Kids and the Dentist

Getting kids proper dental care is important. When kids first visit the dentist, how often they floss and brush and when they start orthodontic treatments are common issues for parents.

What is the best age for kids to start seeing a dentist?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, I really think the short answer there is early, as soon as you can really get them to sit in the chair and somewhat be cooperative, I think they should see a dentist. Not necessarily to have their teeth cleaned. Not necessarily to even have an examination. What we do in our office is as soon as the parents think they can bring the child to the office with them for their checkup, we’d like to expose them to what is going to happen in the dental office. We give them a ride in the chair. They stay with mom. They try and have fun. We try and show them we’re not going to invade their personal space. We try to make it so that it’s just a common part of something they do periodically.

It also allows them to see there’s a big difference between what we do and what the pediatrician may do, where they’re getting vaccine shots or they’re getting touched and things are getting put down their throat with their tongue. As soon as the kids have teeth, their teeth need to be tended to. That doesn’t necessarily mean you bring a 6-month-old to a dentist unless you suspect there’s a problem but by the time they’re 2 years old, they really should have had some contact with a dental office, a dental chair, and someone at least interacting with them in the dental chair.

What are dental sealants and why do kids need them?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, I really like the way you asked that question because in my opinion, most kids need them. Dental sealants are because the anatomy of back teeth tend to have very deep grooves or valleys as people would say. Those valleys and grooves literally invaginate very deeply into the tooth. They become so very finite and tiny, but not so tiny that they can prevent bacteria from getting down into those grooves. That is where cavities start because the grooves are so tiny, a brush does not necessarily get that far into the groove to clean it.

What sealants are is basically a clear material that adheres to the top, the cheek side of the tooth, the tongue side of the tooth, and seals those grooves. Now that they’re sealed, bacteria cannot get into them, and you really can prevent a lot of cavities.

Do kids have to wait for all of their adult teeth to grow in before they start orthodontic treatment?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Absolutely not. Early interception in any avenue of medicine, whether it be dentistry or whatever, is always better than later intervention. Once kids have their first adult molars in and their front incisor teeth in, a competent orthodontist can evaluate them and predict what is going to happen to them as they grow. Very often, we refer 7-year-olds to the orthodontist, not for treatment but for evaluation. That way, the parents can see, “Oh, my son or daughter is going to need intervention earlier so that maybe we can step the teeth up so that we don’t need really expensive orthodontic treatment later.” Basically, there’s no age limit once those adult teeth start coming in.

Can kids get cavities from not flossing even if they brush their teeth twice a day?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Yeah, unfortunately that’s true, especially once all the teeth are touching side to side. Because brushing won’t clean in between. Only flossing will do that. The earlier we can get kids to start flossing, the better because it becomes a natural habit. They look at it as “I must brush and floss my teeth.” They don’t look at it as, “Well, I have to brush my teeth and once in a while, I’m going to run floss in there.” They really need to see one is the left shoe; one is the right shoe. You’re never to go and buy half a pair of shoes. Flossing becomes important and the earlier we can get kids to do it, the more it becomes a natural habit.

Lastly, what advice do you have for parents of kids who are nervous about dental visits?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, the first thing is to not help the kids be nervous. There’s no reason to validate that there’s a reason to be nervous going to the dental office. This is different place than the pediatrician. When people are driving to the office, we hear it all the time from them, “I kept telling little Johnny, ‘Nothing to worry about. We’re just going to see the dentist. Nothing to be scared about.'” I don’t think they realize they’re not saying that on the ride over to the Macy’s store. Kids will pick up on that and they’ll say, “Well, wait a minute. You don’t say that when we go to the Walmart. What is it about this dental office that you’re telling me I don’t need to be nervous?”

They actually piqued the interest of the child to be on the lookout for something that might make them uncomfortable, sort of the same as they might be doing when they go to the pediatrician. Basically, they just need to be supportive, act like it’s a non-event. We’re just going to go. We’re just going to have some fun and then after that, we’re going to go on our routine and have a great rest of our day.

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If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.

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