Pediatric Dental FAQs
Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for children’s teeth.
When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist?
We recommend that you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets his first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen by six months after their first tooth erupts, or at one year of age, whichever comes first.
How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?
All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) begin by completing dental school, then continue their education with several years of additional specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, your doctor gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents.
Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and bring to each patient our expertise in childhood development and behavior. Because our office is geared toward young visitors, you'll find that our staff, as well as our office design, decorations, and activities all, work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.
What is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist?
A pediatric dentist that is board certified has gone through a rigorous written and clinical examination process with the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD). Only dentists that have completed a residency in pediatric dentistry can sit for the board certification examinations. Board certification tests the knowledge and problem-solving abilities of a pediatric dentist.
Certification by the ABPD provides assurance to the public that a pediatric dentist has successfully completed accredited training and a voluntary two-part examination process designed to continually validate the knowledge, skills, and experience requisite to the delivery of quality patient care. This extra certification of becoming a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry is a rare distinction among pediatric dentists and is designed to provide assurance to the patients that their pediatric dentist has successfully completed the highest level of accredited training in their field. Only half of all certified pediatric dentists achieve this status nationwide.
What happens during my child’s first visit to the dentist?
The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. The doctor will clean their teeth, check your child’s teeth for placement and health, and will look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. We will also answer any questions you have about oral habits, how to care for your child’s teeth as they develop, and provide you with materials containing helpful tips that you can refer to at home.
How can I prepare my child for their first dental appointment?
The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is to maintain a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist you can be sure that your child will fear an unpleasant experience and act accordingly. Show your child the pictures of the office and staff on the website. Let your child know that it’s important to keep his teeth and gums healthy and that the doctor will help him do that. Remember that your dentist is specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.
How often should my child visit the dentist?
We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.
Why do I need to fix baby teeth?
Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s first teeth play an important role in his development. While they’re in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile, and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth too early (due to damage or decay) nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in crooked or misplaced permanent teeth. Also, your child’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as his first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You most likely can find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore.
At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?
Once your child has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice if they are not spitting and pea-size if they can spit) for each cleaning. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing.
Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain. You should brush your child’s teeth for him until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age six or seven.
What causes cavities?
Four things are necessary for cavities to develop- a tooth, bacteria, sugars or other carbohydrates, and time. When bacteria comes into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. With time and repeated acid attacks (snacking), the enamel breaks down creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
Why does my child have cavities if they don't eat candy and how can I help my child avoid cavities?
Every time your child puts food (starch or sugar) or drink (other than water) in their mouth, the pH levels drop for the next 20 minutes. Cavities occur because of decalcification from the acidic environment. Thus, as the child grows older, avoid snacking between meals, especially foods rich in starch and sugar. Sticky, slowly dissolving candies should be avoided and limited to only special occasions. Drinking water in between meals is an effective way to rinse out the acid that develops in our mouths. Avoid sodas, and try to have your child drink milk and unsweetened juice at mealtimes.
Be sure that your child brushes his teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important because flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can’t. Check with your pediatric dentist about a fluoride supplement, which helps tooth enamel become harder and more resistant to decay. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.
Does my child need dental sealants?
Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are the hardest to reach.
My child plays sports. How can I protect his teeth?
Even children’s sports involve contact, and we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect his teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
What should I do if my child sucks their thumb?
The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of three, without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or if he sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
When should my child have dental X-rays taken?
We recommend taking X-rays around the age of three. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which familiarize your child with the process. Once the baby teeth in the back are touching one another, then regular (at least yearly) X-rays are recommended. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and X-rays help us make sure your child’s teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned. If your child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.