With tons of diffused and confusing information on the Internet, caring for children’s oral health can be a real hassle. That’s why we decided to explore the awareness of the most popular notions on the topic Children’s Teeth while also busting some myths.
Check out the results and learn what are people’s thoughts on the following:
- When should be a child’s first dental visit?
- Are electric toothbrushes appropriate for children?
- Is it okay to let children drink bottled milk throughout the night?
- Are bad teeth passed from parents to children?
#1: Children’s first dental visit should be at the age of 3-4 years: MYTH
It’s disturbing that 76% of respondents agree with this statement and the percentage is relatively the same for both parents and non-parents.
In fact, your child should visit the dentist for the first time as soon as their first tooth erupts (usually between 6 and 12 months). Why is that needed? One of the main reasons is called early childhood caries, previously known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries. It can develop at a very early age, not to mention the fact that the cavity-causing bacteria can be transferred from mothers to babies. So the earlier the dental visit, the higher the chance to prevent further problems.
#2: Parents should brush children’s teeth until the age of 5: SO-SO
The vast majority of survey participants confirm this statement as well.
There are no clear rules among the experts, though. Some dentists advise parents to brush their children’s teeth until they are perfectly coordinated themselves which is supposed to be around the age of six. NHS’ advice is to brush or supervise brushing until the age of three, and then switch to supervision only. Our tip: Your child should start building habits so let them try to brush their teeth as soon as you think they can do it. However, don’t forget to supervise and still ensure proper cleaning afterwards.
#3: It doesn’t matter if children’s baby teeth decay; they’ll fall out: MYTH
Although the majority of respondents disagree, tooth decay on baby teeth is still not perceived as important by ¼ of them (23% in parents and 26% in non-parents).
Ignoring tooth decay can always cause further, more serious problems, and milk teeth are no exception. If left untreated, it can become abscessed which could lead to an emergency situation and a painful experience. Moreover, just pulling out a decayed tooth can lead to other teeth shifting so there’s not enough space for the adult tooth to grow in. Last but not least, your child needs their teeth for proper speech development and nutrition.
#4: Parents should start brushing when their child’s first tooth erupts: FACT
Believe it or not, oral hygiene starts almost immediately after birth. And we are glad to see that 51% of parents realize that. Early childhood caries is a very common dental disease so make sure you do what’s needed to prevent it.
#5: Children can also floss: FACT
Half of survey participants agree that the use of dental floss is possible in children as well. And it’s actually true.
Parents should start flossing daily, once their child’s teeth (milk or permanent) fit closely together – usually between the ages of two and six. As they develop dexterity, you can help them to learn to floss independently, approx. at the age of 10. As improper flossing might harm the gums, make sure you supervise your child until they have perfected the habit.
#6: Electric toothbrushes are not good for children: MYTH
The answers here are quite dispersed with 39% of respondents not being able to classify the statement as neither myth, nor fact.
Experts say that if a child brushes for two minutes twice a day and reaches every part of their mouth, it doesn’t really matter if the brush is manual or electric. In any case, electric toothbrushes are not harmful for children. They even have some fun perks, such as bright-colored or themed appearance, timer, connection to a mobile app, that can make the brushing experience more pleasant.
#7: Children should not brush teeth immediately after eating: FACT
Although there is no clear majority, the largest share of respondents (46%) don’t see anything wrong in children brushing their teeth immediately after eating.
However, as stated in a previous Myths & Facts article, brushing after eating is just not a good idea as the acids in the foods and drinks you consumed tend to soften enamel for a time. And this applies to both children and adults. Brushing away the cavity-causing bacteria after eating is certainly important but wait minimum 30 minutes before doing it.
#8: Overuse of pacifier may affect children’s teeth alignment: FACT
We know the case: Your child cannot sleep or cries for no clear reason and you just give them the ultimate calmer – their pacifier. Nothing wrong or bad about it. However, if that happens too often or for a too long period, it may lead to orthodontic problems as 82% of survey participants also point out.
Experts’ advice is to ditch the pacifier by the age of 2 and approach your paediatrician if your child still seeks it by the age of 3.
#9: Thumb sucking can lead to bite problems: FACT
The impressive 80% of respondents confirm this statement with parents being even more confident.
To begin with, sucking on a thumb or any other finger is absolutely normal and some babies even develop it as a habit before they’re born. If this habit is not timely broken (by the age of 2-3), bite problems are possible as it interferes with normal tooth eruption and jaw growth. Extensive thumb sucking can also lead to developing an “open bite”, meaning that teeth don’t overlap when the child bites together.
#10: Children cannot get periodontal disease: MYTH
Periodontal disease is among the most common oral health problems worldwide. Half of Americans over 30 years have periodontitis, according to recent research. But can children also get gum disease? The majority of respondents seem undecided on the matter. However, 33% think it’s possible. And this is actually true.
Poor oral hygiene habits, bad nutrition, autoimmune diseases, certain medicines – those are some of the factors related to periodontal disease in both adults and children. Never skip your child’s routine dental visits to detect even the earliest signs of gum disease.
#11: Light bleeding during brushing is normal in children: MYTH
The largest share of respondents (43%) disagree that this state is normal. However, it’s disturbing that nearly one quarter of parents perceive gum bleeding during brushing as completely normal.
Light bleeding in children may be a sign of brushing too hard and thus hurting the gums, or of developing periodontal problems. Pay attention and consult with your child’s paediatric dentist.
#12: The application of dental sealants is painful for children: MYTH
Although it seems most people cannot define this as neither myth, nor fact, the largest share of respondents still believe applying sealants is painful for children.
Dental specialists, however, assure that getting a sealant is very easy, fast and doesn’t hurt. How it works: 1) The tooth is cleaned and a gel may be placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds; 2) The tooth is rinsed and dried; 3) The sealant is painted and then potentially lighted to help harden it and form a protective shield.
#13: Children often get cavities because they have “soft teeth”: MYTH
One popular notion nearly one third of parents participating in the survey believe is that their children get cavities because they have “soft teeth”.
Experts, on the other hand, state that there is no such thing as “soft teeth”, as everyone’s teeth are coated in the hardest substance in the human body, namely the enamel. Moreover, caries is an infectious disease, very common in children. It’s important for parents to never forget that the cavity-forming bacteria feeds on acids and sugar, so limiting such foods and drinks while also maintaining proper oral hygiene is the reasonable way to protect children’s teeth from cavities.
#14: Candies are okay as long as children brush their teeth straight after: MYTH
Brushing is important but it’s just not the ultimate protector. It’s alarming to note that the majority of respondents with children (59%) think that toothbrush and toothpaste used immediately after eating sweets can clean away all sugar traces and prevent problems.
As mentioned above, brushing straight after eating is actually the worst time to do it as the enamel then is softened by the food acids and can be worn down more easily. So give it 30-60 minutes to harden again.
#15: It’s not good to let children drink milk in a bottle throughout the night: FACT
Above half of respondents with kids do realize that allowing them to drink bottled milk throughout the entire night is not the best idea. And this is, in fact, true. But why?
Lactose found in cow’s milk and in many baby formulas is a type of sugar and can therefore put the babies at risk to develop tooth decay. This risk is increased during the night as when we sleep we produce less saliva to protect us against cavities. A good alternative to milk during sleepless nights would be water.
#16: Fruit juices and smoothies are healthy snacks for children’s teeth: MYTH
Nearly 70% of survey participants define fruit juices and smoothies as tooth-friendly snacks for toddlers.
There is no doubt that homemade fruit juices are a better alternative to coke or sweetened soda, as they are at least not full of artificial ingredients. However, don’t forget that fruits are packed with fructose, natural fruit sugar. When pureed or juiced, they lose their fibres and turn into a high-fructose liquid. A glass of apple juice contains around seven teaspoons of sugar, which is about the same as cola. This fact, combined with the fact that they are often highly acidic as well, make fruit juices about the same harmful in terms of tooth decay risk. Consider replacing juices with fresh fruits and go for low-sugar options such as blueberries and strawberries.
#17: Dried fruits are not a healthy snack for children’s teeth: FACT
A lot of children love the sweet and sticky dried fruits. And one third of survey participants with children see them as a perfectly healthy snack for their little ones.
Actually, dried fruits are very concentrated in fruit sugar and their stickiness allows them to cling to the teeth for a longer time, creating perfect conditions for the decay-causing bacteria to feed on.
#18: If children don’t eat candy, they’ll not have cavities: MYTH
So far so good. But does it mean that if kids don’t consume sweets, they will never get cavities? 48% of respondents don’t think so. And so do dental specialists.
Our digestive system starts processing the food with the saliva breaking down carbs into simple sugars, the cavity-causing bacteria feeds on. Therefore, frequent snacking becomes a risk factor for dental disease whether sweet or salty. Cavity is an infectious disease meaning that it can also be transmitted to children from their mothers. Moreover, sugary drinks affect teeth as well, so eliminating candies is, unfortunately, not the universal way towards a cavity-free life.
#19: Fluoride is harmful to children: MYTH
Is fluoride friend or foe – this question seems to bother a few generations. Some studies say fluoride can help manage decay by making teeth more resistant to the action of bacteria and acids in food. There is no significant evidence, though, that it does any harm to children’s development when used in the recommended doses. And although the answers are quite dispersed, more respondents (33%) believe fluoride is not harmful.
#20: Bad teeth are passed from parents to children: MYTH
Such a minor share of people can attribute their poor oral health to genes, that this statement is considered myth by dental experts. And by 51% of DentaVox respondents as well.
Generally, susceptibility to tooth decay does not run in families and almost all cases of tooth decay are actually preventable with a healthy diet, proper hygiene and regular dental visits. However, avoid sharing cutlery or cleaning your baby’s bottles, pacifiers, etc. in your mouth, as that’s a way to transfer the cavity-causing bacteria.
Which of those myths and facts were you aware of?
Share in the comments below!
Stats source: DentaVox, 20 Questions: Children’s Teeth
Base: 715 respondents, 04/12/2019-13/01/2020