This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

Tooth Talk Shares Warning Signs of Tooth Problems in Children

As many as a third of high-risk, low-income kids have cavities and it can be as high as half in rural areas. Beyond the self-esteem and developmental impact of poor dental health, there’s the effect on a child’s quality of life. The impact can be so great–from pain and poor growth to personal and economic discrimination–that some experts are calling poor access to dental health services (be it geographic or financial) a social justice issue.

The good news is tooth decay is highly preventable. You can help. Here are some red light behaviors to watch for in children: The root cause just might be a tooth problem. Remember, children often won’t tell you about tooth pain unless you specifically ask. Warning signs of tooth problems in children include:

  • Not eating.
  • Not sleeping.
  • Having a hard time drinking hot or cold beverages.
  • Unable to focus and learn.
  • Speech problems.
  • Missed days.
  • Irritation and frustration for no apparent reason.
  • Not smiling and laughing.
  • Fever and facial swelling.
  • Inability to focus on play.
  • Failure to thrive; not hitting key developmental milestones.

If you see any of these red flags, inform the parent and encourage a visit to the dentist or doctor.

How successful do you feel at helping parents get young children to the dentist? To give your opinion, click here.


This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

New Tooth Talk Video Helps You Improve Communication with Parents

Ever felt like this when talking with the parents in your program?

“I feel like I’m the only one in the conversation.”          

“Sometimes it’s like you’re coming up against a brick wall; you can’t really knock the bricks down.”                                                                                                                                          

 “I think the biggest problem is parents don’t have a lot of time to communicate with us. So only one side gets to say what they really need to say.”

These comments are from real EHS teachers. Talking with parents about good dental health is important, but it can be hard to do. Motivational interviewing can help: it’s a way of having a conversation that’s easier, faster and more satisfying. Best of all, it accomplishes goals–for you and the parent.

To see motivational interviewing at work on Tooth Talk, the website about improving children’s dental health for early childhood educators and childcare providers, click on the new, short video “How to Talk With Parents.”

To see other short, helpful videos about kids’ teeth health, click the Videos tab in the menu at the top of the page.

Who teaches the children in your program about good dental health: you, parents or healthcare providers? To give Your Opinion, click here.


This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

Tooth Talk Expert Helps You Answer Parents’ Questions About Babies & Dentists

Question: Why do babies need a dentist? Most of our parents think, “They’re only baby teeth and will just fall out anyway.” What can I tell them?

According to Dr. Frank Courts, DDS, PhD, a pediatric dentist in private practice in Rocky Mount, NC, a dental visit by age 1 is vital not only for a child’s healthy smile but also for hitting important developmental and growth milestones.

“Healthy baby teeth are the first and most important step to a healthy adult mouth! Dental cavities that start before age 2 have the potential to cause:

1. Acute pain,
2. Chronic discomfort,
3. Poor nutrition
4. Reduced learning and school performance, and
5. Life-threatening infections.

“Early access to oral health care has been shown to dramatically increase oral health in 4- to 5-year olds as well as reduce the need for extractions and fillings. Finding oral health services for your child by age 1 will go a long way toward having a healthy and happy child with a beautiful smile!”

For a helpful fact sheet to share with parents about dental visits for babies, click here.

We want to know what’s on your mind. To ask your anonymous question click here. Our panel of experts will choose a question each month and answer it on the site and in the weekly email.

Read other Ask the Expert posts here.

How many of your parents have taken their babies or toddlers to the dentist?

What’s Your Opinion? Share it by clicking here.


This Quarter’s Theme: Babies and A Dental Home

Tooth Talk Tips to Encourage Parents to Take Babies to the Dentist

Did you know…

68% of parents say receiving dental benefits is why they enroll their children in Medicaid and CHIP?

You’re making a difference! A 2007 UNC-Chapel Hill study revealed that NC was one of just three states in the nation with 20% or more Medicaid-enrolled children under the age of 3 visiting a dentist.

Early dental visits are important because they can head off cavities and other tooth health problems that can cause pain, poor quality of life, compromised growth and development and, of course, added expense.

The American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatricians all recommend a visit to the dentist by a child’s first birthday, yet few children enrolled in Medicaid do.

So, while North Carolina is a leader in this effort, how can you improve those numbers and connect with parents about the importance of dental visits? Here are some great ways to start the conversation with the parents in your program.

1. Ask open-ended questions:

“What’s your concern about going to the dentist?”

2. Reflect back to the parent what you’re hearing in a way that inspires behavior change:

“I see. Getting Michael to the dentist means you have to fit it in to your already busy schedule.”

3. Follow up on the reflections by asking permission to share some tips for fitting the dentist visit in.

“May I share a few ideas that may make it easier for you?

4. Last, summarize what you and the parent have agreed to do:

“Great! You’ll schedule it on your next day off.”

To review the study, click here.