HOUSTON -- Elementary school student Audrey Baright has been to the dentist a lot over the past few months. She’s had eight cavities filled – despite what her parents thought were good dental habits. “What did we do differently that caused 8 cavities to come in six months?” says Audrey’s father Herbert Baright.
We’ve heard this before. Earlier this summer we visited with McKenna Meeks and her mom at a return visit to Dr. Richard Matthews’ pediatric dental office. McKenna’s mom told us, “We came in January for our twice a year check-up. They did x-rays and found she had seven cavities.”
Like many parents – the Meeks and Barights weren’t aware that good dental health is not just about good dental hygiene.
One common myth: cavities form where you can see them. Audrey’s cavities formed in-between her teeth where sticky, sugary treats got stuck. “They don’t feel it, so the child’s not aware that the food is stuck between their teeth,” says Dr. Martha Ann Keels another pediatric dentist.
Myth number two: brushing is better than flossing. Doctor Keels tells parents if they only do one: it’s better to floss. Your tongue acts like a natural brush but nothing is a substitute for floss. Another myth: babies don’t need to go to the dentist. Dr. Keels adds, “You should have a dental home, no different than a medical home, by age 1.”
You should also brush your baby’s teeth with water at first - then fluoride toothpaste once they can spit it out. Also – floss as soon as two teeth touch.
Myth number four: baby teeth aren’t that important because you’ll lose them anyway. Dr. Keels explains, “They’re place card holders for the adult teeth underneath them.”
If baby teeth rot or have to be pulled, permanent teeth shift and come in crooked. Another myth: dental health doesn’t affect academics. A recent study found children with cavities missed three-times as many school days because of pain and did not perform as well.
Back to basic brushing, there are plenty of tools to help children brush longer. Dentists recommend they spend at least two minutes brushing, but who’s keeping time? Arm & Hammer makes a musical spin brush, “Tooth Tunes,” that plays two minutes of popular music and congratulates your child when he or she is done brushing. Parents can only hope their children get into the groove of things when it comes to maintaining their teeth.