Keeping Kids’ Teeth Healthy {Expert Answers from Portland Children’s Dentistry}


portland-children-dentist-dr-patty-dr-davidThis post is sponsored by our friends at Portland Children’s Dentistry.

We first met Dr. Patty and some of her team at our summer playdate and were truly impressed; so when the topic of healthy teeth came up, we knew it was time to call in these local experts for their professional guidance. Today, Dr. Patty and Dr. David from Portland Children’s Dentistry are answering some questions you might have when it comes to your little ones and their pearly whites. 

Healthy Teeth for Kids and Babies

1. When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist? We’ve heard everything from before they turn one to when they turn three.

We recommend that you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets his first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child be seen within the first 6 months after his/her first tooth erupts or by 1 year old, whichever is first. The goal of the first visit is to begin to get the child comfortable in the dental office so he or she looks forward to future visits! We also use this appointment to talk to parents about the importance of healthy habits and nutrition. Lastly, establishing care with a dental office gives families a resource in case there is a question or an emergency that would be better addressed by a dental office than the child’s pediatrician.

2. What should parents be doing to care for their child’s teeth and avoid cavities?

Establish good brushing (and flossing) habits

Babies/Toddlers: Parents can begin brushing their child’s teeth as soon as they begin erupting, typically around 6 months of age. For the first front teeth you can use a washcloth and wipe them after feedings. As more teeth erupt, make sure to use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. Brushing at this young age removes the plaque (or bacteria) and sugars that cause cavities while beginning to establish those good habits.

At this young age, children are not very efficient at spitting, so it is important to use an appropriate amount of toothpaste. Rather than the traditional “pea sized” amount of toothpaste, the new recommendation is to use no more than a smear or grain of rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. When a child reaches 3+ years, he or she is probably better at spitting. At this stage the child can use a small pea sized amount of toothpaste twice a day. 

Although they aren’t permanent, baby teeth still need special care. Baby teeth help develop speech, chewing function, and help to hold the space for the developing adult teeth. If a child loses a baby tooth too early, this may lead to crowding and bite issues in the future. If we do not treat decay on baby teeth, the decay will progress and can cause pain and infection that can have serious consequences to your child’s health

Older children: As children get older, the teeth tend to move together, particularly in the back of the mouth. When teeth begin to touch, this creates spaces where the toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing once a day is the best way to remove the bacteria that can cause cavities between the teeth. 

Continue brushing twice a day for two minutes. Children typically need help from their parents until they are old enough to have the dexterity and discipline to do it themselves. This usually happens around 7-8 years of age, but, as some parents know, even teenagers may need a little encouragement when it comes to good oral hygiene habits.

Emphasize good nutrition

Help your kids avoid cavities by avoiding sugary foods and drinks, limiting the frequency of snacking, and maintaining a healthy diet. 

Get checkups

Finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child’s teeth and provide professional cleanings. .

3. Why do dentists recommend fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water sources. It is also added to some community tap water, toothpastes and mouth rinses because it helps make the enamel more resistant to tooth decay. 

Portland city water does not contain fluoride. If you are not sure if your tap water has fluoride, contact your local or state health department or water supplier.

Fluoride can be administered topically and systemically depending on your child’s cavity risk. We understand and respect that fluoride is not for everyone.  

4. What are the most common concerns parents of younger children have about their children’s teeth?

Many parents want to ask about teething, cavities, or trauma (dental injuries). Parents can give us a call with their specific concerns to find out if their child needs to receive medical attention. 

5. Why visit a pediatric dentist?

Perhaps the most important role of the pediatric dentist is to create an environment that is safe and fun. Pediatric dentists know how to work with children in ways that make them feel comfortable and gives them the tools to establish good habits and a healthy smile. From evaluating growth and development to managing a young patient’s anxiety, pediatric dentists have the knowledge and experience to address your child’s dental needs.

Looking for a Pediatric Dentist? 

Portland Children’s Dentistry provides exceptional, comprehensive dental care to patients from infancy through adolescence. Their priority is to create a friendly and comfortable environment where young patients have a positive dental experience. Their goal is to educate children and parents on how a healthy diet, good brushing and flossing habits, and regular dental checkups can create a healthy, beautiful smile that will build confidence and last a lifetime.

portland pediatric dentist
Kids love Portland Children’s Dentistry’s play area and prize wall, and parents love the inviting office and state of the art exam area

Their office is located along Burnside in energetic Northwest Portland. It is within walking distance of countless restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and parks! Dr. Patty and Dr. David and the entire Portland Children’s Dentistry team love being part of to the Portland community and do everything they can to provide a positive experience for little ones.

Special Reader Offer: New patients who mention Portland Moms Blog will receive a complimentary Sonicare electric toothbrush! (Limit one per family, call for details.)

Thank you, Portland Children’s Dentistry team!