Dental Health: Dental Questions, Dental Answers

Dental Questions, Dental Answers (or, how to make sure you’re keeping your children’s teeth healthy)

Are cavities really contagious?

For decades, little known research has shown that well-intentioned mothers and fathers pass on the bacteria (mutans streptococci) that cause cavities to their children.  The bacteria passes through things as simple as kissing the child on or near the lips, sharing food, or drinking from the same glass.

Fortunately, the bacteria are only present when there is active tooth decay.  Children are most susceptible during the first three years of life when their teeth are coming in.  Still, the only way to know if you have active tooth decay is to see your dentist for a checkup.

How old should my child be to brush her own teeth? 

The age recommended by our expert is eight.  Before then, most children just don’t have the dexterity and focus to properly brush all of their teeth.

If brushing your child’s teeth until they turn eight sounds daunting, let them brush their teeth in the morning, and you brush their teeth at bedtime.

What really is the best way to get a whiter smile? 

First, ignore all of the internet ads promising whiter teeth.  Instead, use toothpaste with whitening agents.  Home whitening kits you can buy at the drug store also work pretty well if you have the patience and discipline to complete the series of treatments.

If you want quicker results, see your dentist for in-office treatments.

When should my child get braces?

There seems to be a trend to put braces on younger and younger children.  It’s pretty common, these days, to see second graders with braces.  While some children might need to start treatment before age 8, most children will benefit most from treatment between the ages of 10 and 14.

If you’re concerned that your child might need to start treatment at an early age, ask your dentist for his recommendation at your child’s next appointment.

Also, the American Association of Orthodontists encourages you to look for these signs that you might want to arrange an orthodontic consultation:

  1. Early or late loss of baby teeth
  2. Difficulty in chewing or biting
  3. Mouth breathing
  4. Finger sucking or other oral habits
  5. Crowding, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth
  6. Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude or retrude
  7. Speech difficulty
  8. Biting the cheek or biting into the roof of the mouth
  9. Protruding teeth
  10. Teeth that meet in an abnormal way or don’t meet at all
  11. Facial imbalance or asymmetry
  12. Grinding or clenching of teeth

How can I save money on dental care?

Prevention, prevention, prevention.  The best way to save on dental care is to take good care of your teeth in the first place.  That means excellent home care like regular brushing and flossing.  You’ll also want to have your teeth examined and cleaned twice a year.

Also, don’t be afraid of getting dental x-rays if your dentist says they are necessary.  X-rays are an important diagnostic tool to catch decay early and find other abnormalities.  If you’re concerned about radiation, find an office that uses digital x-rays.  Digital x-rays emit 98 percent less radiation than traditional x-rays.

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.


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