Homegrown with Hope: Dental dos and don'ts for kids

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The path to a bright smile starts early at Prairie Rose Family Dentists in Mandan, where Dr. Stan Dyda says the first mistake parents often make is just not coming in soon enough.

Dr. Stan sat down with us to set the record straight on dental "dos and don'ts."

When should you schedule baby's first dental visit?

Dr. Stan says within the first six months of the first tooth, or by the child's first birthday, whichever comes first.

"Even though there is only one or two teeth in the mouth, it's still a really important visit. A lot of the stuff we treat here is preventable, so we want to see kids early and make sure that we catch things before they get a lot worse," Dr. Stain explained.

Even if that means there are no teeth by 12 months old, parents will get a dentist established if any accidents happen while toddlers are learning to walk and children start to feel comfortable in the chair.

When should you start using toothpaste?

Dr. Stan says to start when that first tooth erupts, but don't leave a child under six years old brushing alone. He advises parents always be with children six and under as they brush their teeth.

How much toothpaste should children be using?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says kids under three need only a smear, the size of a grain of rice. Children three to six years old can use a pea-sized amount.

"You don't want to use what they show on the toothpaste commercial, loading everything up. That's not what you want to do. Sorry, toothpaste commercials," Dr. Stan said.

A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 40 percent of kids three to six years old use too much. That much fluoride can lead to discolored teeth.

Will a child's pacifier or bottle use lead to dental problems?

Dr. Stan says it's an instinct for children to suck, but if they continue aggressive sucking habits after three years old, it can create problems.

"It's really bad if those habits continue when their permanent teeth start to erupt," he said. "When they come in, they will form around the finger or the thumb. That can cause some issues down the road."

Will putting a child to bed with a bottle rot their teeth?

If that bottle contains anything other than water, Dr. Stan says it can create problems for teeth.

Dr. Stan says prevention is key when it comes to your children and their teeth. He also says, while smart brushing habits will take you far, they can't make up for a poor diet. One filled with sugar and juice will cause lifelong problems.