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Pediatric Dental FAQs

When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen by six months after their first tooth erupts, or at one year of age, whichever comes first.

How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?

All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) begin by completing dental school and continue their education with several years of additional, specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, pediatric dentists gain extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, adolescents, and individuals with special healthcare needs.

Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and bring to each patient their expertise in child development and behavior. Because our office is geared toward young visitors, you’ll find that our staff, as well as our office design, decorations, and activities, all work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.

What happens during the first visit to the dentist?

The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your youngster and giving you some basic information about dental care. The doctor will evaluate the position and health of your child’s teeth, and look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw.

Typically, instruction on proper brushing and flossing is given followed by a thorough cleaning with our special dental instruments. We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your son or daughter’s teeth as they develop, and provide you with recommendations on how to maintain a healthy smile.

How can I prepare my child for his or her first dental appointment?

The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is to maintain a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure your little one will anticipate an unpleasant experience and act accordingly.

Show your son or daughter the pictures of the office and staff on the website. Let him or her know it’s important to keep the teeth and gums healthy, and explain that the doctor is here to help make and keep their teeth strong. Remember that we specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.

Keeping regular dental visits helps prevent tooth decay and allows us to catch problems early-on, before pain or infection presents.  If you wait until something is wrong before coming to the dentist often times, it's too late.

Why do baby teeth need special care?

Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your son or daughter’s first teeth play an important role in development. While they are in place, the primary teeth help your little one speak, smile, and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth.

If a child loses a tooth too early (due to damage or decay), nearby teeth may drift into the available space, which can result in loss of space for the developing permanent teeth, crooked, or malpositioned permanent teeth. Also, your child’s general health is affected by the health of the teeth and gums.

What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?

Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his or her gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as that first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a brush with soft bristles and a small head. 

At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?

The AAPD recommends fluoride containing toothpastes at ALL ages.  If your child is unable to spit reliably use a 'rice' size amount (I like to call it a smear, like 'butter on toast').  If your child can reliably spit out the toothpaste you can progress to a 'pea' size amount.  Fluoride is extremely beneficial to the developing dentition but too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children.  Always keep fluoride toothpaste on a HIGH shelf, out of reach from little children.  Toothpaste tastes sweet and we don't want your little ones ingesting excessive amounts. 

A responsible adult should brush your child’s teeth until he or she is ready to take on that responsibility, which usually happens by age seven or eight.  Remember, making your child responsible for the health of their mouths too early is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.  If they can't tie their own shoelaces they can't be expected to be able to maintain a clean & healthy smile by themselves either. 

What causes cavities?

Bacteria NATURALLY live in everyone's mouths.  Certain types of bacteria are known to cause decay. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods after eating or drinking, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, and eventually eat through the enamel and create holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.  Therefore, in order to get a cavity we need three things:

  1. Teeth
  2. Bacteria
  3. Sugar

We brush our teeth to reduce the total number of bacteria available to produce acids and we limit the frequency and quantity of sugar consumption in order to reduce the availability of those sugars to be converted to acid.  

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth at least twice a day, with adult supervision/assistance, with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing every day is also important, since flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can’t. Check with your pediatric dentist about a fluoride supplement that helps tooth enamel become harder and more resistant to decay.

Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so we can check the health of your little one’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to keep clean.  These pits and fissures are often too small for toothbrush bristles to affectively clean but large enough to harbor bacteria.  We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for permanent molars, which are hardest to reach.

My child plays sports; how can I protect his or her teeth?

Even children’s sports involve contact and unintentional falls and trauma, so we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your child plays baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey or football, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect the teeth from injury.

What should I do if my child sucks a thumb?

A large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants. Most grow out of it by the age of four without causing any permanent damage to teeth. The longer your child sucks their finger or thumb the more severe the effects on the alignment of the teeth.  We recommend strict cessation PRIOR to the eruption of the permanent teeth.  

For more information on thumb sucking and other habits check out our 'Habits' page on this website.

When should my child have dental X-rays taken?

We recommend taking X-rays as soon as there is no longer positive spacing between the teeth, typically around age 4. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which familiarizes your son or daughter with the process. Once the baby teeth in back are touching each other, then regular, yearly, X-rays are recommended.

Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and X-rays help us make sure your child’s teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned. If your child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.

It's a baby tooth. Won't it fall out anyway?

At what age should my child first visit the dentist?

Are parents allowed to be present for treatment?

When do the first teeth come in?

What should I expect with teething?

What causes tooth decay?

Why does my child need X-rays?

At what age should my child get braces?

My child plays sports. How can I protect their teeth?

Is Nitrous Oxide safe?

What is general anesthesia?

Is fluoride bad for my child?

How can I help my child stop sucking their thumb?

What is the papoose board?

When can I expect my child to lose their first tooth?

Is bleaching for children?

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry American Dental Association
American Association of Orthodontists Invisalign Preferred Provider
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