing each other!
And remember that "links" on the web are not the same as credible sources. If you follow them, they will almost never bring you to real research that will make you feel certain about your decisions. On the odd occasion they actually refer us to a scientific paper, the statements we are looking for are often buried in pages of data and then grossly taken out of context.
Be savvy. Most tricksters on the web are betting that you and I won't track down where they got their information.
What are the best Prevention Efforts?
You can't go wrong with a few good policies at home:
- Brush and floss at night. The last thing in your child's mouth before bed should be floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush. (Same for you and I!) Your saliva stops when you sleep so anything you eat or drink after that will be what sits on your teeth for 8 solid hours.
- Serve only water or milk with meals. Juice or bottled drinks raise the blood sugar levels very quickly and kids won't want to eat. Never let juice or bottled drinks ruin the good nutrition of a meal you worked hard to make.
- From a very early age, give your kids plain water as their "thirst quencher," and a lot of it. Don't let your kids develop a taste for sugary drinks and drinks with acidic ingredients. (It's actually the citric or phosphoric acid in soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks and teas that dissolves the enamel!) If they never have bottled drinks as a child, they won't miss it as a teen, and you won't have that battle. For a treat once in a while, kids can have chocolate milk and it will seem like heaven. :)
- Have sealants put on your child's new adult molars (at age 6 and age 12) as soon as they are fully erupted through the gums. (See "Sealants" explained below)
Now take a look at the following two sections and let me know if you have questions we didn't cover here.
Or better yet, ask me yourself when you bring your children in for an appointment. We are never rushed and are always welcoming new families at Fiddlehead Dental!
Sealants are basically a plastic coating that protects the grooves of the teeth from the bacteria that causes tooth decay. The chewing surface of the molar is first cleaned and then treated chemically so the plastic will bond with the enamel. Then liquid plastic is painted into the grooves and a bright light finishes the process by curing and hardening the plastic.
In most cases, we treat all permanent molars with sealants, as these teeth tend to have the deepest and most vulnerable grooves. The process is best done just after the permanent molars are fully erupted, as long as the child can sit still for the time it takes to complete the procedure. (About 45 minutes for all four 6-year molars.)
Sealants can be placed on vulnerable "baby teeth" but the process is usually too tedious for children under the age of 6. The teeth must be kept absolutely dry for several minutes while placing the sealants, and this is often just too challenging for pre-schoolers.
Adults can have sealants too!
If you have molars that have never been treated with fillings, it is a nice preventive move to "seal" the grooves of these teeth. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially in dentistry.
Baby teeth typically fall out in the order they came in:
- First to go: the two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors)... Age 4 to 7.
- Followed by the two top front teeth (upper central incisors)... Age 6 to 8
- Then the lateral incisors... Age 7 to 9
- First molars, canines and second molars will then be lost in inconsistent order... Age 8 to 13
- All of the 20 baby teeth will be replaced from age 6 to 16.
- Permanent "12 year molars" will complete the adult dentition by age 11 to 13.
- There will be 32 teeth in all, including 4 wisdom teeth.