Teaching Kids How to Take Care of Their Teeth

Dr. Rita Burnett

Dr. Rita Burnett

Dr. Rita Burnett, Director of Dental Services, has more than 30 years’ experience in dentistry. She’s an advocate for children’s dental health and has loads of ways to make a first a dental visit a safe and even fun experience.

As this is National Children’s Dental Health Month, we asked Dr. Burnett about how she gets children started with healthy dental habits.

Do you teach children how to brush?

We talk a lot about brushing! I always ask them when they brush, and I explain how important it is to brush at night — to get rid of the food from all day.

I ask them about brushing their tongue, too. That might be a surprise sometimes. I tell them to start brushing in a different spot each time. That’s because you always brush hardest at the start.

I show them the right amount of toothpaste — about the size of a pea. And I remind them to change their tooth brush about every three or four months, or after they’ve had a cold. Get a new one when the bristles are splayed out.

What are some other milestones for dental care?

We like to see children typically at around three years old, but we’ve seen children as young as 12 months. When they are that young, we do a “lap exam” —when I sit knee to knee with a parent and the baby lies between us.

choose healthy foodsAt about age six, children get their permanent molars. This is when we like to apply a sealant on the chewing surface for protection against cavities.

At about age 10, I like to teach kids how to floss. I always talk about good habits and offer tips.

What kind of tips?

I explain that sugars and carbohydrates in foods can ferment on teeth — that creates plaque acids. If you have a sugary treat, you should brush or chew sugar-free gum afterward. Chewing gum for 20 minutes after eating stimulates saliva and that helps prevent cavities by reducing plaque acids.

Another option might surprise you. Research has shown that eating just a little cheddar cheese – about the size of a pair of dice – will also stimulate saliva and decrease the amount of acid on the teeth.

What’s the most important thing to teach children?

I want kids to feel comfortable at the dental clinic. I want them to like coming to the dentist, to feel safe and not afraid. I want to nurture them a little bit and build a relationship with them.

It’s so important to educate kids. Their oral health affects the rest of their health. I want them to make better decisions and learn good, healthy habits.

Have your children visited the dentist lately? Please call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment. Questions and comments welcome in the space below.

3 replies
  1. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    That fact about cheddar cheese is really interesting, actually. Being a serious cheese fanatic, I’m glad to see that my addiction might have a use. Thanks for sharing the tips!

  2. Jasper Whiteside
    Jasper Whiteside says:

    You were right, I was surprised to know that eating a little cheddar cheese was good for you. I like the thought that teaching habits to kids will carry through their lives. Most people want their teeth to last them through their whole lives. That can be quite the struggle, but simple practices can go a long way toward achieving that goal.


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