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FAQ

  1. What Is A Pediatric Dentist?
  2. At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?
  3. Why are the primary teeth important?
  4. How safe are dental X-rays? Why are they necessary?
  5. How can I properly care for my child's teeth?
  6. Why is a healthy diet important?
  7. How do I prevent cavities?
  8. What is a sealant?
  9. What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?
  10. When do the teeth start to erupt?
  11. What should I do if my child experiences a dental emergency?
  12. Is my child getting enough fluoride?
  13. What is Pulp Therapy?
  14. What is the best toothpaste for my child?
  15. Facts about tooth grinding (Bruxism)
  16. How does tobacco affect dental health?
  17. What is the best time for orthodontic treatment?
  18. My child plays sports. How can I protect my child's teeth?

1. What Is A Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric dentists are committed to helping young people maintain a healthy and beautiful smile. Following dental school, a pediatric dentist completes two to three years additional specialty training in the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.

2. At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), your child should visit the dentist by his/her 1st birthday. Let the child know that the doctor and staff will explain everything in detail and will answer any questions he/she has. It is very important that you make the first visit both enjoyable and positive. Avoid using words that may cause unnecessary fear, like drill or needle. We explain procedures and treatment in a way that is non-frightening to children.

3. Why are the primary teeth important?

Primary teeth are important for several reasons. They help children eat and chew properly, and guide the permanent teeth into the correct position. Primary teeth affect speech development, and are also essential for the proper development of the muscles and jaw bones. The front 4 teeth typically last until 6-7 years of age, while the back teeth (molars and cuspids) are generally not replaced until 10-13 years of age.

4. How safe are dental x-rays? Why are they necessary?

Radiographs or x-rays are important. Without them specific dental problems may not be detected. X-rays identify much more than cavities. They can be used to assess teeth eruption and injuries, to identify bone disease, or plan orthodontic treatment. Dentists often use radiographs to diagnose and treat problems that cannot be identified during a clinical exam.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children with a high risk of tooth decay receive radiographs and exams every six months. Generally, most dentists request radiographs once a year. It's a good idea to get a complete set of radiographs, either a panoramic and bitewings or periapicals and bitewings every three years.

Pediatric dentists take great care in minimizing radiation exposure. Thanks to contemporary safeguards, radiation exposure is extremely small. Actually, radiographs represent a much smaller risk than a dental problem that is not diagnosed and treated. We use lead aprons and shields to minimize radiation exposure.

5. How can I properly care for my child's teeth?

You should begin brushing your child's teeth daily when the first tooth erupts. Use a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste when the child is old enough not to swallow it. By age 4 or 5, your child should be capable of brushing their teeth twice daily with supervision. By age 7 he/she should be able to brush by themselves. However, this can vary since every child is different. Your dentist can decide when your child has the necessary skill level to brush properly.

When teaching your child to brush follow these steps:

  • Place the soft-bristled toothbrush at a 45 degree angle
  • In a circular motion brush along the gum line
  • Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower
  • Repeat the same pattern on the inner surfaces of each tooth and the chewing surfaces
  • Brush the tongue

Along with daily brushing, flossing is essential for maintaining a healthy smile. Flossing removes plaque between the tooth where a toothbrush can't reach. Your child can begin flossing when any two teeth touch. You should floss your child's teeth until they can do it own their own. Using almost 18 inches of floss, wind most of it around the middle finger of both hands. Hold the floss between the forefingers and thumbs. Using a gentle back and forth motion, guide the floss between each tooth.

6. Why is a healthy diet important?

The teeth, just like the rest of the body need a well-balanced diet to remain healthy. Each day children should eat an assortment of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children enjoy, such as cookies, candy and chips can cause cavities. Instead choose healthier snacks, such as veggies, low-fat cheese and low-fat yogurt.

7. How do I prevent cavities?

Good oral hygiene prevents cavities. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children visit the dentist every six months beginning on their first birthday. Routine visits ensure your child enjoys a lifetime of good oral health.

To clean an infant's gums and teeth, use a damp gauze or washcloth. Do not put your child to bed using a bottle filled with anything but water. Older children should brush at least 2 times a day. You should limit the amount of sugary snacks your child eats.

Your pediatric dentist may suggest sealants or home fluoride treatments. Sealants are applied to the molars and help prevent tooth decay.

Look Mom...No Cavities! / How To Raise A Cavity-Free Child

8. What is a sealant?

A sealant is a shaded or clear plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars), which are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. Recent studies indicate that four out of five children develop cavities in these areas.

Sealants act as a barrier, protecting decay-prone areas, thus preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealants can last for several years but need to be checked during regular appointments.

9. What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?

Baby bottle tooth decay is a serious form of decay among young children. Decay develops when an infant's teeth is frequently exposed to liquids that contain sugar for a long length of time. This includes milk, breast milk, formula, fruit juice and other types of sugary drinks.

Giving an infant a bottle-filled with anything but water for a nap or at bedtime puts them at a high risk of developing baby bottle tooth decay. While sleeping sweet liquids pool around the teeth, enabling plaque to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If your child will not fall asleep without a bottle containing milk or juice, gradually dilute the liquid with water.

After each feeding, you should wipe your baby's gums and teeth using a damp washcloth or gauze. An easy way to do this is to sit down and put your child's head in your lap or on the floor or on a dressing table.

10. When do the teeth start to erupt?

Teeth actually begin forming before birth. The primary (baby) teeth can begin erupting as early as 4 months. Some children get teeth early, while some get them late.

The lower central incisors erupt first, followed by the upper central incisors. All 20 primary teeth should be in place by age 3, but the pace and order of eruption varies.

Permanent teeth begins erupting by age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until age 21.

Adults have a total of 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32, which includes the wisdom teeth.

TOOTH DEVELOPMENT

 

Look! My Tooth is Loose!
(with 16"x22" poster and stickers)
By Patricia Brennan Demuth
Illustrated

11. What should I do if my child experiences a dental emergency?

Accidents can happen. If your child experiences a dental emergency follow these self-care measures.

  • Toothache: Clean around the affected teeth carefully. Rinse with warm water or use floss to remove debris or impacted food. If your child still feels pain, contact the dentist. Never put Aspirin on an aching tooth or gum. If your child's face is swollen, apply a cold compress to the area. Contact your pediatric dentist immediately.
  • Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek: Place ice on bruised areas. If there is bleeding apply firm pressure to the area using a cloth or gauze. If you cannot stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, take your child to a hospital emergency room.
  • Knocked Out Permanent Teeth: Find the tooth. Hold it by the crown, not by the root end. Rinse the tooth carefully, but do not handle it more than necessary. Examine it for fractures. If it is okay, try inserting it back in the socket. Have your child hold the tooth in place by biting on gauze. If you can't reinsert the tooth, place it in a cup of your child's saliva or milk. Contact your pediatric dentist immediately.

12. Is my child getting enough fluoride?

Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. But too much or too little can be harmful. Little to no fluoride keeps teeth from becoming resistant to decay.

Two and three year olds may not be able to spit-out toothpaste containing fluoride, putting them at risk for fluorosis. Fluorosis causes thin white lines, streaks or spots to develop on tooth enamel and usually darkens overtime.

Inappropriate and excessive use of fluoride supplements can also cause fluorosis. Infants younger than six months of age should not be given fluoride drops, tablets or fluoride fortified vitamins. After six months, supplements should only be given upon the recommendation of a pediatrician or pediatric dentist. In this case, all sources of fluoride are accounted for.

Many, if not most, public water sources contain fluoridated water, and high levels of fluoride are also found in foods, especially powdered formula, infant dry cereals, and soy-based formula. Some beverages, for example decaffeinated teas and juice drinks, contain high amounts of fluoride.

Parents can make sure their child is not getting too much fluoride by:

  • Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when the child is old enough not to swallow it.
  • Before requesting fluoride supplements, account for all sources of fluoride.
  • Don't give infants any supplements containing fluoride until they are six months old.
  • Check with your local water company to find out how much fluoride is in your drinking water before giving supplements.

13. What is Pulp Therapy?

The pulp is the inner central portion of the tooth. It contains blood vessels, nerves, reparative cells and connective tissue. Pulp therapy, also known as nerve treatment, children's root canal, pulpectomy or pulpotomy is often needed to treat decay (cavities) or a traumatic injury to the tooth. Pulp therapy is designed to save a tooth that might otherwise have to be extracted.

During the procedure, the diseased pulp tissue is removed. The tooth is comprehensively cleaned, including any cracks and canals, and the tooth is filled with a resorbable material.

Typically the tooth is restored using a stainless steel crown.

14. What is the best toothpaste for my child?

Many types of toothpaste contain harsh abrasives that can actually damage a child's tooth enamel. When selecting toothpaste for your child, be sure to pick one that has the ADA seal of approval.

Remember to encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing so they won't ingest too much fluoride. This prevents fluorosis. If your child is too young to spit out toothpaste, use no toothpaste, a pea sized amount or consider purchasing fluoride free toothpaste.

15. Facts about tooth grinding (Bruxism)

Parents are often concerned about bruxism, or teeth grinding. Stress due to a new school, divorce or other life changes can cause a child to grind their teeth. Another theory is that inner ear pressure can cause teeth grinding.

In most cases, teeth grinding requires no treatment. If you notice excessive wear to the teeth, your pediatric dentist may suggest your child wear a mouth guard.

Most children simply outgrow bruxism. If you think your child may be grinding their teeth, talk to your pediatric dentist.

16. How does tobacco affect dental health?

Tobacco of any kind can cause incurable damage. Teens often use smokeless tobacco, also called spit or snuff thinking that this is a safer choice than cigarettes. This is not true. Research indicates that spit tobacco can be very addictive, and harder to quit than cigarettes. One can of spit tobacco per day can deliver as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In just three or four months, smokeless tobacco can cause periodontal disease or pre-cancerous lesions.

Early signs of oral cancer include:

  • A sore that doesn't heal
  • Red or white leathery patches on the lips, and under or on the tongue
  • Numbness, pain or tenderness on the lips or in the mouth
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing or chewing

The early symptoms of oral cancer are usually not painful, so they are often ignored. If not treated early oral cancer can cause extensive surgical treatment, and sometimes death.

17. What is the best time for orthodontic treatment?

In most cases doctors can recognize developing bad bites as early as 2-3 years old. Early treatment can reduce the need for extensive bite correction or other orthodontic/orthopedic treatment down the road.

Stage I – Early Treatment: Typically for patients 2 to 6 years old. Pediatric dentists are concerned with finger, thumb sucking and other harmful habits, early loss of baby teeth, and underdeveloped dental arches. Treatment at this stage is usually successful, and in many cases can prevent the need for future orthodontic treatment.

Stage II – Mixed Dentition: Generally for patients 6 to 12 years old. Treatment focuses on jaw misalignment and dental alignment problems. A child's soft and hard tissues are more responsive to orthodontic treatment during this stage, so this is the best time to initiate treatment.

Stage III – Adolescent Dentition: This stage focuses on the permanent teeth, and the development of the final bite relationship.

18. My child plays sports. How can I protect my child's teeth?

Children who participate in sports or recreational activities are susceptible to injuries. A properly fitted mouth guard is designed to help protect your child's smile. Mouth guards should be worn during any activity that could potentially cause a blow to the mouth or face.

Mouth guards can prevent broken teeth as well as injuries to the jaw, face or lips. Ask your pediatric dentist about custom fit and store-bought mouth guards.

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