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Dr Zina Alkafaji 

Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry

Here are the top questions Dr. Zina gets asked, email us yours!

What kind of toothpaste should I be using for my child?

This is a topic parents ask me about daily, and for good reason! With so many toothpaste brands out there, I too would be unsure about what would be suitable to use for my own children. A simple glance at the toothpaste aisle at a local drugstore could leave any parent feeling confused and overwhelmed. There is also a lot of confusion when it comes to proper labelling of “infant” toothpastes. Many brands label these products in such a way that it gives parents the impression that fluoride-based products are unsafe for 0-2 year old children.


However, research has proven this otherwise – According to both the American and Canadian Academies of Pediatric Dentistry, children should begin using a “grain-of-rice” sized amount of fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first teeth erupt. With this in mind, it is completely safe for a child to swallow this amount of fluoride toothpaste.


One thing to note is that British Columbia does not carry out public water fluoridation. So, as soon as your little ones are able to spit, the amount of fluoride toothpaste used can be increased to that of a pea. Toothpaste geared for children, tend to have milder flavors and omit ingredients like whitening agents or baking soda. With that in mind, it’s always essential to set your child up for success when it comes to developing healthy brushing habits. Sometimes all it takes is finding a toothpaste with a flavor that your child likes.


At what age should I start brining my child to the dentist?

While it may come at a surprise, both the Canadian and American Academies of Pediatric Dentistry recommend parents to “Get it Done in Year One”! There’s nothing better than setting your child up for success than ensuring that their first dental visit occurs during their first year. There are a lot of benefits when your child’s first dental visit occurs in their first year.


Here are just some different advantages that you can experience:

  • Their first dental visit establishes a recognizable atmosphere. By doing this early on in their first year, it allows your child to grow comfortable with their new surroundings.

  • Working with an experienced pediatric dentist means receiving valuable tips about hygiene and nutrition, which ultimately sets your child up for a life of good oral health. Plus, there’s nothing better than making sure that healthy habits are practised both in and outside of the dental office.

  • A complete examination from a pediatric dentist, ensures normal growth and development of your child’s teeth. Preventative measures are also taken through the thorough check-up of cavities or gum problems.

  • There are many methods to brushing teeth, but it’s a bonus to have proper brushing techniques demonstrated by an oral health professional specialized in children!

What kind of diet is best for my child's teeth? 

Diet is a big part of establishing healthy oral care, especially for little ones, who are still growing! Swapping out sugary snacks for healthier alternatives will ensure healthy smiles. Grains, milk, cheese, raw veggies, fruits, and yoghurt are the types of food we like to include in our school lunch box! Foods like cheese and nuts actually have protective qualities which help fight cavities. I always like to provide balance to a child’s diet. Treats like ice cream, chocolates, and candies are inevitably a part of a child’s life, but should be given on special occasions as a real treat rather than part of the daily routine.

Is thumb sucking or using a soother bad for my child’s teeth?

I get asked about this a lot when parents come in with younger children. When a child sucks his or her thumb or uses a soother, it may cause the top teeth to be pushed out, or create an “open bite”. An open bite is when there is a gap between the top and bottom teeth in the front, even though the molars are touching. This condition often resolves as soon as a child either stops or decreases their sucking habit. Ideally, a child would stop their sucking habit before the adult teeth erupt, which is typically between 5 and 6 years old.

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