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Dental care for kids

Dental care for kids

March 13, 2024

ICHS offers full dental care for the entire family, including check-ups, cleanings and urgent care. Our clinics are conveniently located in the International District, Holly Park, Bellevue, and Shoreline. Call us at (206) 788-3700 to schedule an appointment.

Kim Chi Nguyen, DDS

International Community Health Services (ICHS) has launched Together We Rise, a wellness podcast with useful information aimed at keeping our communities safe and healthy. Dr. Chi Nguyen, the newest dentist to join the ICHS Holly Park Dental Clinic, explains how parents can teach kids about good oral hygiene and the importance of baby teeth.

Listen here:


How to Teach Kids About Good Oral Hygiene

Amanda Wilde (Host): February is National Children's Dental Health Month, an annual reminder to families that children should adopt good oral health habits early to improve the chance of having healthy teeth and gums throughout life. Today, we spotlight ways to keep kids teeth healthy with Dr. Chi Nguyen, who is a dentist at ICHS Holly Park Medical and Dental Clinic.

Welcome to Together We Rise, a podcast from International Community Health Services. ICHS advocates for health as a human right and welcomes all in need of care regardless of health, immigration status, or ability to pay. I'm your host, Amanda Wilde. Welcome, Dr. Nguyen, and thank you so much for being here.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yes, thank you for having me.

Host: Well, good oral hygiene habits are important, and I think the standard we all know is brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Is that enough to constitute good oral hygiene habits?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: I would say for the standard, yes. Across the board, brushing twice a day and flossing once is enough. But I think when it comes to getting down to the details of it, it's a little more for children because, well, they're still developing and so motor skills are not up to par. And so, as a dentist, I do recommend some sort of parent-assisted brushing for kids, around under eight years old. And just a quick add-in is if they can't tie their shoes correctly or tightly, then they probably won't be able to brush their teeth on their own quite yet.

Host: That's a good measure.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah. I usually tell my parents, hey, you might want to help them maybe brush at night more specifically. And if they really are adamant about brushing their own teeth, you can let them brush in the morning and, you know, parents can follow up at nighttime and brush and floss at night too. So just more assisted. But yes, as far as brushing twice a day and flossing, that's enough.

Host: I think with the twice a day brushing in the evening is really important because when you rinse, then you sleep on that. And if you don't rinse, if you don't brush, then you're sleeping with all this stuff on your teeth. Can you describe a little more about what is that? You know, when you don't brush, what happens, what leads to cavities and what happens when they go untreated?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah. So, I mean, imagine, you know, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and drinking juice and drinks throughout the day. And sure, water can wash off some of it, and saliva can wash off some of it, but you need that brushing, that hard, something more abrasive that's going to actually clean your teeth. And so, it is important to brush, especially at nighttime. Because if you don't, then the plaque and the leftover food sits on your teeth overnight. And that's when something called demineralization or any sort of acidic activity that happens at night, that can easily create cavities. That's where it's really important to have oral hygiene and keeping the teeth clean, especially overnight.

Host: What happens to cavities if they're not treated?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: So, cavities, they are basically your teeth getting eroded or worn down, and little holes are created, and that's usually how cavities start. But once it gets past the enamel layer of your teeth, which is like the protective layer of your teeth, it gets big really fast. And so, cavities grow and grow and grow, and it can involve something called the nerve in your tooth, which is sort of like this tissue that sits in the middle of your tooth. And once that gets involved, then it just opens like a can of worms, basically.

Host: And you said that what we eat and drink during the day stays on our teeth until we really brush that off. How important is a child's diet in developing and then maintaining strong, healthy teeth?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Well, diet is very important because it provides nutrition. You know, vitamins and things like that are important for tooth development. And it's not just baby teeth that are being developed at this age. It's permanent teeth as well. And so, any sort of nutrition deficiency can lead to the tooth not being formed strong or developed correctly. And so, that can lead to a higher risk of cavities. Yeah, so the teeth are just not formed with a lot of strength. If there's not a lot of nutrition like a good diet.

Host: And speaking of diet, what is better for teeth? Bottled water, tap water with fluoride, or some other kind of water?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: I would recommend tap water with fluoride. Tap water has the perfect amount of fluoride that's needed to reinforce the protective layer of the teeth and it doesn't cause toxicity.

Host: What is fluoride varnish? I've heard of that. It happens at the dentist, right?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah. So, it usually comes in like a sticky gel consistency. It's basically concentrated fluoride. It's a super packed fluoride. And it's super concentrated, so it basically acts like a booster for the enamel of the teeth.

Host: And then, I've heard there are dental sealants for preventing cavities. How effective are those?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Dental sealants are particularly important for new teeth that are coming in. And so, I usually recommend it for kids that are around 6 is usually the beginnings of when I recommend sealants. It's mainly because around 6 years old, they get their first permanent molars. And any new tooth that typically comes in, it's still pretty vulnerable in a way. It hasn't developed a protective layer yet, and so it's still more prone to cavities. And so, the sealants are basically like a liquidy, flowable material. It's very similar to filling material, but it's more liquidy. And so, it's designed to flow into the grooves and crevices of teeth to prevent food from getting into those areas and getting stuck in those areas.

Host: So, the varnish and the sealants are really good support for developing teeth that didn't used to exist, at least when I was a kid.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah. Well, not just development, but it's a very good preventive measure. It's great for preventing cavities, I would say.

Host: And how often should kids come in to see their dentist for cleanings or checkups?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: The general answer to that question would be around six months, but depending on the cavity's risk as well. So, it could be due to diet and whatnot, but kids under three years old is usually recommended to come in every three months.

Host: Ah. Now, one thing that hasn't changed, although even with COVID, this still happens, sharing food, utensils, water with kids. Should parents do that within the family? Is that okay?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: I don't recommend it. Because, again, sharing food means sharing bacteria, right? So, you're potentially introducing bacteria that the kids don't have. And so if bacteria count in a child's mouth increases, then that also increases the risk of food like sugars getting converted into acid.And that in turn can cause cavities. So, it does essentially increase the risk of cavities in their mouth when you do that. So, I normally don't recommend. That includes kissing and things like that. And so, it's not just among the parents as well, but also siblings. So, there's something called vertical transfer, which is when bacteria from the parents get transferred to the kids, but there's also horizontal transfer as well. And that's when siblings share food and utensils and water and it gets transferred to the kid's mouth.

Host: And really, there's enough bacteria around that we don't need to be consuming extra.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: No.

Host: These are great tips. Thank you so much for these insights into good dental health for kids.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah.

Host: That was Dentist Dr. Chi Nguyen, and for more information, go to If you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the entire podcast library for topics of interest to you. This has been Together We Rise, a podcast from International Community Health Services.

Are Baby Teeth Important Since They’re Just Going To Fall Out?

Amanda Wilde (Host): Tooth fairy aside, turns out baby teeth are important to dental health. We'll hear how baby teeth work and how to keep baby teeth and gums healthy with Dr. Chi Nguyen, Dentist at ICHS Holly Park Medical and Dental Clinic. Welcome to Together We Rise, a podcast from International Community Health Services.

ICHS advocates for health as a human right and welcomes all in need of care regardless of health, immigration status, or ability to pay. I'm your host, Amanda Wilde. Welcome, Dr. Nguyen. Thank you for being here to clarify what baby teeth are all about.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Hi, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Host: Baby teeth, first of all, when do they come in? When should we be looking for those?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Baby teeth typically come in around six months old but it does vary. Some kids get their teeth early and some can get them in a little late. I've seen kids start their first, start teething around 18 months. So it's a big range, but typically six months is when you start looking for those teeth.

Host: And teething. It can be such a bear. How can parents relieve teething pain?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: So with teething, it's a lot for a child. Their gums are getting torn and so there's a lot of swelling, there's, it's very uncomfortable. So I typically recommend Tylenol, and that prescription dose is, based on what's recommended by their pediatric doctor, and so it's based on that and aside from medication, I also usually recommend any teething toys, specifically cold toys that does smooth the gums. I've also told parents they can try using teething baggies. And so what that basically is, is you can get some frozen fruits and put it in these little baggies for them to chew on. And that usually helps as well.

Host: Oh, that's great. Kind of like peas instead of ice for the bad back. It has more flexibility. Is it possible for baby teeth to get cavities?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yes, it is. So, baby teeth actually have a thinner layer of enamel, so that actually means they're more prone to cavities than permanent teeth. And they develop a lot faster as well.

Host: So, what can we do to prevent cavities in baby teeth?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Typically, wiping the teeth, keeping the teeth clean is important to prevent cavities. For babies I usually recommend cleaning the teeth with a wet rag before bed. And that's very important. It removes any milk that could be sitting on the teeth.

Host: Should you do that for their gums their entire life or only at the time the teeth are coming in and are in?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Cleaning with a wet rag is most important I would say in the first year or two when they're still feeding. So within the first year is the most important time because they're getting a lot of milk, they're getting it from the bottle. So that's the most important time. I usually recommend switching over to like a toothbrush when the back teeth come in.

Host: Now, should a parent take their baby to the dentist?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yes, it's really important for them to come in, not only to get checkups for cavities, but also for them just to get comfortable with the dentist, being in a dental office, having someone in their mouth, looking around, getting used to the mouth mirror and things like that. It's just establishing that dental home is really important. And so, I usually recommend for the kids to come in as soon as they get their first teeth.

Host: So the teeth start coming in at six months. At what age do kids start to lose those baby teeth and then get permanent teeth?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah. They typically start to lose their teeth around six years old. That's usually the average age. And again, that varies among kids as well, but six years old is when they start to lose those teeth.

Host: Okay. And what should a parent do when a baby tooth falls out? I'll tell you what my mom did. She had us wrap it, put it under the pillow, and wait for a visit for the, from the tooth fairy.

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah, that sounds about right. That hasn't really changed. Parents shouldn't really do anything once the baby tooth falls out. There may be a little bit of bleeding, but that's where maybe some ice, something cold is going to help with that, and then if it's really sore, you can have the kids rinse with salt water.

Host: Mm hmm. And should you ever pull a loose tooth?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: I would normally recommend that if the child is not comfortable, if they're not able to chew, or if it's just really in the way of their function, of their, you know, just daily function then, you know, pulling the tooth would be good. I also encourage for kids to kind of make it a game. Like, hey, you can also start to wiggle your tooth, like, while you're watching TV, or when you have screen time. Just kind of push your tooth with your tongue or even your finger if it's clean, like, kind of get that tooth wiggling and going.

Host: Now, one thing that has changed is there are now two National Tooth Fairy days. Can you explain that?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: Yeah. So there's strategically placed six months apart and I think they did that so that it would remind parents and kids to get their checkups done every six months.

Host: Ah, okay, got it. Okay. Well, this all sounds very doable, which is nice to know for parents of young children. Thank you so much for shining a light on how to deal with the child's first set of teeth, the baby teeth, and setting the stage for healthy permanent teeth. And happy National Children's Dental Health Month. It's February somewhere, right?

Chi Nguyen, DDS: That's right. Yeah.

Host: Dr. Chi Nguyen is a Dentist at ICHS Holly Park Medical and Dental Clinic. For more information, visit If you enjoyed what you heard, please be sure to share in your social media channels and check out the entire podcast library for additional topics of interest. This has been Together We Rise wellness podcast from International Community Health Services.


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