Healthy Mouth Heathy Start in Life

Paediatric Dentist Dr Sahar Jumean spoke to parents at Ask Our Experts II workshop last September about children’s growing dental needs from infancy through adolescence.

Dr Jumean covered milestones such as getting and losing the first tooth, going to school and developing bad snacking habits from infancy to early adolescence. Parents asked her what to do about bad breath, when and how to brush, what the best brand of toothpaste is and when to see a dentist. Some parents had children four years and older who had never seen a dentist.

Dr Jumean’s takeaway message for parents: “Don’t wait until there is a problem. Get your child in to see a paediatric dentist by age one (or within six months after the first tooth erupts). These first visits are important information sessions for parents even if the child isn’t receiving treatment. Get your child in and get him familiar with and coping in this environment as young as possible.”

Family Flavours: What’s the difference between adult and children’s toothpaste?

Dr Jumean: Usually the amount of fluoride in children’s toothpaste is one third the amount of that in adult toothpastes. Children’s toothpastes may be less abrasive on the sensitive enamel of baby teeth and often comes in fruity flavours.

Brushing using the correct technique and duration is what removes plaque (a thin tooth-coloured film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums every day).

Plaque is the main cause of gum disease and tooth decay.  Fluoride toothpaste has an extra benefit of preventing tooth decay by making tooth enamel stronger.

Here are some tips Dr Jumean shared with parents at Ask Our Experts II:

Buy whichever toothpaste your child will willingly use. So long as you follow the age-appropriate fluoride content (unless directed otherwise by your dentist), you can’t go wrong

Don’t let flashy pictures on expensive brands persuade you, but if your child is resistant to having his teeth brushed and a cartoon character featured on the packaging helps motivate him, then go with that

Avoid introducing your child to bubble gum and other “sweet” flavoured toothpaste – this will help your child transition from children’s to adult toothpaste. Your child won’t know what she is missing if you don’t introduce her to it to begin with

Switch to adult toothpaste at six years of age

Parents should brush their child’s teeth as soon as they begin to come in by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. For children three to six years of age, no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is recommended.

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Start in Life

Too many parents wait until there’s a need to seek medical treatment for their child’s dental health issues.  Dr Jumean stresses preventive care, especially in the early years, when children’s teeth, mouth and gums are still developing. Preventing abnormal growth and cavities in children is easier, more painless and less costly than treating dental problems after they’ve fully developed. She also points out that having a healthy mouth helps children maintain better nutrition, self-esteem and overall health. The American Heart Association has shown a link between oral health and heart disease, she says. So the takeaway message here is that dental care is a whole-body approach that focuses on education, prevention and overall health.   

Paediatric Dentist Dr Sahar Jumean  holds a Master’s in Paediatric Dentistry from England and works in a private practice in Amman. She promotes dental and oral health in children and adolescents and serves as an educational resource for parents through speaking engagements, media interviews and expert contributions in Family Flavours and Nakahat ‘Ailiyeh.