Parker M Jarvis DDS
General Dentist
555 West Schrock Road Suite 120 = Westerville = OH 43081 = (614) 882-5208

Kids and Their Teeth  

Parents Can Make the Difference
Parents supporting the concept of good oral health can positively influence the course of their children's lives from the time that they are infants through adulthood. Good habits are hard to break. Even infants can be taught to enjoy the fresh feeling of a clean mouth.

Brushing and Flossing for Kids
Brushing and flossing are the two single most important home-care activities and are a front-line defense against tooth decay and periodontal disease for adults and children. The mouths of infants can accumulate dental plaque just like adults. Cleaning of gums can begin even before a child's first teeth erupt. All that needs to be done is to gently wipe the baby's gums and any teeth with a clean gauze pad or clean cloth over the adult's finger. If you start early enough, infants will become accustomed to receiving dental care/maintenance, and they will be much more positive about brushing in the future.

As soon as a child has their first primary tooth (usually at 5-7 months old), the cleaning can be accomplished with a child's soft toothbrush and child's mild toothpaste. When more teeth have erupted, fluoride is often recommended, usually when the child is six years old. Check with your child's dentist to get his or her specific recommendation.

When choosing a child's toothbrush, pick one that has a nylon bristled brush. Natural bristles retain moisture and trap bacteria that would be reintroduced each time the child brushes. The nylon bristles help the toothbrush to dry out between brushings. Bristles should be soft to avoid injuring gum tissue.

Most dentists recommend fluoridated toothpaste for their patients. Toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association is both safe and effective.

Most infants and young children need to use only a very small amount, about the size of a pea, as any more paste used will just become swallowed potentially causing stomach upset. Do not choose whitening toothpaste and tartar reducing varieties for children. Fluoride content also must be monitored. Check with your child's dentist to find out what is recommended.

For removing the accumulated plaque between teeth, flossing is the way to go. The floss is able to reach the areas between teeth that the toothbrush cannot. Children need help with flossing until they are about 9 years old and have developed the manual dexterity to manipulate the floss. A parent should take a lead role and floss the child's teeth once most of the 20 primary teeth appear or 3 years of age.

Set a Good Example
When your children are young, make sure that they can watch you when you are brushing and flossing. Setting a good example will begin the process of having them recognize the actions of good home care. Make sure they have plenty of opportunities to watch you. Let them ask questions. Let them "help" you brush your teeth. After they have had a turn, and they have seen what to expect, they will be much more inclined to let you "have a turn" with brushing their teeth.

When brushing your child's teeth, or your own, for that matter, brush up and down as the teeth grow: upper teeth should be brushed down, and lower teeth should be brushed up, biting surfaces are brushed in a horizontal manner. Then the mouth is rinsed with clean water. Kids love to empty their mouths in the sink, and they will have fun being "big enough" to participate like mom and dad.

Routine is important. Brushing after breakfast is a good time because it helps to remove any food particles and debris that would otherwise be bathing the teeth in tooth decay creating acids all day long. Brushing just before bedtime is also important.

A note to parents: Most children take to practicing good oral hygiene very well with positive attitudes. When your child is tired and crabby, however, that will not be the best time to begin new tooth care habits, brushing or flossing. Be creative. Play music, sing songs, keep tooth brushing time fun and light. Don't wait until everyone is overtired to tackle what can turn into a negative power struggle. Avoid using force or threats. (Especially, don't paint a scary picture of the dentist as the "guy who will take out all your teeth" as a way to get your kid to brush. Comments like that get remembered, and the next dental visit can be a nightmare...for everyone.) Patience, creativity, positive reinforcement, persistence and reassurance will help your child reach their goal of good oral hygiene.

Your Child's First Dental Visit
Most dentists start seeing children near their third birthday. Your child's first visit, and all follow-up visits to the dentist, should be as normal and as much fun as going to the grocery store or to get a hair cut. The key to a successful appointment is making the whole dental experience as enjoyable, uneventful and as routine as possible. These recommendations are very helpful:

A visit to the dentist shouldn't be treated as anything unusual or out of the ordinary. It shouldn't be any different than a trip to the library. In fact, it is recommend that you "sandwich-in" the visit to the dentist along with the day's errands. What you can say is, "After breakfast we are going to drop your books off at the library, go see the dentist to get your teeth cleaned and counted, and then we are going to go to the grocery store to buy food for dinner."

Make you child's appointment early in the day. When kids are tired, they don't always want to experience new adventures, especially at the end of a busy day.

Don't say things like "The dentist won't hurt you." Most often all the child will hear is the word HURT and is adds to the uncertainty of a new situation.

In addition, try to keep older siblings from teasing the younger child about the new experience. Often it is a good idea to have a younger child watch a cooperative older brother or sister get their teeth cleaned and checked and counted. If you want, a child could visit and watch when a parent comes in for a continuing care appointment. Who knows, the younger child may even want to have a "ride" in the chair and see the prizes that dentists award to cooperative, helpful patients. Wouldn't it be great to hear your child ask, "When will it be my turn?"

A couple of weeks before the visit read one of the excellent children's books about visits to the dentist with your child. Your local library has many books available, and the librarian will be happy to help you select stories that will be right for your child. These stories will be able to give a positive introduction to your child's visit.

Play dentist. Take turns counting your child's teeth and let them count yours. Encourage brushing, and help your child each night.

Please don't promise extraordinary bribes for going to the dentist's office or for being really good. Kids see right through the act and get the feeling that something is happening that will cause anxiety. Dentists and their staffs expect that most children will want to be cooperative, and they are used to working with children.

Please keep in mind that there have been many positive changes in dentistry over the past 25 to 30 years. Children today are usually not afraid. Where patients once grew to expect dental fear and discomfort, dentistry is now able to provide gentle dental care that helps patients keep their teeth a lifetime.


Kids And Their Teeth
In Westerville Ohio and the surrounding
Columbus - New Albany - Gahanna - Worthington OH areas.

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Dr. Jarvis is licensed to perform all listed services as a general dentist. This provider is not a specialist in family, crowns,
gum disease, sedation, prosthodontics, orthodontics, endodontics, cosmetic, whitening, implants and non-specialty interest
areas that require no specific educational training to advertise this service.