Make your child’s dental health a priority (and fun!)

by Tabitha Gatrey, DMD
Dentist, Pediatric Smiles

Q: What are good dental habits parents should teach their children? 

A: Good dental habits would include brushing twice daily and flossing at least once a day. I would also like for parents to teach their children to limit candies, sodas, and foods/beverages with lots of sugar. Lastly, making dental health a family affair. If the parents have a healthy smile, then the children will value it as well. Making a habit of going to the dentist twice a year, returning for treatment, and referring to dentistry as something positive helps to develop long-lasting habits.

Q: What food and drinks can cause cavities?

To prevent cavities in children’s teeth, we definitely want to avoid lots of candy, juice, soda, and foods with lots of sugar. Candies that are sticky and gummy treats are more likely to cause cavities because they have a tendency to stick to the teeth. It is very important, as well, to make sure to brush before bed. Brushing before bed removes all the food debris from your entire day. Taking bottles or cups to bed bathes the teeth with cavity-causing liquids all night when saliva flow is low. Saliva helps to wash the mouth.

Q: About what age should children be able to brush their teeth by themselves?

A: Every child is different. Some children can start brushing without supervision as early as seven, but some teenagers need supervision. I recommend supervising your children’s dental care until the age of 10. If your child is brushing by themselves, then I do recommend a spot check.

Q: How much fluoride should children be using?

If you live in an area with fluoridated water supply, then toothpaste with fluoride twice daily is enough. Children will get fluoride in their water consumption, as well.

Q: Are there any misconceptions you see parents or children having about either dental care or dental visits?

A: One misconception we see is that baby teeth don’t hurt. Baby teeth can hurt, become infected, and can cause health problems. Baby teeth are very important. They help with chewing, speaking, guiding permanent teeth, and confidence.  

Q: Do you have any suggestions on how parents can make caring for their children’s teeth more fun or enjoyable?

A: I would recommend playing music during oral care times. Music makes things better. Also, parents can make it fun by pretending to brush out the superheroes or princesses.   

Q: What are ways your office caters to children?

A: We believe children are the reason why we exist at Pediatric Smiles. Our passion is to make every child love dentistry. That drives how we treat children. We cater to each child differently. Some children need extra time, distraction, songs, or encouragement. We attempt to make every child comfortable by whatever works. 

Q: What’s your favorite part about working with children?

My favorite part about working with children is the joy that they bring. I love hearing their thoughts, opinions and stories. I laugh and smile every day. That makes my job so rewarding.  

Dr. Tabita Jarman-Gatrey, owner of Pediatric Smiles, is board certified by the American Board of Dentistry. She maintains memberships in professional organizations including the Birmingham Pediatric Dentistry Society, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Association, and Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry. In addition to treating children at Pediatric Smiles, she is also a member of the adjunct faculty at Children’s of Alabama. 

Pediatric Smiles is a pediatric dentistry practice that serves infants, children, and teens. The office is located at 4823 Promenade Parkway, Suite 101, in Bessemer.


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