Search for a location near you

    National Children’s Dental Health Month: Q&A with Dr. Cassi McCarthy

    February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! In honor of the occasion, we sat down with Summit’s very own Dr. Cassi McCarthy to answer some questions around oral health in children.

    At what age should children begin seeing a dentist?

    To prevent dental problems and provide education, we recommend children see a dentist when their first tooth appears and no later than his or her first birthday. A checkup every six months is recommended to prevent cavities and other dental problems.

    Does it really matter how children treat their baby teeth since they will eventually lose them anyway?

    “Baby teeth” are children’s teeth up until around age 6, when adult teeth begin to come in. It is very important to have proper oral hygiene early on so children can speak and chew, but also help guide their adult teeth into their proper positions by maintaining the correct amount of space.

    What is the best way to keep my child’s mouth clean before teeth come in?

    The best way to keep an infant’s mouth clean is to wipe his or her gums with a soft, clean washcloth dampened with warm water. This helps the infant become comfortable with someone working in their mouth. As well, there are children’s teethers in fun shapes that mimic a toothbrush. Having your child get used to the feeling of a toothbrush in their mouth will help you transition them to a regular routine of brushing morning and night.

    Are thumb-sucking and pacifier habits harmful to teeth?

    As someone who as a child was a chronic double-fisting pacifier user, these habits only become an issue if they go on for too long. Most children will age out of these habits, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or using a pacifier past age 3, your dentist may step in and provide recommendations on how to eliminate this habit, such as using a mouth appliance.

    What is the biggest cause of cavities in children?

    The culprit of cavities in children is a high sugar diet, mostly from juices and soda. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children drink no more than six to eight ounces of fruit juice each day. Ideally, this would be during one meal. Drinking juice throughout the day, in a sippy cup or bottle, increases the risk of cavities even more because the teeth are being constantly bathed in sugar.

    How can I help my child avoid cavities?

    See your dentist regularly, beginning no later than age 1. Dentists will work with you to evaluate your child’s current oral health and provide education on proper brushing, flossing and other healthy oral hygiene habits. Proper home oral hygiene care, regular visits to your dentist and a balanced diet will create lifelong healthy habits!

    How do I know which kind of toothpaste to give my child? Is it safe to use one that has fluoride?

    Any toothpaste with fluoride — so yes, it is safe! At your child’s first dental visit, we will provide a child-sized toothbrush and children’s toothpaste. Parents should use a tiny smear of the fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they appear in the child’s mouth. Once children turn 3, and up until their 6th birthday, you can increase the amount to the size of a pea. Children should always spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste.

    When should children begin brushing their own teeth?

    Young children do not have the dexterity or patience to brush their own teeth effectively. Thus, it’s important to either perform or assist your child with brushing up until they acquire fine motor skills, such as the ability to tie their own shoelaces. This typically occurs by age 7 or 8. We use the rule of two: brush for two minutes, twice daily. The toothbrush should be soft and an age-appropriate size.

    What should I do if my child has a toothache?

    To help with irritation and inflammation, you may rinse the area with warm salt water. If your child’s face is swollen, place a cold towel to reduce the swelling. For pain, child acetaminophen such as Children’s Tylenol will help. Finally, it is important to see your dentist for evaluation of the tooth.

    If you could only provide one piece of advice for parents when it comes to their children’s teeth, what would it be?

    Be great role models! Demonstrating the importance of good oral hygiene and placing value in visiting the dentist every six months will create healthy habits spanning into your child’s adulthood!


    Learn more about Dr. Cassi McCarthy by clicking here