Five Common Misconceptions about Kids’ Teeth
By: Dr. Madeline Walter
As a dentist seeing pediatric patients, I talk to many parents about their children’s teeth and how best to keep them healthy. Parents frequently ask me questions about things they’ve heard in the media and are unsure about. I want to share some of these common misconceptions with you so that you too can discover the truth about your child’s dental health!
“Kids should brush their own teeth as soon as they are able”
Kids cannot effectively brush their own teeth until they can tie their own shoes. Even then, they may need you to help them brush the far back teeth. It’s best to monitor them while they begin brushing on their own so that you can show them good habits and help your children be successful.
“Juice is a healthy choice”
While juice may seem like it’s healthy because it’s made from fruit, it is very high in sugar and contributes to tooth decay in children. Also, it does not matter if juice is watered down or not; even 99% water with 1% juice is as bad as regular juice. The same is true for milk, which should NOT be given to children right before bed (unless they brush immediately after). Learn more about baby bottle tooth decay.
Try not to let your child sip anything but water throughout the day. If they want to drink soda, juice, or milk, they should drink them with snacks and within a 20 to 30 minute time period. This is because every time you eat, the pH in your mouth becomes more acidic and makes a great environment for cavities to form...the more often you eat during the day the more often your teeth become more vulnerable because it takes a while for the pH to readjust after eating.
In general, good snacks for kids to eat include cheese, peanuts, and vegetables. Dried fruit and any carbohydrates such as crackers are not recommended because they are high in sugar. A good rule to follow is to choose good snacks by checking the labels for low sugar content.
“Baby teeth are not important because they fall out eventually”
Baby teeth are very important because if they get infections from cavities, they can affect the adult teeth forming underneath them and cause pain and swelling. They also are needed up to age 12-13 to hold the space so your child's permanent six-year molars do not move forward and block other adult teeth from coming in…that would cause many more problems than a filling! Overall, the healthier baby teeth are, the more likely your child’s adult teeth will be healthy because if they don't start good habits now these bad habits will carry into adulthood.
“It’s most important for my child to brush their teeth when they wake up.”
The most important time for your kids to brush their teeth is right before bed. Once their teeth are brushed, don’t let them eat or drink anything besides water. If food particles and sugars sit on teeth all night, your child’s teeth can develop dental caries even faster. Brushing at night is more important that brushing in the morning and this is true for everyone. Brushing twice-a-day remains the recommendation…Remember to brush at night to keep your teeth, and in the morning to keep your friends!
“Kids shouldn’t chew gum”
It’s okay for kids to chew gum!
As long as the gum is sugar free, it is safe for them to chew. Sugarless gum is especially helpful after eating because chewing gum stimulates saliva flow, which helps to wash food particles away and more quickly returns your mouth to a balanced pH. As long as your child does not swallow the gum, it’s okay for them to chew it.
Learn more about chewing gum for adults and children in our post, Does Chewing Gum Actually Help Clean Your Teeth?