Tips and Tricks for Keeping your Children’s Teeth Healthy

Parents today are faced with countless decisions concerning the care of their children. Dr. Joe Castellano, D.D.S., President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Big Authority on Little Teeth, shares simple tips and tricks for keeping your children’s teeth healthy. He also shares findings from a new national survey that uncovers attitudes and beliefs, along with misconceptions and myths, around pediatric oral care and little teeth.

Dr. Joe Castellano received his dental degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston. He completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency and Pediatric Dentistry residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas (UTHSC-SA). He is board certified in pediatric dentistry. Castellano is an Assistant Clinical Professor for the Department of Developmental Dentistry at UTHSC-SA Dental School. He is a graduate of both the AAPD Leadership Institute and Advanced Leadership Institute. He is a fellow of the American College of Dentists.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. Thank you for joining us today here on Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Parents today are faced with countless decisions concerning the care of their children. Now many parents prioritize their children’s health but a new national survey of parents and caregivers has found that there are several gaps that exist when it comes to oral health knowledge about our kids. Joining us now is the president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Dr. Joe Castellano DDS. He’s going to share some findings from that survey as well as some misconceptions concerning pediatric care. Welcome to the program, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Joe Castellano: Thank you Neal for having me, I’m glad to be here.

Neal: Well when we’re talking about our kids and our kids’ dental health, what are some of your recent survey findings? I mentioned that there was a survey that said that there is some existing gaps in knowledge about dental care when it comes to our children.

Dr Castellano: Correct. We had a survey conducted for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the survey found that 96 percent of parents felt that oral health was important. But interestingly, three quarters of those parents don’t take their child to the dentist by age 1 and about one third of those parents don’t think that a toothache is a serious ailment. So we got a little bit of work to do in continuing to educate the parents on the proper ways of taking care of their children’s teeth.

Neal: You mentioned age 1, why not age 2? What’s so important about age one as a dental visit?

Dr Castellano:  We recommend that we get children to the pediatric dentist by age 1 and it helps us establish a dental home. And dental home is a place, kind of serves as home base for the parents where they can come to us for all things oral health related. We establish a relationship with the parent and the child, we are able to educate them and teach them how to care for their teeth. And we find that the earlier we can establish this habit, the better off the child is and the less chance of having tooth decay as they grow up, occurs. So really important to get them in by age 1. If I could give any of the young parents advice, it would be to establish this dental home to get your child into a pediatric dentist by age 1 because that is a guarantee that they will not have a lot of issues with their teeth as they grow.

Neal: Now are you suggesting that they you know maintain the same dental practice up through adolescence in order to maintain that relationship and that kind of a comfort zone if at all possible? Is that the best course of action?

Dr Castellano: Yes. You need to follow up regularly with a pediatric dentist. We recommend at least twice a year to get to the dentist, to have the checkups, to make sure that everything’s okay. And the pediatric dentist can kind of counsel the parent on diet and is the child doing a good job brushing their teeth and doing all the things necessary to make sure that they have a healthy smile as they grow up and go through their childhood years.

Neal: What constitutes a good job when it comes to our children brushing their teeth?

Dr Castellano: Well we recommend that the children brush their teeth two times a day for about two minutes and really get in there and hit all the surfaces of the teeth. The parents, until the kids get to be probably about the age that they tie their shoes which is about 7-ish or so, really need to follow up with the brushing to make sure that their children are doing a good job because sometimes they’ll get in there and do a really quick job and don’t necessarily get all the surfaces of the teeth so parents really need to monitor that and make sure that the teeth stay clean so that they’re getting all the best they can.

Neal: Is flossing safe at that age or is that even something that a child should be trying to do with their teeth and their gums?

Dr Castellano: Well flossing is safe but it probably would be better to have the parent assist a child with that until they’re older, 7-8 years old and can do a good job on their own. But it does help get all any food or stuff that is stuck in between the teeth out of there which may hang around and increase the risk for cavities.

Neal: When you mentioned brushing twice a day for a child, is that twice a day and then if they’re eating things in between, should a child start taking a toothbrush in their backpack?

Dr Castellano: Absolutely. For example, they go to a birthday party and they have all kinds of candies and sweets and stuff like that, the best thing you could do is when they get home, brush their teeth and make sure that all of that stuff gets out of the mouth and they don’t have the prolonged contact with the sugar that causes the cavities in the long run. So definitely, the two times a day but if the parent or the child feel they need to get in there and clean a little bit more, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Neal: Are there certain snacks that you’re talking about lessening the contact with the sugar around the teeth, are there certain snacks that parents should avoid or encourage to that end?

Dr Castellano: Yes, there are. A lot of people will think that granola bars and fruit pouches or fruit roll ups for example are healthy snacks but in essence they have a lot of concentrated sugar and they’re very sticky and you want to avoid the sticky type of sweets to have sugar that stick to the teeth because again the sugar sticks to teeth and there’s that prolonged contact with the teeth and of course that increases the risk for tooth decay. Things like fresh vegetables or cheese which isn’t sticky but promotes saliva stimulation and helps to kind of wash out some of the mouth acids are helpful snacks and healthy snacks for the children.

Neal: Are these tips across the board as far as pediatric dentistry is concerned? Or are there differing of opinions when it comes to some of these practices that we’re talking about? Maybe three times a day as opposed to two or age two instead of one.

Dr Castellano: No, these are the recommendations that the American Academy in Pediatric Dentistry puts out and that we pediatric dentists follow so at least twice a day and by age 1.

Neal: I’ve heard that kids sucking their thumb can be a problem. I’ve never really understood how that can be a problem. Can you explain that to our listeners?

Dr Castellano: Absolutely. If a child keeps sucking their thumb or uses a pacifier for a prolonged period of time, they have a lot of pressure on their thumb. And over time it can cause bite issues or growth problems and which could need correction later on when they get older. By stopping the habit a little bit earlier, we’d like to recommend that the parents to start breaking those habits, that will really help them avoid any potential, keep getting crooked or bite problems that can occur as the child gets older.

Neal: Are there any differences, different recommendations for boys or girls when it comes to teeth or is it ‘teeth are teeth?’

Dr Castellano: Teeth are teeth and they really need to take care of it. The parents are going to know their child best. Some children might need a little bit more attention. Some children are very diligent with what they do. The parents just need to make sure that they supervise what’s going on and that the kids are doing a good job caring for their teeth and doing all the things necessary to make sure that they don’t end up with cavities.

Neal: We’d like to get some more information Dr. Castellano. Where can our listeners go online or elsewhere to get some information?

Dr Castellano: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has a great consumer website which is with a lot of helpful hints for the parents in taking care of the kids and also a neat little site in there that’s interactive for their children to help learn about caring for their teeth.

Neal: Thank you for joining us today Dr. Joe Castellano, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and You can also visit our  Affiliate Page when you visit our platform at

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