Children’s Dental FAQs
Q: WHAT SHOULD I USE TO CLEAN MY BABY’S TEETH?
A: A toothbrush will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay. Any soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, should be used at least once a day at bedtime.
Q: WHEN SHOULD I TAKE MY CHILD TO THE DENTIST FOR THE FIRST CHECK-UP?
A: In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears or no later than his/her first birthday.
Q: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PEDIATRIC DENTIST AND A FAMILY DENTIST?
A: Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
Q: ARE BABY TEETH REALLY THAT IMPORTANT TO MY CHILD?
A: Primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
Q: ARE THUMB SUCKING AND PACIFIER HABITS HARMFUL FOR A CHILD’S TEETH?
A: Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.
Q: HOW CAN I PREVENT DECAY CAUSED BY NURSING?
A: Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle. Also, learn the proper way to brush and floss your child’s teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child’s first birthday.
Q: HOW OFTEN DOES MY CHILD NEED TO SEE THE PEDIATRIC DENTIST?
A: A check-up every six months is recommended in order prevent cavities and other dental problems. However, your pediatric dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their personal oral health.
Q: TOOTHPASTE: WHEN SHOULD WE BEGIN USING IT AND HOW MUCH SHOULD WE USE?
A: Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced when a child is 2-3 years of age. Prior to that, parents should clean the child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. When toothpaste is used after age 2-3, parents should supervise brushing and make sure the child uses no more than a pea-sized amount on the brush. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
Q: HOW DO I MAKE MY CHILD’S DIET SAFE FOR HIS TEETH?
A: Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child’s teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children’s teeth.
Q: HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS GETTING ENOUGH FLUORIDE?
A: Have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of drinking water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially if the fluoride level is deficient or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), then your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
Q: WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY CHILD’S TEETH DURING SPORTING EVENTS?
A: Soft plastic mouth guards can be used to protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. A custom-fitted mouthguard developed by a pediatric dentist will protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head.
Q: WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD FALLS AND KNOCKS OUT A PERMANENT TOOTH?
A: The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Then find the tooth. Hold it by the crown rather than the root and try to reinsert it in the socket. If that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist.
Q: WHEN SHOULD MY CHILD BEGIN BRUSHING HIS/HER TEETH?
A: Parents should be brushing a child’s teeth before the child is capable of doing it themselves. A wet cloth can effectively clean gums and remove plaque after nursing. Gentle brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush can begin after the eruption of the child’s first tooth. Flossing can begin after the formation of most of the child’s primary (or baby) teeth. At eight or nine, children can begin to brush their own teeth, and by age 11 or 12, they can be expected to floss on their own as well. A parent should supervise these processes in the beginning to make sure the child is doing it properly. Your dentist can teach your child how to brush properly the first time.
Q: WHAT ARE CHILDREN’S DENTAL SEALANTS?
A: Children’s dental sealants protect the surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found (and most chewing occurs). Made of clear or shaded composite resin, sealants are painted onto the tiny grooves and depressions in the molars. They seal these cracks and opening, and prevent food from becoming lodged and plaque from forming. The application of sealants is quick and painless for kids. Your dentist can determine which of your child’s teeth can most benefit from sealants.
Q: HOW CAN I MAKE MY CHILD MORE COMFORTABLE ABOUT VISITING THE DENTIST?
A: You can help make your child’s first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. Your child should be informed of the visit and told that the dentist and staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions. It is best if you refrain from using words around your child that might cause unnecessary fear, such as needle, pull, drill or hurt. Children’s dental offices make a practice of using words that convey the same message, but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.
Q: AT WHAT AGE SHOULD MY CHILD VISIT THE DENTIST?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the authority on children’s dental, your child should visit the dentist by his/her 1st birthday.
Q: WHY ARE DENTAL X-RAYS IMPORTANT FOR KIDS?
A: Children’s dental x-rays are a vital and necessary part of your child’s dental treatment. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed. X-rays detect much more than cavities. For example, radiographs may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. Radiographs allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you. It is recommended that your child get X-rays and examinations at least once a year, but you should consult our children’s dental office for the frequency.
Q: WHAT IS CONSIDERED A CHILDREN’S DENTAL EMERGENCY?
Toothaches: Clean the area of the affected tooth thoroughly. Rinse the mouth vigorously with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge impacted food or debris. If the pain still exists, contact your child’s dentist.
Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek: Apply ice to bruised areas. If there is bleeding apply firm but gentle pressure with a gauze or cloth. If bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes or it cannot be controlled by simple pressure, take the child to a hospital emergency room.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth: Find the tooth. Handle the tooth by the top, not the root portion. You may rinse the tooth but DO NOT clean or handle the tooth unnecessarily. You can transport the tooth in a cup of milk.The patient must see a children’s dental office IMMEDIATELY! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.
Q: Is it important to take care of baby teeth?
It is very important to maintain the health of baby teeth, even though they will ultimately come out. Not taking care of the baby teeth can negatively affect the development of permanent teeth. Baby teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Baby teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth aren’t replaced until age 10-13.
Q: How can I take care of my child’s teeth at home to prevent dental problems?
Begin daily brushing as soon as the child’s first tooth appears. A small amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it. By age six, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with supervision until about age seven to make sure they are doing a thorough job. However, each child is different. Your dentist can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly. Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45 degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria. Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch each other. You should floss the child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone. Use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don’t forget the backs of the last four teeth.