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10 Questions to Ask Your Child’s Dentist

When you take your child to the dentist for preventive care, it’s a good time to discuss oral health and ask questions.

Pediatric dental exams are thorough; the hygienist and dentist will clean your child’s teeth and evaluate his or her teeth for signs of decay and mouth for any developmental concerns. Even so, the dentist and hygienist are not with your child often and will not be as familiar his or her needs and habits as you are.

Take full advantage of the appointment, and ask the experts while you are with them. Here are 10 helpful questions you might consider asking at the next visit.

1. Is my child getting enough fluoride?

Fluoride has been proven to be important in cavity prevention. Nearly 74 percent of the U.S. population receives it through community water systems, according to the CDC as of 2010. Of those people, nearly 80 percent receive water with optimal fluoride levels. It is also found in toothpaste and other dental products. Your child’s dentist will determine if he or she is getting enough of it and may recommend a fluoride treatment if necessary.

2. When should we consider sealants?

Dental sealants are thin coatings painted on teeth that help prevent cavities. Application is quick, easy and painless. Ask if your child is a good candidate for sealants or when he or she will be ready. Then be sure to check with your dental insurance provider to see if your benefits cover them; many dental plans do.

3. What oral safety precautions should we take for sports and other activities?

Discuss your child’s activities with the dentist and see if he or she recommends any additional safety equipment. The American Dental Association estimates that 10 to 20 percent of all sports-related injuries are maxillofacial, and the National Foundation for Safety states that an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to teeth when not wearing a mouth guard, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. If the dentist recommends a mouth guard, discuss which type to use—boil-and-bite, stock, or custom. Make sure the dentist includes your child in the conversation to emphasize the importance of practicing safety.

4. What should we do in a dental emergency?

Ask if the dentist holds emergency hours or can provide information for someone who does. Discuss how to handle toothaches, cracks, chips, knocked out teeth and other dental problems. Knowing what to do ahead of time can make a stressful, painful situation a little less painful and stressful.

5. Will my child need braces?

As your child grows and develops, so will his or her mouth. It may be difficult to tell at this moment if braces are in the cards, but there may also be clues. Talk to the dentist about any crowding or bite issues that currently exist or that may be hinting at future existence. If it looks like braces will be necessary now or a little later on, you can start exploring orthodontists, looking into insurance coverage benefits and saving up.

6. Does it appear my child is brushing and flossing properly?

Brushing and flossing are important to a healthy, cavity-free mouth. Yet doing it wrong can mean missing spots and even wearing out gums and enamel. If you’ve handed over oral hygiene duties to your child, ask the dentist or hygienist how he or she is doing. If there’s room for improvement, ask for a quick demo—they’re likely to demonstrate anyway.

7. My child grinds her teeth, what can I do about it?

Childhood grinding is common and typically does not require treatment, according to the American Dental Association. The ADA explains that kids typically outgrow the habit by adolescence and do not experience damage from it due to quickly growing and changing teeth and jaws. Nonetheless, it is advised you discuss grinding and possible solutions with the dentist.

8. What type of toothpaste and toothbrush do you recommend for my child?

Check in with the dentist to see if the tools you’re using are the right ones at the right stage. This answer will change throughout your child’s development. For an infant, the answer is likely a soft infant brush or washcloth and no toothpaste. The typical recommendation is that fluoride toothpaste should not be used on children age 2 and younger. And at some point, your little one will grow into a full-fledged big kid ready for an adult toothbrush.

9. My child refuses to brush/let me brush his teeth, what do you suggest?

Brushing and flossing can be a battle from the days you help your kids to the days they do it themselves. If this is the case in your household, see if the dentist has any tips you haven’t tried—and you’ve likely tried several. Sometimes, a helpful reminder directly from the dentist to your child can make an impact, too.

10. When should I schedule my child’s next appointment?

Typically, we should all see the dentist every 6 months for preventive care and cleaning. Your child’s dentist may want to see him or her sooner if there are any concerns. Be sure to ask at the end of the appointment if no recommendation is made.

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