Frequently Asked Questions

children in the parkWhy should I choose a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are specialists who have completed additional education in a pediatric dental residency program after graduating dental school. They have had extra training to care for the special needs and medically compromised patients, as well as the art and science of providing excellent care to children of all ages. Children’s dental needs can be different than those of adults and pediatric dentists are trained to know how to treat these differences. Just as you bring your child to a pediatrician, you can also bring your child to a pediatric dentist to receive specialized care for your child.

When can I expect to see my child’s first tooth?

Often a child may have his/her first tooth erupt at around 6 months of age. Each child however is different in regards to how soon or late they may get or lose teeth. Some children may get their teeth a few months earlier than the average and some may even get them several months to a year later than the average. Additionally, children who are in kindergarten or first grade may be anxiously awaiting their first loose tooth. Most commonly, a child may experience their first tooth lose approximately at five and a half to six years of age. All children are their own individuals as such so are the times when tooth lose and eruption occur.
For more information, see The Developing Smile

At what age should my child begin coming to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your child be seen at the dentist by age one to establish a dental home. At the one year old visit, oral hygiene and diet will be discussed and a clinical examination will also be done.

What can my child expect at the first visit to the dentist?

iStock_000016333772XSmallYour child can expect to walk into a friendly comfortable reception area with toys and books available to help put he/she at ease. He/She will be greeted by the assistant or hygienist and led into the treatment area to pick a new toothbrush and a fluoride flavor. The brush may be used during the prophy to help in removing the plaque.

The child may then be led to the room in which radiographs (x-rays) are taken. Depending on the child’s age we will take radiographs that are appropriate for them. We explain what we are doing for the child as we go along.

After the pictures are taken the child will then be taken to the treatment chair. Each step is explained and shown and we do our best to put the child at ease and to praise the child for good cooperation and the accomplishment of each step.

If the child is very young we may do what is termed a “lap-prophy”. The parent or assistant will hold the child on her lap in the chair with the child facing the parent/assistant. The head of the child is then placed in the hygienist’s lap. This allows the parent to maintain contact with the child, the child’s hands can be held by the parent so that they do not try to grab instruments. This helps to ensure the child’s safety. We are better able to stabilize the child’s head and are able to look in the mouth and perform the cleaning.

Sometimes with a very young child, we will do a toothbrush prophy (prophylaxis cleaning). We will scale the teeth, and use the toothbrush to remove plaque. This is more familiar to a toddler and puts them at ease.

After the hygienist is done, the dentist will come and do the exam and then it’s PRIZE time!

How can I keep my child’s teeth cavity free?

While there are no guarantees, there are things that can be done to improve your child’s chances of having healthy teeth for a lifetime.

  • Brush two times daily to remove plaque
  • Limit sweets to after meals
  • Limit sweet drinks and juices
  • Visit the dentist twice a year for bi-yearly prophylaxis and fluoride treatments
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste and fluoridated mouthrinse at home
  • Consider having sealants applied to your child’s teeth if recommended by the dentist

How often should my child brush his/her teeth?

Your child should brush at least two times daily. It is best to brush before going to school and also before going to bed. The brushing before bed is very important because it helps to remove all the food and bacteria that adhered to the teeth during the day.

Boy flosses own teethShould I floss my child’s teeth?

Yes. Some baby teeth have enough space in between each tooth that the toothbrush is able to clean these areas. When the teeth touch one another, flossing in a wonderful thing to do to help prevent your child from getting cavities in between each tooth. The surfaces in between the molars are broad and flat and plaque gets trapped in these areas.

Is swallowing toothpaste dangerous?

Not if it happens in very small amounts. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends brushing teeth with the appropriate amounts of fluoridated toothpaste. A “smear” or “rice size” amount of fluoridated toothpaste is the recommended amounts for children less than three years of age. Children age three to six should use no more than a “pea size” amount of fluoridated toothpaste.

What type of toothbrush is best for my child?

For very small children, parents can wet a baby washcloth and then wrap it around the adult finger. It can be important to cleanse the gums of babies because it helps to remove residual cereal and food that remained on the gums. Doing this can also help to get the young baby use to having the parent near and in his/her mouth.

Generally, smaller is better when choosing a brush for your child. The smaller brush size allows the brush to reach the back teeth better. When the parent or child is able to reach the back molars it helps to improve hygiene and hopefully helps to lessen the chance for cavities.

At what age can my child begin brushing his/her own teeth?

iStock_000014244923XSmallGenerally, we recommend that you help your child until the third grade. Most kids don’t develop good fine motor coordination until about age eight. That is why the children don’t begin learning cursive handwriting in earnest until the third grade. Every child develops at their own pace so a younger child may do a very good job of brushing by themselves and that is completely acceptable.

At bedtime for the younger children, it can be very helpful for the child and parent to take turns brushing. Positive encouragement and guidance help the child to establish important habits and skills to begin taking care of themselves.

Why should baby teeth be restored or fixed if they are going to come out eventually?

Baby teeth help to maintain space for the permanent to erupt. Unfortunately, when teeth are not restored and decay is able to progress, teeth can become abscessed causing the child to develop discomfort. When teeth become abscessed, many times they should be removed which then can cause space loss if a space maintainer isn’t made to hold the space for the permanent tooth.

What are the brown spots on my baby’s teeth?

There could be several possible reasons for the discoloration. One possibility for the discoloration is decay. It is very important to not give a bottle to a baby at bedtime. The milk or juice in the bottle can cause cavities. These areas of decay are known as Early Childhood Decay or Baby Bottle Syndrome.

Another possibility for the discoloration is known as hypoplastic enamel. Often when teeth have hypoplastic areas, these areas are then more susceptible to breaking down and becoming decayed.

If your child has any unusual discolorations a pediatric dentist will be able to diagnose the discolorations.

Why are the new adult teeth darker in color than the baby teeth?

Adult teeth are normally darker than baby teeth. Everyone’s teeth come in different sizes and shades. The adult teeth often complement your child’s skin tone and eye and hair color.

What are some causes of bad breath?

iStock_000005748167XSmallThere may be several reasons for bad breath (halitosis). The tongue has many small papillae that bacteria can hide. This bacteria can produce halitosis. It is very important to brush the tongue to disturb the bacteria. Rinsing with a mouthrinse that decreases bacteria in the mouth can also help to improve an individuals breath.

Another possible cause for bad breath is related to the sinuses and tonsilar area. A child may have allergies, enlarged tonsils or chronic sinus problems which can cause halitosis. See your pediatrician if your child has any of these problems to determine if an underlying medical or systemic condition exists.

Should my child wear a mouthguard while playing sports?

Wearing a mouthguard can be very beneficial when playing sports especially those sports that have physical contact or those that have the potential for contact. The mouthguard can help to prevent teeth from becoming fractured or avulsed (knocked out). Additionally, a mouthguard can also help to prevent unwanted grinding or wear on the teeth. It is never a bad idea to wear a mouthguard. It only takes one accident to cause damage to teeth if a mouthguard isn’t worn.

How can I prepare my child for his/her first dental visit?

It can be helpful to practice “going to the dentist” at home on the days leading up the the initial scheduled appointment. Have your child lay down in a comfortable spot (ie; couch, bed, floor) while you brush their teeth in that position. You can also let them wear sunglasses while you brush and hold a small flashlight, shining the light in their mouth.