Holidays involve some indulgence. This is especially true for Easter, possibly the sweetest holiday of the year, where children tuck into chocolate and candy treats courtesy the Easter Rabbit. Writer/Media Relations Ofﬁcer Kaelanne Jordan spoke to Paediatric Dentist Dr Karly Francis at her Trinidad Children’s Dentistry ofﬁce, on the importance of dental hygiene and how parents can stop the sweet feast from damaging theirchild’s teeth and gums.
Why is developing good oral hygiene important?
It sets the tone for when you are going to take care of your mouth when you have adult teeth. So, if you don’t take good care of your baby teeth and you don’t learn to do it from the start, then you can’t take care of your permanent teeth either. And you know baby teeth last really long, until you’re 12 years old, so it’s really important to take care of them.
What is the number one dental problem among children today? And what makes a child at risk?
It depends on the age. From 0—4 [years] the number one issue is bottle feeding or nursing after teeth is in their mouth. I’m sure you’ve seen kids with bad front teeth from bottle [feeding] or nursing in the night. So for that
age group, they are most at risk for baby bottle caries [cavities]. For older kids, it’s carbohydrate consumption. People have this idea that only sweets cause cavities. That’s true, but so do simple carbohydrates like crackers, gummies [which] are really hard on teeth.
When would you say is the ideal age for a child to have their ﬁrst dental visit?
That varies. The ﬁrst visit [should be] at 1 year [old]. It allows me to say these things that I’m saying to you that people don’t hear otherwise. We do see a ton of babies so I would say any time you have a question is probably the best time to start.
How often should a child visit a dentist?
About every six months. It’s risk-based. If everything is under control then the check up can go for the next nine months or a year, but you want a dentist to make that decision for you.
What can a child and their parent expect during a typical dental visit?
Here we let the child guide it. So it will start off if the child is excited and gung—ho ready to go and they pop in the chair. Normally a check—up means going through the whole list of things that I check: development [of teeth], then I check for cavities, gums, soft tissues and then we’ll do a cleaning, ﬂoss.
Can you give some advice on how parents and kids can deal with dentist visit anxieties?
Starting them off young really helps. A lot of parents who are scared project that on to their child and they say things like “Don’t worry, it’s not gonna hurt”. Having no expectations and basically allowing us to guide them through the process is probably the best thing you can do.
What’s the right amount of toothpaste for brushing?[It] depends on if they can spit or not. So a baby that can’t spit, use a tiny dot of ﬂuoride toothpaste and smush it in the bristles. As they get bigger, you can increase the amount because they have more teeth and then usually at 3 or 4 [years], you can put a pea—sized amount.
Can thumb-sucking and paciﬁer use affect a child’s teeth?
It affects the shape for sure but not if they’re stopped at a reasonable age from before the teeth starts to change: 5—6 years, the teeth recover well.
Do you think there’s a good culture of proper dental hygiene locally?
For the most part. I think certainly people value their smile and [are] eager to learn about hygiene, brushing etc. Especially now there’s a lot more kids coming in much younger which is great.
Any tips for parents to help kids get onboard with proper dental hygiene?
I get a ton of people saying “Well she don’t like to brush her teeth so we don’t really do it”. But I tell them treat it like changing a diaper. It just needs to be done.