Frequently Asked Questions about Children’s Dentistry

Q.  When should my child first see a pediatric dentist?

A.  When the first tooth erupts or by the first birthday. We’ve discovered that early preventive care and regular check-ups avoid many future problems. Starting early helps promote healthy teeth.

Q.  My child hardly even has any teeth. Why see a pediatric dentist?

A.  Some dental problems begin early like baby bottle tooth decay, a condition caused by long, frequent exposure to milk, formula and fruit juice. There’s also the potential for gum disease. An early start helps prevent these problems and increases the chance for effective treatment if they do occur.

Q.  What happens on the first visit?

A.  We try to make it a non-threatening, fun experience.  We’ll gather medical history, perform a cleaning, take any necessary x-rays and comfortably apply topical fluoride. Then one of our pediatric dentists performs a complete pediatric oral-facial examination. The doctor will then discuss with you her findings and recommendations.

Q.  Why examine baby teeth when they’re just going to fall out?

A.  Yes, they will fall out. But in the mean time, they provide for proper chewing and eating, assist in speech development and present an attractive appearance. And if a baby tooth is lost too soon, the teeth beside it may tilt, causing permanent teeth to come in crooked. The baby teeth serve a definite purpose and if lost prematurely can cause problems with the adult teeth. Also most importantly, a child’s general health will be affected if diseased baby teeth are left untreated.

Q.  Is getting my kid to your office while he’s young a way of making more money?

A.  Actually, we make more money when a problem requires more comprehensive care. But it tears at our hearts to see children in pain. In the long run, early attention avoids problems down the road and saves you money. Preventive treatments like fluoride and sealants are much less expensive than fillings, crowns and other services needed when teeth are neglected.

Q.  How often should my child see a pediatric dentist?

A.  We generally recommend every six months or sooner if there are special concerns.

Q.  How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?

A.  Just like a pediatric medical doctor, a pediatric dentist specializes in children. It includes several years of additional, specialized training and experience in working with infants, children, and adolescents. Our office is designed for children, our equipment is designed for children and our staff is trained to work with children. I guess you can say we take a child-like approach in our work.

Q.  How can I prepare my child for his first dental appointment?

A.  Stay positive. Let him/her know that what you’re doing is very important and there is nothing to be afraid of. When you get to the office, we’ll take over from there. We have provided books and songs for a fun way to prepare at home.

Q.  How do I clean my infant’s teeth?

A.  Even when your baby has no teeth you should clean his/her gums with a damp, soft washcloth after feeding. You can start using a toothbrush with soft bristles when the first tooth appears.

Q.  When should I start using toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?

A.  Use toothpaste when your child has a few teeth. But use only a tiny amount of toothpaste without fluoride until your child learns how to spit and you have evaluated the need for fluoride supplementation with your child’s pediatrician and pediatric dentist. Teach them how to rinse and spit the toothpaste out after brushing so they form a regular habit.

Q.  What causes cavities?

A.  When bacteria in the mouth come into contact with sugary foods left behind after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior surface of the teeth, eventually eating through and creating holes in the teeth. The amount of sugar in processed foods today is alarming. Tooth decay is more rampant today than it has been in the past 25 years. Changes in diets, types of processed foods, energy drinks and carbonated drinks have accelerated the rate of decay in children.

Q.  How do I help my child avoid cavities?

A.  Be sure your child brushes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important because it reaches spots between the teeth that brushing can’t. Ask your pediatric dentist about a fluoride supplement which hardens tooth enamel and resists tooth decay. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacks, maintain a healthy diet and make regular visits to your pediatric dentist.

Q.  Does my child need dental sealants?

A.  Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to tooth decay. Sealants are a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars that are hard to reach. Sealants have been a real blessing to young patients and have prevented serious tooth decay.

Q.  How do I protect my child’s teeth when playing sports?

A.  In sports where contact is possible, consider a custom-fitted guard to protect teeth, lips, cheeks and gums.

Q.  What should I do if my child is a thumb sucker?

A.  Most children grow out of thumb-sucking by the age of four without causing any permanent damage to teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth appear or is an aggressive thumb sucker let a children’s dentist check to see if it has caused any problems and if there is a need for intervention.

Q.  When should my child have dental x-rays taken?

A.  You should have x-rays taken around the age of two or three. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which introduces your child to the process. Once the baby teeth in back are touching each other, then bitewing x-rays are recommended. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and panoramic x-rays help make sure your child’s teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned.