Three Tips to Keep Your Children’s Teeth Healthy with Carmel Pediatric Dentistry


dr katie and dr carol

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February is National Children’s Dental Health month, and to help us celebrate, we have asked our friends at Carmel Pediatric Dentistry to give us some tips and tricks to keep our children’s teeth healthy for a lifetime. Dr. Katherine Nichols (affectionately referred to as Dr. Katie by her patients and their parents), is a board certified pediatric dentist. Following her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Butler University and her dental degree at IU School of Dentistry, Dr. Katie completed two years of specialty training in pediatric dentistry at Indiana University Health at Riley Hospital for Children. Being a mother to two young toddlers herself, Dr. Katie knows the challenges parents face when trying to keep their kids’ teeth healthy.

According to a recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dental caries (or cavities) are the most common disease of childhood, surpassing even asthma. So it is no wonder parents are worried about dental decay and tooth health. Dr. Katie says the majority of dental decay she sees in her office can be attributed back to three main culprits; sugary snacks or drinks throughout the day, inadequate brushing and flossing, or delay in seeking treatment or preventative care.


We all know kids like to snack throughout the day and often have a sweet tooth when it comes to choosing food, but Dr. Katie says to beware of not only the sugar content of the food but also how frequently children are consuming them. If your child has a “snack cup” or bowl they have access to throughout the day, be sure it is filled with healthy, low sugar foods such as berries, veggie sticks, cheese, or pretzels. Dr. Katie also advises to watch out for sneaky foods that may appear to be healthy such as chewy granola bars, fruit snacks or even gummy vitamins, as these are very sticky and like to adhere to the tooth surface making it difficult for even the best tooth brush to remove. Also, parents often think they are providing healthy snacks by buying food with labels such as “all natural, organic, or no sugar added” but even these can be loaded with cavity producing sugar. The only way to know for sure is to check the nutrition label on the back. Limit snack time to 1-2x per day depending on your child’s age. Also, sippy cups should be filled with white milk or water only. Sugary drinks such as juice (even if it is watered down or all-natural), chocolate milk or sports drinks should be consumed at meal time only. Finally, never give your child a sippy cup of anything besides water to bed.

Oral Hygiene:

With two rambunctious boys at home, Dr. Katie knows all too well the struggles of trying to do a thorough job of cleaning your little one’s teeth, even when they are not the most enthusiastic participant. Here are some tips from the expert:

  • Let your child pick out his/her own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store. Getting them excited about how fun brushing can be by finding their favorite characters is sometimes all you need to turn even the most reluctant kids into good helpers.
  • Make a game of trying to find all the “sugar bugs” on your child’s teeth. Let your child have a turn brushing and then you get to be the “detective” to see if you find anymore sneaky sugar bugs hiding in the corners or in between the teeth.
  • For little ones, try brushing while they are on the changing table and you have a better view of their mouth, or better yet, try the lap-to-lap technique with your co-parent at home.
  • For older kids, there are some great apps that provide a timer or song to make sure you child is brushing for an adequate amount of time. Dr. Katie likes this one by Disney:

Remember, if your child is still unable to write their name in cursive, then your child does not have the hand skills to be doing the best job brushing and still requires your help.


Dental Home:

Although the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry updated their recommendations in 1985 stating all children should have their first dental visit by their first birthday, there are still some pediatricians and general family dentists who are not recommending visits until the outdated age of 3. At Carmel Pediatric Dentistry we strongly feel that establishing a dental home by age 1 helps your child gain confidence, familiarity, and comfort in the dental office. Starting at an early age also allows the dentist to review oral hygiene instructions and dietary counseling specific to your child and helps the dentist to use preventative techniques to hopefully keep your child cavity free for the future.

Another reason to establish a dental home early is in the unfortunate event of an accident injuring the mouth.   According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, “the greatest incidence of trauma to the primary dentition occurs at two to three years of age, a time of increased mobility and developing coordination.” Dr. Katie and her staff are on-call 24/7 in the event that your child requires care due to a dental injury.

Dr. Katie says one of the most rewarding parts of her job is helping an anxious child through a dental visit, building their confidence, and having them leave happy and proud. And although we do everything we can to make your child’s visit a positive one, we still need your help to dissipate fear. Choose your words wisely when talking to your child about the dentist ahead of time. Many times they feed off of your anxiety. Saying phrases such as “I love getting my teeth cleaned!” or “Your teeth will be SO shiny after the dentist cleans them!” can encourage your child to be brave. Also, try to avoid words such as “hurt, shot, or drill” as these terms will produce unnecessary fear.

Lastly, consider a “get to know you visit.” Carmel Pediatric Dentistry is always open to allowing parents and patients to tour our office ahead of time. Go for a ride in the dental chair, play with our oversized toothbrush and “Freddy Floss-A-Saurus,” and even get a sticker! Coming for the first time can be a bit scary, so ease your child into it by taking a brief, fun visit to the office a week or two in advance.

Dr. Katie and her team at Carmel Pediatric Dentistry love caring for kids and their teeth.   This February, ensure your child’s teeth are healthy by avoiding sugary snacks, helping your child brush at home, and finding a pediatric dentist near you to help build healthy smiles. Carmel Pediatric Dentistry is always accepting new patients. To find out more information or to make an appointment, call 317-846-3496 or visit them at


  1. Letting them pick their own toothbrush and toothpaste out at the store is indeed a good way to get them more excited about brushing their teeth. Another fun thing that could help is the light up or even noisy toothbrushes. Kids absolutely love any sort of flashing lights or sing song items.

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