10 Worst Oral Hygiene Mistakes Parents Make When It Comes To Their Kids’ Teeth

Oral hygiene mistakes

There’s nothing more important than your child’s health, but our schedules are so hectic that a proper dental routine is often at the back of our minds. You might be doing the best you can for your child, but as it turns out, half the things we practice aren’t that great for healthy teeth after all. 

We sat down with Dr. Catherine Lee, an Orthodontist (a specialist dentist for Braces) from Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontics at CT Dental Surgeon, who gave us a few handy tips for all kids to get a healthy smile. From ignoring milk tooth cavities to using a non-fluoride toothpaste, here are 10 common mistakes that parents make when it comes to their child’s dental health.

1. Not worrying about oral hygiene since baby has no teeth yet

It’s easy to overlook the task of brushing your baby’s teeth when there aren’t any teeth to speak of. But one of the biggest mistakes is neglecting your child’s dental hygiene just cause their first tooth has yet to erupt. Cleaning your baby’s gums with a soft cloth, rubber or silicone finger brush works to remove any residual milk that could lead to bacterial growth.

In addition to promoting gum health, this little habit will make it easier for you to weave tooth brushing into your daily routine once your baby grows older.

2. Seeing a kid dentist only after all baby teeth have fallen out

We all know that milk teeth are bound to drop out at some point, but this shouldn’t mean that your child’s baby teeth should be left in a state of neglect without regular trips to a child-friendly dentist. 

More than just filling cavities, child-friendly dentists specially tailor their services to cater to a younger clientele and can help prevent your little one from developing an irrational fear of dental check-ups. They’ll also be able to identify problems such as tooth decay that might plague milk teeth way before adult teeth set in.

Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontics is a child-friendly dental clinic which lets parents accompany their child throughout the cleaning process to help them feel safe and secure

The general rule of thumb that the American Dental Association (ADA) stands by, is that a baby’s first visit to the dentist should be before his or her first birthday. Much like well visits to the pediatrician, regular visits will allow your dentist to monitor the growth and development of your baby’s teeth.

3. Putting your child to bed with a bottle

Your kid might be happier going to bed with a bottle in his or her mouth, but these cherished hours of peace and quiet are a short-term gain. Why? Sugars from the milk or juice can form a breeding ground for germs and drastically increase the risk of rampant tooth decay – called Early Childhood Caries or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.

Once a habit, the perpetual presence of a bottle in the mouth will start to interfere with the formation of front teeth and jaw, resulting in an open-bite. This can cause your child to have trouble biting with his or her front tooth and might even result in a lisp speech disorder. 

Moreover, correcting this can easily cost a hefty fee, and in some severe cases, surgery might even be required to rectify the problem. So the next time your baby is wailing for a bottle before bedtime, don’t cave, simply reach for a pacifier or develop a pre-bedtime routine to help your child peacefully drift off to lalaland. 

4. Letting children below the age of 5 brush their own teeth

Getting your toddler to brush his or her own teeth may seem like a huge milestone but here’s why you probably should be supervising the brushing process – or even lending them a hand – until they’re a little older. Children under the age of five haven’t fully developed their motor skills, and an independent brushing session that isn’t done thoroughly could still leave a truckload of  plaque and bacteria lurking around.

Even for older school-going children between the ages of seven to twelve, it’s important to make sure that their daily tooth brushing sessions last at least for two whole minutes.

Tip: Don’t forget to brush before bedtime otherwise bacteria will be feeding off any leftover food particles while your child sleeps!

5. Using non-fluoride toothpaste

Household myth busted: according to the American Dental Association, fluoride doesn’t cause chalky teeth. The fluoride present in toothpastes also does not pose any health risks. In fact, fluoride’s bad rep couldn’t be any further from the truth – plenty of children dentists worldwide claim that fluoride makes your teeth harder and more resistant to acid. 

All in all, fluoride helps to lessen the risk of tooth decay and cavities.

A tip from the child-friendly dentist: Once your baby or toddler masters how to contain and spit out toothpaste, you can start him/her off with a smear of fluoride toothpaste that’s about the size of a grain of rice. Older kids can progress to a pea-sized amount that is still safe if accidentally ingested.

6. Ignoring suspected cavities on baby teeth

Don’t simply dismiss your child’s baby teeth: they need to be in prime condition for a whole lotta reasons. Not properly treating tooth decay or cavities means that teeth might have to be removed prematurely, which affects how the adult teeth come in later. Plus, infections might lead to a tooth abscess – a pocket of pus that if not treated, can affect the formation of the new teeth growing just under the infected milk teeth.

7.  Not seeing an orthodontist during your child’s transitional period

Raise your hand if you don’t know the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. While regular visits to a child-friendly dentist is a given, most parents make the mistake of not sending their children to an orthodontist for a detailed check.

Just as surgeons and GPs are in different leagues, the same applies to orthodontists and dentists. While both dentists and orthodontists are trained in the same areas, orthodontists undergo additional certification in order to specialise in the following areas: 

  • Monitor jaw formation in young children
  • Diagnose and misaligned teeth and jaws

While primarily seeing a dentist through your child’s younger years (birth – five to six years old) is good enough to help prevent tooth decay and other issues, it’s imperative to schedule a visit to an orthodontist for your child when they’re six years and older. This is also the period where your child’s teeth go through a “transitional period” where their permanent adult teeth come in.

An orthodontist can help diagnose and treat problems such as irregular teeth, overcrowding and ectopic eruption a.k.a. shark teeth.

To save yourself the hassle of consulting different dental practitioners, look for integrated dental clinics like Dr Catherine Lee Orthodontics that have a range of services that cover both regular dentistry and orthodontic treatments for all ages.

8. Thinking that seeing the school dentist is enough

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Thanks to our school dentist, we would’ve gotten free dental services throughout our Primary and Secondary school years. Most school dentists are in fact certified Hygienists or Therapists. While they’re great for a basic check-up and other procedures like scaling and the removal of shaky baby teeth, there are certain problems they’re unable to detect and treatments they’re unable to carry out.

That’s why a trip to a child-friendly dentist with your little one outside of school is important as well. This is so that any problems regarding the condition of your child’s teeth can be  discussed face-to-face without having to worry about any of the important details getting lost in translation. Furthermore, should the dentist prescribe any preventive care measures, you’ll be able to ensure that your child practices them diligently at home.

9. Seeing a dentist when something hurts

Dental visits shouldn’t be scheduled only when your child complains of a toothache. If that’s the case, he or she will grow up associating dentists with pain, creating a whole new phobia that can make future dental visits a real pain in the butt.

They will need regular check-ups to make sure that their milk teeth are cared for and that their adult teeth are growing well. Schedule an appointment at least twice a year, but do note that some kids will need more frequent care. 

10. Fearing braces because of the pain

Crooked teeth are insanely difficult to clean. And on top of that, they make you prone to a host of other oral hygiene problems such as plaque buildup, inflamed gums and cavity formation. Thankfully, they can be easily fixed with an orthodontic treatment like braces or aligners. 

If your child’s teeth are in need of some alignment but fear of pain is one of the main reasons he or she’s been rejecting the idea of braces, here’s a piece of good news. An experienced and good orthodontist can treat crooked teeth with very little to no discomfort. 

You can even opt for clear aligners such as Invisalign or Clear Correct to straighten out your child’s smile without all the metal if you’re worried about them being teased in school.

Keeping your child’s teeth healthy with regular visits

To all parents out there, keeping your kids’ teeth clean and healthy isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not just about brushing your teeth twice daily, but also about making regular trips down to the dentist and treating their teeth with preventive methods. 

General dentists are good for regular scaling sessions and cavity checks, but do make it a point to visit an orthodontist to assess your child’s growth and development.

Unlike the sterile and intimidating waiting rooms of other dental clinics, the reception at Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontics is warm and welcoming with a stunning view of the CBD.

If you’re not one to juggle multiple appointments at different clinics, Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontics is an integrated dental clinic that offers a range of general dentistry and specialised orthodontic services for toddlers to adults.

Dr. Catherine Lee is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists and specialises in dealing with young children to improve their dental habits, monitoring the growth pattern of their teeth, and providing age-appropriate treatments that’ll help children grow their confidence with a beautiful smile.

Her orthodontic evaluation includes checking one’s jaw formation, sensing the proper time for the shedding of baby teeth and monitoring if adult teeth are coming in well. Orthodontists will also be able to pick up on things such as missing adult teeth or impacted teeth in a timely manner. 

Whether it’s simply showing kids how to brush their teeth properly or more complex procedures from treating misaligned teeth to management of special cleft lip and palate patients, Dr. Lee covers a full range of orthodontic treatments that’ll give your child a good and healthy smile.

Find out more about child-friendly orthodontic and dental treatments at Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontist here

This post is part of an initiative to improve dental education and was brought to you by Dr. Catherine Lee Orthodontics.
Photography by Kenneth Chan.


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