Parents often ask me if I think their child would benefit from using an electric toothbrush versus a manual toothbrush. Here’s the best answer I’ve come up with: whichever one kids will use to brush their teeth, use that!
Numerous studies have been done proving the effectiveness of electric toothbrushes. On average, after 3 months of use, people who used electric toothbrushes saw their plaque reduced by 21% and gingivitis reduced by 11%.
There are several main reasons why I believe electric toothbrushes are better for kids. One, they have built-in timers to promote longer brushing. Two, kids tend to be more focused on brushing when using an electric toothbrush. And three, there are so many fun, engaging, helpful apps that sync with electric toothbrushes that kids actually look forward to brushing their teeth.
With the holidays among us, children’s sugar consumption inevitably increases. One the biggest areas of cavities in children are the chewing surfaces on the back molars. Sugary foods that are left behind from inadequate brushing stay trapped in the grooves of these molars and overtime can cause cavities.
One way to prevent both 6 year and 12 year molars from getting these cavities are dental sealants. Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
Many insurance companies cover dental sealants because they are preventative services. Be sure to ask if your child is a good candidate at the next check-up.
In general, children need dental xrays more frequently than adults. Their mouths grow and change rapidly. They are more susceptible than adults to tooth decay. But xrays do much more than detect tooth decay. They survey the erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, and plan for orthodontic treatment.
Pediatric dentist are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. The amount of radiation is incredibly low with modern, digital xrays. In fact, the xray itself presents far smaller risk than undetected and untreated dental problems.
One of the common concerns in dentistry from parents is fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been scientifically shown to lower decay rates by over 50% when added to a community water supply.
When not added to the water supply, it is important that parents choose toothpastes that contain fluoride because fluoride inhibits loss of minerals from tooth enamel and encourages remineralization (or a hardening of enamel). Fluoride is also toxic to the bacteria that cause cavities, discouraging their acid attacks that breakdown teeth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends using a fluoride toothpaste the moment the first tooth appears in the mouth. For children less than 3 years, use a rice-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste, twice daily. For children 3-6 years old, a pea-size amount is recommended. It is perfectly acceptable for your child to swallow this amount of toothpaste.
If your community water supply lacks fluoride, your child’s pediatrician or dentist may recommend fluoride supplements, often added to your child’s multivitamin.
Too much fluoride can cause a condition referred to as fluorosis, tiny white specks or lines that are often unnoticeable. It is important to monitor the amount of toothpaste your child ingests to avoid this. Keep toothpaste out of reach of children.
For parents who reject fluoride, dentists will often recommend a toothpaste that contains xylitol. Xylitol is a 5 carbon sugar (instead of the typical 6 carbon sugar) that bacteria are unable to digest. Although the scientific evidence isn’t nearly as strong as the positive effects of fluoride, a xylitol toothpaste likely produces some benefit in the avoidance of tooth decay.