Everything you need to know about childhood dental care

Dr Mazin answers all of your important dental questions, from important childhood teething milestones to watch out for, to why caring for baby teeth can have a life-long impact on a child’s dental health

Dr Mazin

At what age should children start flossing and how important is it to their daily routine?

Children need to start flossing their teeth when their permanent adult teeth start to come through, around the age of six or seven. Flossing is an important part of day-to-day dentalcare, as it helps to remove plaque under the gums, reducing the likelihood of decay and gum disease.

When does thumb sucking become an issue in terms of dental development?

Thumb sucking really becomes an issue around the age of six or seven, when a child’s adult teeth come through. At this age if a child continues to suck their thumb, permanent malformation happened to the jaw and the position of the teeth. In most cases, early intervention is the best option for children. In mild cases, simply putting a band aid on the finger or thumb that the child is sucking will remind them not to do it.

What are key issues that parents should look out for in terms of childhood dental development?

It’s important for parents to regularly check their child’s teeth. One of the key things to watch out for is baby teeth that are not shed at the correct age. A retained baby tooth may hide either a missing permanent tooth or a mal positioned tooth.

Another thing parents should watch out for, is a sign of a crossbite (where the upper teeth are further inside the mouth compared to the lower teeth.). A crossbite is sometimes accompanied by a shift of the midline which affects the dental arches. Early intervention is key to stop the problem developing. Key signs to look out for are whether the child breaths from their nose or mouth. Breathing through the mouth can sometimes lead to jaw malformation.

Parents should also watch for changes in the spacing between their child’s teeth and any overcrowding issues. If they have any concerns, they should notify their child’s dentist.

At what age do you recommend that children first visit a dentist?

I recommend that children should visit the dentist around their fourth birthday. By age four, a child’s baby teeth will have finished erupting and they can better understand and communicate with the dentist.  It is important that the first visit to a dentist is a pleasant experience for the child, so that they don’t develop a phobia from visiting the dentists in the future.

What can parents expect from their child’s first visit to the dentist?

It’s important to make the child’s first visit to the dentist as pleasant as possible, so that they develop a healthy and positive relationship with their own dental care. On the first visit, dentists don’t plan any dental treatments, but rather just give the child some information about how to clean their teeth most effectively and how to fight decay through having a good daily routine.

Baby teeth aren’t permanent – why do they need special care?

A child’s baby teeth play a very important role in the development of the jaw. They have an impact on bone development and act as natural space maintainers for the eruption of the permanent teeth. Secondly, proper care of baby teeth is essential, baby teeth can still experience decay if not looked after properly, which can be very painful for the child and could require hospitalisation to fix the issues in the more severe cases.

What causes cavities and how can I stop my child from developing them?

Cavities always happen as a consequence of not brushing the teeth well enough. Food left over on the surface of the teeth – especially sticky foods –  produce acid by the bacteria found in the mouth, the best and only way to prevent cavities from developing and happen is by brushing a minimum of two times a day and floss at least one time a day.

What type of protection do you recommend for teeth for school sports?

I recommend buying a decent teeth guard whether customized or readymade from the pharmacy. It’s important for children to wear a teeth guard for many sports including soccer, basketball, karate and boxing. These guards are very important on the protection of teeth during these physical activities and prevent any potential damages to the teeth.

What’s the best type of toothbrush for children?

I always say that the technique of brushing and the time the child spend brushing his teeth is the most important factor. The type of tooth brush play only a secondary role, whether it is electric or a manual toothbrush.

What are your thoughts on dental sealant for children?

Dental sealants are a very cost-effective treatment, they are very cheap and easy and fast to be applied to the occlusal surface of the teeth, they save your child from a decay that might be very painful and more expensive to be treated.

What’s the best way to ensure children are getting enough fluoride?

In Western countries, fluoride is added to the water supply by a concentration of one part per million, which can reduce the prevalence of dental decay 60%. In countries where our drinking water is not fluoridated, mouthwashes and toothpaste rich in fluoride can be another alternative.

In your opinion, what is the best age for a child to get a brace? And what signs should parents look out for?

The best age to get a brace always depends on the underlying problem. Sometimes we can start early and sometimes we have to wait until the teeth are bit more developed. As a general rule, we must wait until all or at least most of the permanent teeth have erupted.

What services do you offer for children at your dental clinics?

At our clinics we offer early screening of dental decay, sealant and fluoride applications. In our orthodontic department, we offer early interceptive and preventive treatments to treat a lot of orthodontic and orthopaedic problems; removable orthopaedic appliances to correct jaws malformation, myo braces to rehabilitate a tongue thrust and mouth breathing issues and finally fixed orthodontic treatment ( braces ) to straighten the teeth.

What qualifications or qualities should parents look for when choosing a dentist for their child?

Choosing a dentist is not an easy thing to do, it necessitates a good amount of research regarding the qualifications and the experience of the dentist. Luckily, these days plenty can be found out online. The reviews by patients on different platforms can provide a very valuable source of information. The worst way to pick a dentist is to simply look at cost, and whether they are charging high or low prices.

If you could give one piece of advice to parents regarding their child’s dental care, what would it be and why?

My recommendation to the parents is to brush their own teeth in front of their child. This will help their child to value and develop a good oral hygiene routine. Following a healthy diet is also key. To develop healthy teeth, children need to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibres and to steer clear junk food. Things like cola, sticky sweets and sugar cause a huge amount of damage to teeth, and should be avoided.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I am an orthodontist my favourite part is the moment when I remove the braces from the teeth of a child and see a happy and nice smile with their new teeth, this make me feel full of gratitude.

What motivates you in your career?

My motivation is to help people regain their smile. The difficult cases challenge me and motivate me to innovate around the issues at hand. I have spent many years in my specialist area of dentistry, but my strengths depend on my ability to customize and individualize treatment plans for every single case that I come across each day. I am passionate about my work, it is huge joy to me when I am helping my patients and see them satisfied with the results.

Details: for more information about Dr Mazin and his surgery, visit the Al Marrifa website. 

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