Monday, July 26, 2010

Health Care and the Tooth Fairy

When night is deep, and sleep is deeper, a magical character comes to deliver cold cash to those who slumber with a tooth as payment in return. Swiftly, deftly, without disturbing a single hair, or causing any wrinkle on the sheets, the quick hand of the Tooth Fairy snatches the tooth and replaces it with a monetary gift. It's a story that has been told down through the ages, and children believe the tale as if it were as real as themselves. Just ask, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson about it, as he played in a fun-loving family flick that casts the big man as a hockey player forced to wear wings and collect the incisors of small children, according to MTV. "The Rock"is slapped with a tough sentence after discouraging a young fan - serving one week as a real tooth fairy, according to

Children should see a dentist. What your children eat affects their teeth, according to Sugars (found in cake, cookies, candy, milk and juice) and starches (found in pretzels and potato chips) can cause tooth decay. Add to this the fact that it is more difficult to clean babies' and children's teeth and you can see why debris tends to remain in children's teeth, resulting in bacteria growth and, ultimately, tooth decay. Although baby teeth (deciduous or primary teeth) are eventually replaced with permanent teeth, healthy baby teeth are fundamental to a child's overall health and development. Some babies are born with neonatal teeth (teeth that develop in the first month) that require dental hygiene or a visit to the dentist for their removal. At least one baby tooth erupts by six months of age. And, yes, it requires cleaning.

According to, from six months to 24 months, children begin teething in earnest, indicated by irritability, biting on objects, drooling and ear pulling. As a parent, you can help teething progress by using strategies such as massaging your child's gums, offering a chilled teething ring or cold, wet washcloth and asking your dentist for a teething ointment recommendation. By three years of age, most if not all baby teeth have erupted. Soon after four years, spaces for permanent teeth begin to appear as the jaw, supporting bone structure and facial bones begin to grow. From six to 12, it is typical for your child to have both baby teeth and permanent teeth in their mouth.

According to, eruption of teeth can vary greatly for each child. Many children will begin to develop teeth between 6 to 9 months of age; however, it is not uncommon for a 12 month old to have 8 or less teeth. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) that all children visit their pediatric dentist for an examination by the age of 1. At this point any questions or concerns regarding the development of your child’s teeth can be addressed. It is recommended that your child receives his/her first cleaning by the age of 3.

Searching for a dentist for your child is critical in order to establish proper dental hygiene at an early age, and to make sure that your little boy or girl gets the right kind of dental care early on to prevent any oral diseases caused by cavities or other problems related to medical or health care issues. Pediatric dentistry is one of the nine recognized dental specialties of the American Dental Association, according to Pediatric dentists complete two to three years of additional specialized training (after the required four years of dental school) to prepare them for treating a wide variety of children's dental problems. They are also trained and qualified to care for patients with medical, physical or mental disabilities. More info in detail can be found at the website for pediatric dental specialists: .

A pediatric medical doctor is specially trained to care for your child's medical needs. In the same way, a pediatric dentist is specially trained for your child's dental needs, according to The pediatric dentist is a specialist who has received two or more years of additional training in the oral health care of children from infancy through adulthood. They are highly qualified in various approaches of guiding dental growth and development, to avoid future problems. In addition, pediatric dentists are trained in dealing with all types of child behavior and special needs. Because of this additional specialized training, many parents choose a pediatric dentist to treat their children.

According to, here's a list of dental care necessities from birth on up:
--Baby Teeth Cleaning: Baby teeth should be cleaned as soon as they erupt. Clean your baby's teeth with a soft washcloth or gauze after every bottle or meal. When more than one tooth erupts, you can soak a small-bristled child-sized (age-appropriate) toothbrush in warm water before using it on your baby's teeth, as instructed by your dentist. Baby teeth should be brushed using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Use water without fluoride until approximately six months of age. Encourage your children to brush their own teeth once they have the coordination to do so. Replace toothbrushes every two to three months. Children's teeth should be brushed after they are given medicine. Acids contained in medicines may eat away at tooth enamel, which serves as a natural protective coating for the teeth.
--First Dental Visit: It is important that your child see a dentist by age one to establish a long-term dental hygiene and professional dental cleaning plan.
--Dental Sealant Application: Dental sealants are used to protect teeth from decay and are appropriate as soon as a tooth erupts.
--Fluoride Treatments: Check with your dentist and water authority about the need for fluoride treatments. Fluoride is a major component in the prevention of childhood dental caries. This is because fluoride alters the molecular structure of the tooth, making it more resistant to acid attack and decay. However, children require the right balance of fluoride treatment. Too much fluoride could be problematic and lead to fluorosis.
--Dental Flossing: Parent-assisted dental flossing should commence when two teeth erupt next to each other. Independent flossing should occur when children have the ability to do it on their own (often by six years of age).
--Mouth Washing: Mouth washing is usually recommended by age seven, provided your child can perform the activity.
--Orthodontics: Orthodontics may be appropriate by seven years of age.
Keep in mind that these age ranges are estimates only; you should follow your dentist's recommendations.

More detailed information about proper early dental care follows, as noted by
--Brushing: Using a soft bristle brush, begin daily brushing as soon as the child’s first tooth erupts. Use non-fluoridated toothpaste until your child is old enough to spit out the excess. A pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste should then be used. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with adult supervision. Supervision should continue until about age eight to make sure they are doing a thorough job. However, each child is different and your dentist can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.
--Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of teeth. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and start along the gum line in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
--Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You should floss the child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone without bruising the gum tissue. Use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don’t forget the backs of the last four teeth!

According to, healthy eating habits lead to healthy, happy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Kids should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that kids eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently your children snack, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in your child's mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your kids must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for their teeth. Also, when your children participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect their smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to their face or mouth. Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw.

Many parents are worried about their children's thumb sucking or pacifier use, according to Since they are concerned about the effect on the bite, parents will often attempt to stop their children from sucking their thumb or using the pacifier. Thumb sucking and pacifier use are normal, and most children will stop these sucking habits before much damage can be done to protrude the upper teeth and affect the bite permanently. Many children in utero actually suck thumbs, fingers, or knuckles while in the mother's womb. Thumb sucking and pacifier use both help children become comfortable with their environment, and give the children a method for self relaxation. Parents should not be overly upset over their infants and toddlers need to suck their thumb or use a pacifier. Here are some things that parents should be aware of when allowing their children to use pacifiers. To reduce the possibility of choking , purchase pacifiers that are made of a solid molded piece, and not one which has been fabricated with a number of separate pieces attached together. Periodically check the pacifier, especially the nipple end, to make sure that it has not become brittle. Brittle rubber nipples can break and choke your child. Also, never tie a pacifier around your child's neck as this can create a potential for strangulation.

According to, most children should grow out of thumb sucking and pacifier use between the ages of 3 to 4. As long as the habit is discontinued well before their permanent teeth come in, your child should be fine. If, however, they continue this habit as their permanent teeth come in, more damage can occur, and it is important to help your child discontinue their habit. The most effective way to accomplish this is to simply explain to your child that they must do so in order for their teeth to come in straight. You would be surprised at how effective simply explaining this to your child can be. When they do suck their thumb or use a pacifier give them a gentle verbal reminder. Under no circumstances should you give negative reinforcement or punish a child for this behavior as this often causes the child to further continue the habit. Many professionals urge parents to tape their children's fingers or apply bitter tasting solutions to the fingers to prevent thumb sucking. We don't recommend this method. It is not as effective as providing positive reinforcement when children are trying to stop sucking their thumb.

A gradual slowing down of the use is recommended, according to Take small segments, during a TV program, one hour before dinner, etc., and have them stop sucking their thumb or using the pacifier. Then extend the time to other times of the day. Gradually increasing the number of hours in which they don't use the pacifier or suck their thumb will be an easier transition until they only need it to go to bed, which will be the last time period to eliminate. A reward system is helpful when they comply. Also, when kids have colds, are congested, and can't breathe is a time for them to understand that thumb/pacifier usage is uncomfortable and there is a reason to stop. The habit then can be transfered to the security of a stuffed animal, doll, etc. This can be very helpful. Remember, sucking fingers and pacifiers are a security system for the child, and touching, hugging and spending time building a child's self esteem by parents will go a long way in growing a well adjusted and fun child.

So, as far as the Tooth Fairy is concerned, his work is cut out for him. There are long traditions about the importance of proper tooth disposal, and of course equally ancient traditions about fairies. But the two didn't get together for quite a while, according to The child loses a baby tooth, which is put under the pillow at night, and the tooth fairy exchanges it for a present, usually money but sometimes candy. What does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth? There's no consensus. Of course, not being encumbered by a mythos like Santa Claus, the TF has no religious significance and no holiday affiliation, so can be accepted by everyone. Also, tooth fairy economics have been closely studied, and it appears that the exchange rate for teeth since 1900 against the consumer price index, and found that the tooth fairy has kept up with inflation. Most children, though, start losing their baby teeth around age 5 or 6, coincidentally the time when they're starting school. Shedding teeth and can be annoying and frightening but is also a sign of growing up. giving a child a treat for the lost tooth is a way of softening the scariness surrounding the process. However, belief in the Tooth Fairy is generally short-lived. Though the last baby teeth usually aren't lost till age 10 or 11, most children no longer believe by 7 or 8. Parents frequently play out the game anyway and their kids fully expect them to – there's money at stake.

Has your child been to the dentist? How well do they eat, and do you monitor their snacks? Have they been flossing and brushing? Have you been diligent about their oral safety? All these are important questions relative to making sure your kids have a great smile and stay healthy. Find a great pediatric dental specialist, and make sure your children take good care of their teeth. If you don't have dental insurance that covers pediatric care, purchase a discount dental plan that will save you 20% to 60% on procedures. Careington has a great family plan for only a few dollars a month, and a tremendous network nationwide including pediatric specialists. You can find more info at their website. (

A beautiful smile is worth keeping for a lifetime.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.


Margaret said...

In many cases people may suffer from dental diseases due to sheer laziness and lack of knowledge towards proper dental care. They fail to realize that healthy teeth and gum is extremely important to keeping you healthy and sound.
Good post. Keep posting more.

Fred said...

It’s the children’s prerogative. Every child has the right to see a dentist. To see a dentist is never a question if they have to have it or not. Primarily, the state holds the obligation of giving it all free to every child, and it should be given, from his/her first tooth until time lets him to have his/her dental implants. Scottsdale parents, or directly the kids, in a very amusing way, get all their rights along with their first sight of light. And I can attest to that. With all pride and honesty, I am a beneficiary of this state’s dental promise to every kid.