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Q&A: Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Dental Health

Whether you’re a first-time parent or have taken many a child to the dentist, you will likely always have some questions. Our friendly staff takes the time to make sure you feel comfortable getting all of your questions answered in our office when you visit, but in the meantime, here are the answers to many questions that parents have about their child’s oral health.

How Long Should My Child Be Brushing Their Teeth?

Each brushing session should last about two minutes. Children who are just learning to brush their teeth or are impatient are likely to brush harder than normal for about 10-15 seconds rather than brushing more lightly for the duration of two minutes. Make sure to teach your child the importance of lighter brushing; brushing too hard can damage the gums. To make sure your child is brushing their teeth for long enough, turn on a two-minute timer with a fun song or better yet, buy them a toothbrush with a timer built in!

What Type of Bristles Should I Choose for My Child’s Toothbrush?

When you visit your local store, you’ll likely see three different bristle varieties available for toothbrushes: soft, medium, and hard. Most dentists don’t recommend choosing anything beyond soft for children. A soft-bristled toothbrush will effectively remove bacteria from teeth and prevent plaque build-up, while medium- and hard-bristled brushes can damage your gums, root surfaces, and tooth enamel. Especially for children whose mouths are still sensitive while they grow and lose teeth, a soft-bristled brush is your best bet. Electric toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes are both great options.

How Soon Should I Start Brushing My Child’s Teeth?

You should start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as you see teeth break through the gums, and should be brushing your child’s teeth regularly once they have several teeth. You can bring them in for a visit to the dentist as soon as their teeth grow in to make sure their teeth and growing in properly and developing in a healthy way. When your child is around 6-7, they can begin brushing their teeth on their own with your supervision; this is a great time to have them get into the habit of brushing their teeth with a two-minute timer running so that their teeth get thoroughly cleaned each morning and night.

Should My Child Use Mouthwash or Swish Fluoride?

If your child is older than about six years old, they can use mouthwash or fluoride with your supervision. Using mouthwash isn’t crucial for dental health, but it can be an added protection to keep harmful bacteria from collecting in your child’s mouth. Your child needs to be old enough to understand how to spit out all of the mouthwash without swallowing any to use it safely. Mouthwash or fluoride are particularly helpful for children with braces, who may have trouble flossing and brushing as effectively as they did before they got braces. You can learn more about kids and mouthwash in a previous blog article as well!

How Can I Prevent Sugar From Damaging My Child’s Teeth?

Like it or not, children’s mouths are exposed to sugar on a daily basis, even if you are hyper-conscious of what your child eats. In order to minimize the chances that sugar consumption will result in cavities for your children, consider giving them sugar-containing drinks (including milk) at meals or snacks only, preventing your child from carrying around sugary drinks all day or having access to them when unsupervised. In between meals, it’s best for your child to drink water if they’re thirsty. If your child eats a sugary snack or dessert, consider doing an extra tooth-brushing afterward to ensure the sugar doesn’t linger on their teeth.

Does Thumb-Sucking Negatively Affect Children’s Teeth?

Most children stop sucking their thumbs (and other fingers) somewhere between the ages of two and four. In terms of tooth development, if your child stops sucking their thumb during that age range, their teeth shouldn’t be negatively affected. If your child sucks their thumb long after their full set of teeth has grown in, it can affect the direction of the teeth. If you have concerns, talk with our professionals and if necessary, work on a plan for you and your child to stop sucking their thumb if your dentist determines it may be detrimental to your child’s dental health.

Contact Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa

We hope the answers to these questions will put your mind at ease and provide you with some introductory information about your child’s dental health. If you have more specific questions or concerns, please call our offices and our staff will be happy to consult with you to troubleshoot.