48th Dental Squadron shares children’s dental health tips

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  • 48th Dental Squadron

In honor of children's dental health month in February, our preventive dentistry team visited classrooms across RAF Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall and RAF Feltwell to help encourage healthy dental habits.

To continue some dental learning at home, one of RAF Lakenheath’s general dentists answers some frequent questions about children’s oral health.

When should my baby first visit the dentist?

As soon as your child’s first tooth comes through their gums, it's important to start routine exams and cleanings. Baby teeth can also get cavities, so discussing feeding and cleaning habits early is vital. Making semiannual dental checkups routine also helps your child have positive exposures to dental visits, so appointments will be less scary for them as they get older. The dentist will also show you techniques you can use at home, like knee-to-knee, for an easier time brushing your baby or toddler's teeth. 

How long should my child brush their teeth?

Just like adults, children should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes. That can seem like a long time, so I encourage using an electric toothbrush with a timer, or simply set a timer on your phone. There are also many fun two-minute toothbrush videos online and toothbrushing game apps that can help make this daily routine a more enjoyable experience.

Will using a pacifier affect my child's teeth?

After one year, using a pacifier can affect children's teeth. It can cause an open bite, meaning their upper and lower front teeth won't be able to bite together. A thumb sucking habit past this age has the same effect. Your child's dentist can help with habit correction or may need to recommend other treatment options.

Can my dental health affect my child's?

Yes! It's very important for parents to keep good dental hygiene. During pregnancy, untreated gum disease, cavities and tooth infections can all negatively impact your baby. Some conditions can even cause preterm birth, if left untreated. Please ask your dentist if you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant for more advice if you have any questions.

In addition, the bacteria in our mouth that cause cavities and gum disease are communicable, meaning sharing eating and drinking utensils before age 3 can pass these bacteria to your children. After age 3, the bacteria in our mouth is fairly stable, so the first few years of bacteria exposure is the most influential for the rest of their life. 

Do you have any other questions? Feel free to reach out to the dental clinic. If you have a dentist-specific question, leave a message with the front desk and we're always happy to get back to you!