straight some crooked ideas about kids and their teeth

If they’re old enough for kindergarten, they can do their own brushing.

Reality: Younger children generally do not have the ability to clean their teeth well. By 8 or 9 years of age, children will usually develop sufficient dexterity to brush their own teeth. However, most will continue to need reminders, as well as supervision of their brushing and flossing, for a few years to come.

Kids are scared of the dentist.

Reality: Children respond well to dentist visits if they know what to expect. If they see that their parents have a positive attitude toward their own visits, they will be more likely to see the dentist in a positive light. If your child is nervous, find a pediatric dental practice in your area. It’s essential to get kids comfortable with the dentist; the American Dental Association recommends getting the first checkup by the first birthday.

When kids start losing teeth, parents only job is playing Tooth Fairy.

Reality: Primary teeth usually start getting loose around 6 years of age. Around this time, the first permanent molars come through, and its important to brush these new teeth regularly. Because tooth alignment may be irregular during the transition to permanent teeth, effective cleaning takes patience.

Babies don’t need oral care.

Reality: Home oral care should start as soon as possible. Even before a baby’s teeth have come through, start cleaning gums with a soft baby toothbrush or a cloth and water. As soon as the first teeth make an appearance, clean teeth and gums gently with a small, soft toothbrush.

Candy and soda are the only foods parents need to restrict.

Reality: Many foods contain sugar, and sugar increases the risk of tooth decay. Read food labels carefully; many processed foods that don’t taste sweet potato chips and ketchup, for example, contain a substantial amount of sugar. A glass of soda contains 6 to 8 teaspoons of it, but fruit juice also packs a lot. Limit such drinks, read labels and give kids a healthy, balanced diet

Barbara Shearer, B.D.S., M.D.S., Ph.D., is a dentist, researcher and mother based in New York City.