By Guest Blogger Dr. Tina S. Merhoff

The staff of Tina S. Merhoff & Associates Pediatric Dentistry, along with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), wants all kids to look forward to a lifetime of healthy smiles.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 60% of children will have tooth decay by age five – a staggering number. Tooth decay happens when bacteria in the mouth makes acid that eats away at a tooth. It’s no wonder tooth decay remains of the the top chronic infectious diseases among children.

The good news is tooth decay can be prevented. Dr. Tina Merhoff, Board certified pediatric dentist, is a strong advocate for beginning dental hygiene in infants, before their first teeth push through the gums.


When should your child have their first dental appointment? It’s likely sooner than you think. 

merhoff-staff-webThe AAPD recommends that a child’s first dental visit be by age one or within six months of their first tooth pushing through the gums.

Even though they fall out, there are many reasons baby or primary teeth are extremely important to a child’s development and should be checked by a dentist as they develop. They include:

  • Helping kids chew food properly.
  • Saving space for permanent teeth.
  • Developing speech patterns.

Another benefit to scheduling a first dentist visit at a young age is avoiding your child developing a fear of the dentist. There are ways you can prepare children for a dental checkup. Some examples include:

  • Avoiding negative talk about the dentist in front of them.
  • Role playing a dental appointment at home: Taking turns playing patient and dentist, using mirrors and fingers to examine and count teeth.
  • Timing the visit appropriately (at naptime or before lunch are not good options).

Kids and teens are already susceptible to tooth decay if they consume foods and drinks high in sugar and don’t adequately brush their teeth. Deep pits on their molars and premolars only add to the problem. A dentist can provide sealants for another layer of protection creating a barrier against plaque and food. While these are a great preventive measure, children still need be good brushers and flossers to achieve optimum dental health.


Dr. Tina’s Top Ten

What can parents do at home to help protect those precious smiles from tooth decay and other long-term dental problems?

  1. TMA_logo_concept copy 2Schedule a checkup. Kids should see a dentist by their first birthday.
  1. Avoid giving a bottle at bedtime/naps. When kids drink milk or juice before a nap or bedtime, the sugary liquids settle on the teeth and feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
  1. Brush your baby’s gums. It massages a baby’s gums and cleans the first teeth.
  1. Get rid of the pacifier. The longer a pacifier is used the more likely it can affect the shape of the mouth or how straight the teeth are.
  1. Start brushing and flossing at an early age. When your child begins having teeth that touch each other, introduce flossing. Brush twice a day using fluoride toothpaste.
  1. Make brushing and flossing required. Kids will want to skip flossing or brushing. Let them know they don’t have a choice. You’ll have to help your child with brushing until they’re around eight years old. Flossing is a skill that can take longer to develop.
  1. Choose foods and drinks that are low in sugar. Common sugar sources are the foods and drinks that kids crave. But sugar hides in many other foods such as yogurts, breakfast cereals and fruit drinks.
  1. Make water the “go to” drink. It’s naturally sugar-free and good for overall health. Avoid carrying around sugary drinks in sippy cups.
  1. Use a mouth guard. Decay isn’t the only hazard. Athletes, especially those of contact sports are at a high risk of oral injuries. Many of these injuries can be avoided by using a mouth guard.
  1. Be a good role model – VERY IMPORTANT. Brush and floss on a regular basis and schedule regular dental checkups for yourself.


TMOM Seal 2016 WINNER_OLOur mission is a matter of attitude and commitment in putting the needs of children first. It is our pledge that we might always be in pursuit of excellence in caring for your child.

Tina S. Merhoff & Associates Pediatric Dentistry
185 Kimel Park Drive, Suite 202 Winston-Salem, NC 27103
Phone: (336) 659-9500
Toll-free: (800) 905-7193


  • Sponsored by Tina S. Merhoff & Associates Pediatric Dentistry