Dental FAQs - Parent's Most Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Dentistry
A pediatric dentist has the same training as a general dentist, but with the addition of two more years of specialty training exclusively about children. Our practice exclusively treats children. Thus, our office is different in that we create an environment that makes children more comfortable. Because we see so many children, we are very good at understanding child development. We practice in an open bay format (there are no small rooms). Children can see each other being good. Parents are welcome in our clinical areas.
Starting at birth, wiping your baby’s gums clean with a damp cloth after feeding can be helpful. Once teeth start to come in, you should use a wet soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the new teeth at least once daily.
By 12 months old, your baby generally does not need to feed during the night or while napping since the new teeth are especially vulnerable to cavities. Bottles, Nursing, and/or “Sippy Cups” should not be used as pacifiers. Breast milk, formula, juice, milk, chocolate milk, soda pop, and most other drinks contain enough sugar to cause cavities. If your baby must eat while sleeping, plain water is best.
The first baby teeth generally start erupting at 5 or 6 months of age. The last molars generally come in at 2 or 2½ years old. As teeth erupt, the gums may become sore. Cool teething rings can help the gums to feel better. If the pain persists, you can lessen the discomfort giving children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Topical numbing medications, such as Ora-gel, are not recommended for young children.
Parents should assist brushing and flossing until children are old enough to do a good job themselves. For most children, that means 7 or 8 years old. Be careful to brush all side of all teeth — inside, outside, and on top. It is especially important to floss along the gum line.
Flossing is necessary when teeth start to touch each other. Many children’s teeth do not touch until they are 3 or 4 years old, but ask the dentist about your child.
The first dental visit should occur six months after the first tooth erupts and no later than the child’s first birthday. Beginning tooth and mouth examinations early may lead to detection of early stages of tooth decay that can be easily treated.
We will examine your child’s teeth for caries and occlusion. We will answer Parent’s Questions about the following:
- A program of preventive home care including brushing, flossing, diet and the importance of fluorides
- A caries risk assessment
- Fluoride supplements
- Nutrition as it relates to decay
- Early Childhood Caries, which may be due to bottle feeding, inappropriate nursing habits or use of “Sippy” cups
- The latest facts about finger, thumb and pacifier habits
- What you need to know about preventing injuries to the mouth and teeth
- Information on growth and development
- Getting an early start in regular dental care is an important step on the road to teaching your child healthy lifetime habits. We want to share with you the latest available methods for keeping your child healthy and safe.
Children should receive a dental examination, cleaning and a fluoride twice per year. Regular dental visits are valuable in that we teach the child and family how to take care of their teeth properly. Children who have regular care have better oral hygiene and fewer dental problems. Most all dental problems are preventable, but only if the family receives the correct information and takes preventive actions.
It is not recommended that children under two years use fluoridated toothpaste. An infant tooth and gum cleanser (without fluoride) or just water is a good alternative.
Children under the age of 4 years are not good at spitting out the excess toothpaste. Most all the fluoride from the paste is ingested. Use a very small amount on the brush, half the size of a pea, and supervise the tooth brushing. Do not let a child consume toothpaste. A child under the age of three should be getting .25mg of systemic fluoride per day; this is equivalent to Â¼ inch of toothpaste on the brush. If the child is taking supplements or lives in a fluoridated water area, he/she could be receiving twice to three times the suggested levels of fluoride due to the overuse of the toothpaste. Dental Fluorosis is a permanent, staining, yellowing, and mottling of the permanent teeth. After, the age of five, this risk is lowered since the front teeth are nearly formed and the child’s body weight is much greater.
Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles. They contain harsh abrasives, which can wear away young tooth enamel. When looking for toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use.
Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. If your child is too young or unable to spit out toothpaste, consider providing them with a fluoride free toothpaste, using no toothpaste, or using only a “pea size” amount of toothpaste.
Very young children (less than 2 years old) should not fluoride toothpaste. A soft bristled brush, wetted with warm water works well, as do non-fluoride children’s toothpastes.
Older children should use a small pea-sized amount of their favorite toothpaste. The brand of toothpaste is not as important as the fluoride that most toothpaste contains. Whitening, tartar-control, or other additives are not necessary for children.
Any type of soft-bristled brush will work well. Hard bristles can cause damage to the gums.
Electric toothbrushes can also work well, but are not required. Some children find it easier to cooperate when using an electric toothbrush.
Children younger than six months old should not receive fluoride supplementation. For older children, you and your dentist should decide together.
Parents should begin flossing their children’s teeth as soon as they touch each other. For most children that means 3 or 4 years old or when the molars touch. For others, flossing may be needed at 2 years old if their front teeth are in contact.
Cavities, also called dental decay or caries, are holes in teeth. We find decay on front or back teeth. Cavities are easily seen or hidden between teeth.
Acid-producing bacteria that live inside the mouth cause cavities. For about 20 minutes after eating, tooth-eating acids are produced.
Keeping a clean mouth is the best way to prevent cavities. That means brushing and flossing. It is also useful to avoid frequent consumption of foods that have a lot of sugar, such as soda pop, fruit juice, sugared chewing gum, and hard or sticky candy.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends radiographs and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay. On average, most pediatric dentists request radiographs approximately once a year. Approximately every 3 years, it is a good idea to obtain a complete set of radiographs, either a panoramic and bitewing.
Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. The risk is negligible. In fact, the dental radiographs represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Lead body aprons and shields will protect your child.
X-rays assist the doctor in making an informed diagnosis. Generally, two bitewing x-rays are recommended to rule out cavities and detect anomalies of eruption.
Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
Soft plastic mouth guards can be used to protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. A custom-fitted mouth guard 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.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Four things are necessary for cavities to form:
- A tooth
- Sugars or other carbohydrates
We can share with you how to make teeth strong, keep bacteria from organizing into harmful colonies, develop healthy eating habits, and understand the role that time plays. Remember, dental decay is an infection of the tooth. Visiting us early can help avoid unnecessary cavities and dental treatment.
The pediatric dental community is continually doing research to develop new techniques for preventing dental decay and other forms of oral disease. Studies show that children with poor oral health have decreased school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain from decayed teeth are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.
Importance of Primary Teeth (Baby Teeth)
It is very important that primary teeth are kept in place until they are lost naturally. These teeth serve a number of critical functions. Primary teeth:
- Maintain good nutrition by permitting your child to chew properly
- Are involved in speech development
- Help the permanent teeth by saving space for them
A healthy smile can help children feel good about the way they look to others
Adolescents have special needs. Appearance and self-image are very important to them. Decayed or poorly positioned teeth or jaws might make them more self-conscious. Teens also eat frequently, and unhealthy snack foods tend to become a major part of their regular diet. We provide a professional, sensitive and caring approach to restoring and guiding teeth, and teaching preventive dental health care through the teen’s high school years. When necessary, we will provide information on sealants, oral piercing, wisdom teeth, missing teeth and tobacco use.
Young People With Special Needs
An integral part of our education is concerned with the medical and dental health of the special patient. People with significant medical, physical, or mental disabilities often present unique challenges to dentists. Our training allows us to address their special needs and provide the best care possible.
Team Approach to Total Health
Good oral health is an important part of total health. When helping children, we often work with pediatricians, other physicians and dental specialists. All young people are served best through this team approach. We, the pediatric dentists, are an important part of your child’s health team.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), with over 5,800 dedicated professionals, was founded in 1947 by men and women who are dedicated to improving the oral health of children. We emphasize a three-part approach to caring for the children of this country and the world:
- Practice — treating children in the dental office, hospital, school-based clinics and mobile programs;
- Teaching — educating parents, the public and other health professionals; training future pediatric dentists to deliver the best possible care for children; and
- Research — working in laboratories, universities, and industry to develop even better methods of preventing oral diseases and treating problems of the teeth and gums.
Together, the three components of the AAPD work for the benefit of your child.
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We are happy to answer any oral health related questions.