Pediatric Dental FAQs

When should I schedule my child's first visit to the dentist?

We recommend that you begin bringing your child with when you have a regular recall hygiene visit. This acquaints them with the office setting and they begin to learn what is involved with a dental appointment. Time permitting, and if the child allows it, the hygienist will check their teeth while they sit in your lap.

What happens during my child's first visit to the dentist?

We will check your child's teeth for placement and health, and look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. The hygienist will do as much as the child will allow. Treatment is not forced and eventually, the child will be able to have a complete appointment.

How can I prepare my child for his or her first dental appointment?

The best preparation for your child's first visit to our office is maintaining 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 or her teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor will help them do that. Remember that your dentist, and our staff, excels at putting children at ease during treatment.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

We generally recommend scheduling check-ups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child's oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits. Every child is different as to when they will allow us to actually treat them. We never force treatment on a child, unless it is an emergency. When the hygienist feels the child is ready for their own appointment, we will do so. Sometimes, it is in the best interest of the child to be referred to a pediatric dentist for treatment.

Baby teeth aren't permanent; why do they need special care?

Although they don't last as long as permanent teeth, your child's first teeth play an important role in his or her development. While they're in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile and chew properly. Some baby teeth remain functioning until age 13 or 14. 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 their gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as your child's first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You can most likely find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore. Get more details about caring for infants' teeth >

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 for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under three, as too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing, to begin a lifelong habit he or she will need when they graduate to fluoride toothpaste. 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 or her until they are ready to take on that responsibility themselves, which usually happens by age six or seven.

What causes cavities?

Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Be sure that your child brushes his or her teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can't. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. Finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child's teeth and provide professional cleanings. The frequent use of sodas, juices, power or energy drinks, gum, and breath lozenges are a major factor in an increased level of cavities. If you put it in your mouth and it tastes good, it probably contains sugar.

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 hardest to reach. Find out more about dental sealants >

My child plays sports; how can I protect his or her 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 or her teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.

What should I do if my child sucks his thumb?

The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of four, without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit. Thumbsucking by itself may not be harmful, unless it is done frequently and intensely. Get more information, plus tips on helping your child break the habit >

When should my child have dental x-rays taken?

We recommend taking x-rays around the age of two or three. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which familiarizes your child with the process. Once the baby teeth in back are touching each other, 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.

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