Tough Tooth Truth

Tough Tooth TruthOkay, let’s play the word association game. When I say “dentist,” QUICK! what word comes to mind? Ouch? Uh-oh? Why don’t I floss more often? This is going to be expensive?

As adults, we’ve had more years to have more dental experiences. Some may have been less than positive, but hopefully, as parents, we have plenty of positive things to say to our children about dentist visits. Did you know some dentists recommend that you take your child in for their first dentist appointment when their first tooth erupts?! Now, when I spoke with my dentist, he said he would be fine if you waited until he or she was three years old. Did you know that you really should be helping your children brush their teeth until age SEVEN?! That’s a long time! The following is a true story from a friend of mine.

“So. One day Eden tells me very matter-of-factly that she prefers chewing on the left side of her mouth because it sort of hurts when she chews on the right side. I don’t think much of it; my eldest is a bit dramatic at times and cries “OWIE!” at the slightest sensation, so I assumed she had a shard of tortilla chip in her gums and it would resolve itself within the afternoon. When she mentioned it again the next day, I took a look in her mouth and was astounded to see what I thought was a cracked molar, or at any rate, a tooth that was not all there. We made an appointment with our dentist, and when they examined it, they told me it was a cavity DOWN TO THE BONE, and that the tooth would have to be extracted. Needless to say, I was HORRIFIED. We’d brushed teeth since the kid only HAD 4 or 5 teeth. We maintain a sensible diet with very few sweets, one little Ikea cup of juice a day, virtually no soda, and hardly any candy ever. And this cavity wasn’t alone, he was part of an evil posse of FIVE the x-rays revealed. FIVE. Thankfully these guys were more approachable in terms of fillings, so we’re able to go that route. Still, I didn’t have my first cavity until I was in high school, and I’d never imagined that a six-year-old with a daily brushing habit could even develop such rotten teeth. From what I hear from the sweet staff at my dentist’s office, though, it is not at all uncommon for little ones to have cavities like this, nor for them to require extraction. A friend told me her little boy, a year older than Eden, has had two teeth pulled already, and another shared that HER pediatric dentist had just recommended three ROOT CANALS on her four-year-old. (WHAT the WHAT? I still don’t know what the story is on that one.) I was told that the enamel on baby teeth is so thin, that depending on brushing habits (which I had to be more vigilant about overseeing) and a hefty dose of genetics, cavities in baby teeth are common. To what extent heredity plays a part, I don’t know for sure, but Judah’s exam the next week revealed exactly ZERO cavities, and his brushing habits are identical to his sister’s, if not poorer.

Here are a few more tips that may help you avoid a tough tooth truth at your child’s next dentist appointment
  • Brush in a circular motion with a small, soft toothbrush or power brush designed for toddler teeth – morning and evening. Make sure you brush at the gum line and the tops of the teeth
  • From age 2 on, use a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste spread on the brush
  • Floss, yes, floss, preferably with small floss holders designed for kids
  • If your water supply is NOT fluoridated, discuss the importance of a fluoride supplement with your dentist
  • Limit your toddler’s intake of refined sugar
  • NEVER put your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. More often than not, this will result in baby bottle tooth decay. If they must have the bottle, only water
  • Discourage the use of sippy cups, containing milk or juice
  • Monitor their intake of sweets/sugar; if they must occasionally have them, make sure they brush or at least rinse their mouth with water after
  • While sucking is a natural instinct, severe, intensive, thumb sucking and pacifier use beyond the age of 3 is not recommended; work hard to break the habit
  • And, of course, keeping the mouth and teeth clean and bacteria free is a must
With Baylor College of Dentistry in our backyard, we have been fortunate to have wonderful dental professionals as parents in Kindermusik classes over the years–hygienists, pediatric, orthodontic and general dentists–too many to name here. But we have one very special SoundSteps family we’d like to tell you about. Dr. Holly brought her son Trey to Dallas’ very FIRST Kindermusik Village class back in 1998 at Our Redeemer Lutheran. Her daughters took their final Kindermusik classes last year and now all three children are excelling in our Piano Lesson program. Dr. Holly and Miss Lisa joked at last year’s recital at how long they’ve been “together!” So, in her 12-ish years of taking Kindermusik classes, Dr. Holly has offered more than her fair share of advice on everything from teething to brushing to sippy cups to what to look for when a tooth is chipped. She’s even offered tips for adults. She and her staff are phenomenal and recommend you start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as there is one tooth to brush. And she recommends you come into the dentist for the first dental visit early so they child can “play” with all the equipment in the office so that if there’s a concern, it’s a friendly environment for them. Even her website’s homepage is fun with a “find the nine hidden toothbrushes on the page.”

Dr. Lara Kirstin Holly, Pediatric Dentist, 8355 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 125, Dallas, TX  75231, phone: (214) 378-8868

This post brought to you by Jenny Leggett who retains bragging rights to “still no cavities” at age 39. :p