What You May Not Know About Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth: A Q&A Guide for Parents

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, which aims to educate and engage parents, guardians and kids on keeping kids’ teeth healthy and building good oral health habits for life. To help with this effort, we asked real parents what questions they have or what questions they wished they’d asked sooner as a new parent. With the help of our pediatric member dentists and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, we’ve provided some of the most frequent questions and answers from the experts.

Q: My baby’s teeth haven’t come in yet. What should I be doing to help keep my baby’s mouth healthy?

A: You may be surprised to learn that one of the best ways to keep your baby’s mouth healthy is to make sure that your own mouth is healthy. Untreated dental cavities in your mouth are easily transmissible to your baby via saliva. Yes, cavities are contagious! Keeping your own mouth healthy through good oral health care and regular dental visits will help keep your baby’s mouth healthy.

Also, while your baby’s teeth may not have made their way in yet, it’s a good idea to wipe your baby’s gums and tongue with a wet facecloth daily.

Q: At what age should I start taking my child to see a dentist?

A: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth comes in.

Q: What kind of toothbrushes and toothpastes should I be using for my child at different ages?

A: You should be using a soft child-size toothbrush for your child. Picking a toothbrush with their favorite color, superhero or animal also can help get them excited for brushing!

For toothpaste, you should consult with your child’s dentist regarding the type to use and when to begin brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride.

Q: My child is teething. How can I help with discomfort or pain during tooth brushing?

A: While many children don’t have noticeable difficulties, teething can lead to periods of discomfort, irritability and excess saliva. To help with these symptoms, you can use oral pain relief medication (such as Tylenol ®) and chilled teething rings. Using topical anesthetics, including over-the-counter teething gels, should be avoided due to potential toxicity in infants and very young children.

Q: How well do I need to be brushing my 2-year-old’s teeth?

A: It may be a struggle, but it’s important to be thorough with brushing and ensure that you are reaching all the surfaces of each tooth. This is especially important for bedtime tooth brushing, as it is the most critical brush time of the day.

Q: At what age should flossing start?

A: Every child develops differently. A good rule of thumb is to begin flossing for your child when his or her teeth begin to touch one another, as the bristles of the toothbrush can no longer clean in between the teeth effectively. If you are unsure, it is always best to consult your child’s dentist.

Q: How can I help build healthy teeth habits with my child and make tooth brushing more fun?

A: The following are links to great videos and resources from the American Dental Association (ADA) that can help make tooth brushing a better experience for you and your child.

Q: How should I choose the most appropriate dentist for my child?

A: When you choose an FDA member dentist, you can be assured that your dentist has pledged to uphold the ADA’s highest ethical principles and practice standards.

To learn more about this commitment and find an FDA dentist near you, you can visit http://learn.floridadental.org/find-your-dentist/.

Also, dentists are individuals with their own personalities and styles, so when choosing a dentist, you may want to call or visit more than one dentist to determine if that person is the right match for your family.

Q: What can I expect at my child’s first visit to the dentist, and what do I need to bring?

A: Your first visit is an opportunity to build a relationship with your dentist and establish a dental home for your child. This visit will include a thorough medical and dental history, an oral examination, an age-appropriate tooth and gum cleaning demonstration, and if indicated, a professional fluoride treatment.

This also is a great opportunity to ask questions and encourage a positive relationship with your child and dental visits.

Q: What are some questions I should ask my child’s new dentist or a potential dentist?

A: First and foremost, you are encouraged to ask questions! If you are unsure of or concerned about any issue related to your child’s oral health, you should not hesitate to ask your child’s dentist.

Here are some example questions you may want to ask:

  • When should I start using fluoride toothpaste?
  • Is my child on track in terms of dental growth and development?
  • What insurance do you accept?
  • Do you accept cash/self-pay? If so, is there a discount for doing so?

To find an FDA member dentist near you, visit http://learn.floridadental.org/find-your-dentist/.
For more information on children’s oral health, visit www.mouthhealthy.org.


Five Tips to Keep Mouths Healthy This Halloween

Halloween is coming up soon, which for many children (and adults) means celebrating the holiday with candy and other sweet treats. While it’s fun to enjoy the holiday, parents should be mindful that sugary foods can increase the risk of tooth decay, which is the most common chronic disease for children and adolescents.

When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel, and over time this can cause tooth decay, the breakdown of tooth enamel and lead to cavities.

The good news is that you can let your children enjoy the holiday and teach them good oral health habits that they can benefit from during any holiday season.

So, before you take your kids to Halloween parties or trick-or-treating, download these five tips to keep their teeth healthy.

And of course, continue to practice ongoing oral health care, including flossing daily, brushing teeth twice a day and visiting your Florida Dental Association member dentist regularly. To find your FDA member dentist, visit learn.floridadental.org/find-your-dentist/.

Click to enlarge the image.

FDA Halloween One Pager

What to Say When Patients Say, “I’ll Think About it.”

By Cathy Jameson, Ph.D., founder of Jameson Management​

It’s something dental teams hear patients say almost every day. But the question is, what do patients really mean when they say, “I’ll think about it”? And, how can dental teams best respond? According to Patients’ Decision Path to Purchase Dental Care Study*, even though patients believe dentistry is an absolute necessity, they take an average of 69.8 days to decide to move forward with care when there’s an out-of-pocket investment required. Often, when patients leave the practice without committing to needed dentistry, it’s because there is an unspoken barrier to care.

Unspoken Barrier: Patients’ Lack of Understanding

One of the biggest unspoken barriers is patients’ lack of understanding how recommended care is going to help them achieve their own goals for their oral and overall health. Remember, patients are more likely to buy what they want rather than what you tell them they need. To find out what patients want, you simply need to ask:

“When it comes to the health of your teeth and the appearance of your smile, what is important to you?”

Usually the patient’s goal for their oral health will fall within these categories: appearance, comfort, function and keeping teeth for life. The treatment plan should be developed to help them achieve their goal and communicated in a way that focuses on what the patient wants, not the treatment he or she needs.

“Mrs. Smith, you shared with me that you want to keep your teeth healthy and have them for the rest of your life. Is this still what you want? The doctor has put together a plan that will help you achieve this goal.”

Unspoken Barriers: Cost and Time

If you’ve effectively tied the dental plan to the patient’s goals, they’ve agreed that they want the care, yet you still hear them say, “I’ll think about it,” there is another barrier to be identified and addressed that usually centers on cost or time. First, acknowledge that the patient should make sure they have all the information they need to make a decision. Then ask questions to uncover any additional barriers.

“Mrs. Smith, I’m glad you’re committed to the treatment the dentist is recommending. I want to make sure I’ve been as helpful as possible and given you all the information you need. Tell me, is there a question or concern you still have? Please share with me what is preventing you from moving forward with the care you want?”

If at this point the patient shares concerns with cost or convenience, it’s time to provide them with solutions, not options. Patients don’t want to choose from a menu of options; they want advice. They want to know you are the expert and can help them. They want solutions — solutions that help them get the care they want without impacting their lifestyle.

“Mrs. Smith, thank you for sharing with me your busy schedule. Working full time with three young kids at home will definitely keep you on your toes. I think I can help, though. First, the treatment the dentist has recommended will only require one visit. And we have set aside a few appointments on Saturday for patients just like you. If we can make sure we don’t impact your work day or take too much of your weekend time with the kids, would a Saturday appointment work for you?”

And patients want solutions that help them get the care they want and less stress on their budget.

“Mrs. Smith, I did notice you looked uncomfortable when I explained that your dental benefits contribute to the total cost, but you still had an out-of-pocket investment of about $1,200. I’m glad you shared with me your hesitation. I know not all people have that kind of money handy. That’s why we accept the CareCredit health care credit card. Many of our patients like this payment solution because they can get the care they want and pay monthly with special financing. May I tell you more about this solution?”

Keep the Conversation Going

Sometimes patients are just not ready to commit to care or cost. They truly want to go home and think about it and possibly discuss care with family and friends. Now is the time to let them know that you will be ready whenever they are.

“Mrs. Smith, I understand you want to take the time to think about what the dentist has recommended. I’ve put together some information here for you — photographs of the areas of concern and a description of the care we are recommending — should you want to review it again or discuss it with family. Is it OK if I give you a call on Wednesday to answer any additional questions you may have? Our team is committed to your oral health, and when you’re ready, we’ll be ready to get you healthy so you can keep your teeth for life.”

*Path to Purchase Research, Dental Industry, conducted for Synchrony Financial by Rothstein Tauber Inc., September 2014.

Dr. Cathy Jameson is founder of Jameson Management, an international dental consulting firm. An accomplished lecturer, writer and workshop leader, she has been a speaker for major dental meetings and associations worldwide and has written top-selling books for dentistry. Her wealth of experience in practice management has helped many practices increase their productivity and profitability.

This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony Financial and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in “What to Say When Patients Say, ‘I’ll think about it’” are the author’s.