SEEK Expert Interview: Help your kids to keep those pearly whites in tip top shape!

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SEEK talks with a mom of two and dental hygienist, Chelsea Kickert, about taking care of your little one’s teeth from the early stages of childhood until when the time comes for braces.

By Becky Horace

SEEK: When should parents start worrying about their children’s teeth? When might we see the first tooth and what should be our first course of action?

Chelsea: Worry about teeth when they get them! All babies have a different time table, when it comes to teething. Sometimes we can see the first tooth starting as early as three months old with other kids having their first around their first birthday. As soon as you see that first tooth, your number one priority will be to keep it clean.

SEEK: Should parents really worry so much about the paci/dummy and thumb sucking since it’s just baby teeth?

Chelsea: Yes, you should be concerned because the paci and thumb do affect babies mouths. It’s a good idea to restrict/limit use with the paci but every child is different; you can’t always take it away at a certain time sometimes you have to wean them off of it, while other kids can go cold turkey. The thumb habit is usually harder to break since you can’t take it away. As they get older and understand, you could use a sticker chart/reward system to encourage them to kick the habit. There are other options to deter thumb sucking; such as a sock over the hand or sour nail polish. The reason why using a paci or thumb is something to be concerned about is because it can restrict growth of the palate, it can cause crowding, open bites, and over jet to name a few. Although, braces can correct issues in the future it’s best to limit those habits since there are consequences.

SEEK: When do kids normally stop teething?

Chelsea: Kids stop teething when all 20 primary teeth have erupted, between two to three years old.

 

SEEK: How many times should we brush their teeth a day and should it be structured like after meals?

Chelsea: It’s recommended to brush twice a day; morning after breakfast and night before bedtime. The more brushing the better, so brushing after meals is a great idea but unlikely it will happen.

SEEK: At what age will all of their “baby teeth” fall out?

Chelsea: It’s different for every kid but you will probably see the first of the baby teeth falling out around age six with the last of the baby teeth out around age ten to thirteen.

 

SEEK: Should we believe the myth “it’s only baby teeth they will fall out anyway” when it comes to our children brushing their teeth regularly and why?

Chelsea: Yes baby teeth eventually fall out but it’s super important to take care of them! The baby teeth hold a space for permanent teeth. Meaning if they decay or have to be extracted early, there will be issues such as there being enough space, drifting of baby teeth, or the blocking out permanent teeth entirely. Also, tooth decay can lead to dental abscess if left untreated causing a lot of pain, fever, infection, etc.

 

SEEK: When it comes time to pull that first tooth should parents pull it out or to let it fall out naturally?

Chelsea: It all depends; if a child is leaving an extremely loose tooth in their mouth and it’s uncomfortable it’s possible they won’t remove it themselves. This can cause a block for a tooth from erupting, it’s a good idea to have help from your dentist. Otherwise, letting them fall out naturally is fine.

 

SEEK: It’s our first cavity what should we do? Do you have any tips for parents who are in this situation?

Chelsea: With the first cavity, the best thing you can do is treat it early before decay progresses; this will make it easier on the child, dentist, and mom! Parents might not realize that cavities can spread and grow rapidly in primary teeth because the enamel layer is much more thin on a child’s tooth than on an adults. Small cavities can be treated with fillings but large cavities could need crowns or extractions. Don’t beat yourself up parents; decay happens for different reasons. There are also genetic components to cavities. If you have a proper home care routine and if you can limit sugary drinks and foods, you can help to cut down on the cavity rate. One big tip I have for parents to prevent cavities would be to never send your child to bed with any food or drink (other than water). Remember milk is a big cavity culprit, so be aware when you give that nap or night time bottle.

 

SEEK: Any tips on how to help your kids to not be scared of the dentist?

Chelsea: To help your kids become comfortable at the dentist you could try going to a  pediatric office first. They’re fun and geared toward kids. If that’s not an option, try bringing your child with you to your dental appointment a time or two before scheduling theirs. Ask your dental hygienist to ‘tell/show/do’ as she’s cleaning/examining your teeth to better explain how the process works to your little one. Take your child to the ‘treasure box’ after the appointment to show them they get a prize if they behave. You can always read books, talk about the upcoming visit, or play dentist with a doll at home to make them feel more conformable.

 

SEEK: Since our bodies are always changing what is the ideal age to start looking into braces. Is there a “too young” age?

Chelsea: Orthodontic offices recommend a child’s first exam between the ages of seven and nine but that doesn’t mean the child will get braces at that point. All are a case by case type of deal, with some children requiring two phases of braces but some only need one. If the child requires two stages they will start at an earlier age.

 

SEEK: As a mom and a hygienist, can you share your number one tip for parents in taking care of their children’s teeth.

Chelsea: My #1 tip is brush! People don’t realize how important it is to brush. Removing plaque twice a day is the best way to prevent decay and gingivitis (gum inflammation). And at a close second; limiting drinks with sugar to mealtimes only. Only give your child milk or juice at breakfast, lunch or dinner and let them have water in between meals. The sugars byproducts break down in their mouth, changing the ph level and then bacteria mixes with plaque and if left on their teeth it can start to break down enamel, which leads to a cavity.

 

10712696_10101667391062152_2372902351281889684_nAbout our specialist
Chelsea Kickert is a mom of two young boys; Reid and Jude. She graduated in 2008 with her Bachelors Degree from Western Kentucky. She is a registered dental hygienist with six years of professional experience. For the first two and half years of her career she was a dental hygienist at a pediatric office but now works in general dentistry at Simon Dentistry in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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