Frequently Asked Questions

How should I clean my baby’s teeth?

A tooth brush with soft bristles and a small head, one especially designed for infants, is the best choice for your baby. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.

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

“First visit by first birthday,” is the general rule. To prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, usually between six and twelve months of age.

Why should my child see a pediatric dentist instead of our regular family dentist?

Pediatric dentistry is a dental specialty that focuses on the oral health of children. Following four years of dental school, a dentist who chooses to specialize in pediatric dentistry receives two to three years additional training in the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.

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

Baby bottle decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. It happens when a child goes to sleep while bottle and/or breast feeding, or drinking from a “sippy” cup. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing your child to sleep or putting anything other than water in the bedtime bottle/cup. As a child approaches their first birthday, encourage them to drink from a cup. Weaning from the bottle should take place at 12-14 months of age.

Can thumb sucking be harmful for my child’s teeth?

Crooked teeth, crowding and bite problems can all be caused by thumb or pacifier sucking habits that go on for a prolonged period of time. Your pediatric dentist may recommend a mouth appliance if thumb sucking persists when permanent teeth arrive. Most children stop these habits on their own.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

Sealants are clear or shaded plastic applied to the chewing surfaces of permanent molars to help keep them cavity-free. Sealants fill in the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, which are hard to clean, and shut out food particles that could get caught, causing cavities. Fast and comfortable to apply, sealants can effectively protect teeth for many years.

When should my child start using toothpaste?

Due to the rising rate of decay in children, toothpaste with fluoride is now recommended when first tooth arrives. Earlier than that, clean your child’s gums with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste. Parents should supervise and assist with brushing and flossing until around age 7.

If my child gets a toothache, what should I do?

To comfort your child, rinse his/her mouth with warm salt water. You can apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a cloth to child’s face if it is swollen. DO NOT put heat or aspirin on the sore area. You may give your child acetaminophen for pain. Call to schedule an exam as soon as possible.

Is my child getting enough fluoride?

Fluoride has been shown to dramatically decrease a person’s chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger. Fluoride in the drinking water is the best and easiest way to get it. To make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.

How safe are dental X-rays?

With contemporary safeguards, such as high speed film and lead aprons, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. Please keep in mind that dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem.

My child plays sports. How should I protect my child’s teeth?

A mouth guard should be top priority on your child’s list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouth guards, are made of soft plastic and fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. They protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any mouth guard works better than no mouth guard, but a custom-fitted mouth guard fitted by your dentist is your child’s best protection against sports related injuries.

When do the first teeth start to erupt?

At about 6 months, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appear during the next 18 to 24 months but not necessarily in an orderly sequence. At age 2 to 3 years, all 20 primary teeth should be present.

How can I help my child through the teething stage?

Sore gums when teeth erupt are a normal part of the eruption process.  The discomfort is eased for some children by the use of a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a teething ring cooled in the refrigerator (not in the freezer).

What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?

First of all, remain calm. If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you can’t put the tooth back in the  socket, place the tooth in a clean container of milk and take your child and the container immediately to your pediatric dentist. The faster you act the better your chances of saving the tooth.

I noticed a space between my baby’s two upper front teeth. Is this cause for concern?

Usually, the space will close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. We will monitor this at his/her checkups and determine whether there is cause for concern.

If my child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, should it still be filled?

YES. Primary teeth, also called “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. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health and premature loss of teeth are just a few of the problems that can happen when baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is actually an infection that can spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of your child.

What causes tooth decay?

Four things are necessary for cavities to form – a tooth, bacteria, sugars or other carbohydrates, and time. Dental plaque is a thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone’s teeth. When you eat, the sugars in your food cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids that attack the enamel of the tooth. With time and repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.