February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it highlights the importance of good oral health in our children. It also unites healthcare providers, educators and caregivers to work together to keep our children’s smiles shining as bright as can be. Tooth decay is one of the top chronic diseases of childhood in the United States yet is completely preventable! Many parents are surprised to learn that tooth decay can start as early as the first teeth come in, so our very own pediatric dentist, Dr. Liza Idelchik will go through some of the most commonly asked questions to arm parents with the tools they need to keep their little ones’ smiles healthy.
Raised in New York City, Dr. Idelchik is a pediatric dentist who strives to provide the very best dental care to children of all ages and needs. Dr. Idelchik received her Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree from NYU College of Dentistry with an honor in Pediatric Dentistry and graduated in the top 2% of her class. She continued her education by completing an additional residency at Columbia Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital where she gained ample experience treating medically complex children and special needs children in collaboration with Morgan Stanley Children’s hospital. Since her own son suffered from a tethered oral tissue, she is especially passionate and empathetic in this area. She continued education beyond residency in Tongue and Lip Ties and is excited to provide safe and effective procedures using a state-of-the-art laser in her practice.
SO NOW LETS GET INTO THE SECRET TIPS OF CHILDREN'S DENTAL HEALTH
When will my child start losing baby teeth?
On average, babies will get the first teeth around 6 months, some earlier and some later, every child is unique. Some children can even get their first teeth as late at 18 months without cause for concern.
The lower middle baby teeth start loosening around age 6, and the last baby teeth (in the back) fall out around age 12.
When should I take my child to see a dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends seeing a pediatric dentist when the child’s first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday.
Not all dentists are alike. Just like the pediatrician, a pediatric dentist completes an additional specialty residency after dental school just to work with children.
Children have unique needs when it comes to their dental health, and the extensive training pediatric dentists receive means they’re better equipped to deal with these issues.
When should I start brushing my child’s teeth and how can I make it enjoyable?
Begin Brushing as soon as the first tooth erupts. Dr. Idelchik recommends to begin using gum wipes even before the teeth come in to start getting your baby desensitized. The earlier the better!
Brush your child’s teeth for two minutes at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The best times to brush are after or before breakfast and right before bed. Avoid putting children to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water.
When using fluoride toothpaste with infants and children that cannot spit, use a smear the size of a grain of rice. Once the child is over 3 years old or can spit, you can use a pea sized amount
Allowing your child to choose their toothpaste or toothbrush may make it more exciting for them. Give choices to young children (have two different color toothbrushes and allow them to pick the one they want to use). Introducing a spin brush can also be motivating. The same idea behind toothpaste flavor options (There are so many fun ones out on the market!) as well as flossers.
Try turning it into a game: describe the “sugar bugs” you're chasing; sing songs; distract them with a television show, etc.
Setting a timer can make brushing more fun and help your child brush for the full two minutes.
It may be helpful to have your child lay their head in your lap or to hold them backwards in your lap while a second adult brushes their teeth.
Educational books and activities to boost confidence and teach children why it is so important to brush their teeth. The AAPD has great educational tips and activities: https://mouthmonsters.mychildrensteeth.org/
What should I do for teething?
The best is cold teething toys. The cold will numb the gums. Favorites are the banana silicone teether/brush for sure since the silicone bristles massage the gums. The silicone tubes are also a big hit.
Frozen milk or fruit may be a last resort if nothing else works (if the child has other teeth in the mouth and is eating solids, it can put them at higher risk for Caries(cavities) to suck on a sugar source for extended periods of time).
Tylenol if under 6 months or baby motrin if over 6 months is ok for those really difficult times but try not to give medicine every day since babies will continue to teeth on average until 2.5 years of age(that’s a long time to rely on meds!)
If the baby has a fever over 100.4, check in with the pediatrician since it may be something else. Lots of skin to skin and snuggles help as well as distraction when you can muster up the energy
Dr. Idelchik advises parents not to give homeopathic Remedies or orajel (topical benzocaine)since children can swallow the medicine and there have been adverse effects. (Ex: Belladonna drops have been linked to seizures in babies, and excessive benzocaine can cause methemoglobinemia). I also do not advise amber teething necklaces since they pose a suffocation hazard. Any pain relievers rubbed on the gums will wash out quickly and it’s not really effective in that sense for more than a few seconds. If you have instead, try brewing caffeine free chamomile tea and soak a Muslin cloth in it, chill it and have them chew. The chewing process helps the most to massage the gums
How do thumb-sucking and pacifiers affect a child’s oral health?
Once a child has turned two, a finger-sucking or pacifier habit can significantly alter the growth pattern of their jaw and teeth, resulting in a need for braces (longer treatment times than if they didn’t have these habits), sleep/airway issues, or even corrective jaw surgery. Your dentist can discuss options to help if your child has a persistent habit.
What is a tongue, lip or cheek tie ?
When frenula are restrictive in the tongue, lip or cheeks, it can have many negative consequences in infants, children, adolescents and adults. A tethered oral tissue(TOT) can cause issues in nursing, feeding, speech, airway, sleeping behavior and many other problems. The state of the art laser Dr. Idelchik utilizes, allows for excellent visualization, precision, minimal to no bleeding, no need for sedation or general anesthesia, excellent healing and less post operative discomfort. The procedure can be performed in as little as a few days after birth and into adulthood. The sooner it is addressed the less issues a child will have.
What should I do in a dental emergency?
Contact your pediatric dentist immediately. You can also send us a photo via email if you aren’t sure your child needs to be seen. Getting an x-ray and exam is typically advised following even minor dental trauma. If a permanent tooth is knocked out, find the tooth and rinse it in water. Place the tooth back in the socket and hold it in place with a clean towel or gauze until you get to the dentist.
If you are unable to place the tooth in the socket, put it in cold milk or Hanks Balanced Salt Solution (sports teams may have access to this), or keep it in saliva and bring it to the pediatric dentist immediately or to your nearest emergency room.
Are sports mouth guards important?
Yes! When children start playing sports, a mouth guard can prevent serious dental injuries and possibly even a concussion. Your pediatric dentist can make a custom fit mouth guard which is the gold standard in protection.
What Should I do if my child grinds at night?
It is common for young children to grind their teeth while asleep. Sometimes it can alarm parents since it can sound very loud. Usually this does not cause lasting problems, and no treatment is necessary.
Your dentist will check for signs of severe dental wear and discuss these with you. There is some research that indicates a possible correlation in some patients with poor muscle tone, crowding/jaw growth, anxiety, ADHD/certain medications and sleep issues. Referrals will be given if deemed necessary.
If your child has not grown out of the habit by the time their adult teeth are present, an occlusal night guard can be made to protect their permanent teeth.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Dr. Liza Idelchik and Children's Dental Health
We would like to thank Dr. Liza Idelchik for her amazing tips and if you would like more secret tips check out our instagram: @thesecretscope