Frequently asked questions for pediatric dentists

Why should I bring my child to see a pediatric dentist?

Just as a pediatrician treats your child’s heath needs, a pediatric dentist is trained to treat your child’s oral needs. A pediatric dental specialist has received two to three additional years of training after dental school to specifically treat children.

When will my baby start getting teeth?

Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. In general, the first baby teeth that appear are usually the lower front teeth and they usually begin erupting between the age of six and eight months.

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

The first tooth = the first dental visit.  We recommend that your child’s first visit should be six months after his or her first tooth erupts or by one year of age, whichever is first.

When the first tooth appears, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold together, or a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. 

In each case the bristles are soft and few.

If your child doesn’t react well to the toothbrush, don’t worry. You can  use a damp washcloth for a few months, then try the toothbrush again. 

During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite!

How can I prepare my child for visiting the dentist?

If you have a positive attitude, chances are that your child will as well. If you dread going to the dentist, your child will likely pick up that same attitude. Play mimicking games with your child to “open wide.” Use a washcloth to wipe your child’s teeth after each feeding. Have your child see you actively participating in good oral habits like brushing and flossing. Most importantly, maintain a positive attitude. A child can notice apprehension and fear from a parent.

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

Usually, the first visit is short and simple—but still very important!

We take time to get to know your child in an environment that is friendly and relaxed. The dentist will check your child’s teeth and make sure there are no problems with the gums or jaw. We’ll also assess your child’s oral health needs and evaluate the risk of cavities. 

We’ll also clean your child’s teeth and apply a fluoride varnish. Depending upon your child’s individual needs, we may also take X-rays—these will help us care for your child’s teeth as they develop.

In addition, we’ll provide valuable information and tips on how to care for your child’s teeth.  Most important—we promise we’ll always take time to answer any questions you have.

Why are baby teeth important for my child?

Primary or “baby” teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also assist in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. It is also important to start introducing your child to good oral hygiene habits and regular dental check-ups when they are young, to insure a long life with good oral health.

What are dental caries or dental decay?

Dental caries (dental decay) is the most common chronic disease of childhood. If your child is diagnosed with cavities, a comprehensive treatment approach will be employed. Since the cause of the dental decay is bacterial in nature, restoring the cavities is not enough. The comprehensive approach must address controlling the bacteria and identifying the steps for prevention of future decay. If this is not done, your child will continue to develop new cavities in untreated areas.

The age of your child is also very important. The younger your child is, the more challenging it is to control the caries process. Treatment options will also be based on your child’s age and level of cooperation.

How can I prevent tooth decay from a bottle or nursing?

You can definitely play a role in decreasing your child’s risk for baby bottle tooth decay. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as he or she approaches the first birthday. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water. At-will nighttime breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. When juice is offered, it should be in a cup

When should bottle feeding be stopped?

Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.

When should my child begin using toothpaste and how much should we use?

Child friendly toothpaste should be introduced when a child is two years of age. Prior to that, parents should clean the child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. When toothpaste is used after age two, the child should be supervised to make sure he or she uses a ‘smear’ of toothpaste, just enough to create foam on the toothbrush. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. After age three, a pea-sized amount should be used.

Do you have any tips in getting a toddler to brush their teeth?

  • Singing a song while brushing their teeth
  • Letting them play with the toothbrush in order to get used to it in their mouth
  • If you are brushing your child’s teeth have them lie on a couch or the floor with their head in your lap
  • Incorporate it into your morning and night time routines
  • Brush your teeth together
  • Use a favorite stuffed animal to “model” brushing, or even have the stuffed animal be the one to hold the toothbrush
  • Have them roar like a lion, dinosaur, or bear to get them to open wide (

 How often should I brush my child’s teeth?

After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down and place the child’s head in your lap. Children and adults should have their teeth brushed at least two times every day.

How often should I change my toothbrush?

Adults and children should change their toothbrush every 3 months because they become worn out and are not as effective as they once were. Exceptions to this would be if you were using an electric toothbrush, and the manufacturer states otherwise. Some electric rechargeable toothbrushes have very good brush heads that only need to be changed every 6 months. If you have gum disease, you should change your toothbrush every 4 – 6 weeks because bacteria can harbor in the bristles. You should always rinse your toothbrush out with hot water after every use and change it after you have been sick.

Are dental X-rays necessary for treating my child?

X-rays (radiographs) are an important part of your child’s dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed. X-rays detect much more than cavities. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed.

When should my child have dental X-rays taken?

We recommend taking X-rays around the age of two or three and then have X-rays taken at least once a year. 

How important is a balanced diet in preventing dental decay?

Very important. A daily diet should include all the major food groups of meat/fish/eggs, vegetable/fruit, bread/cereal, as well as milk and other dairy products. Snacking should also be limited

What are dental sealants?

A sealant refers to a plastic material that bonds into the grooves of the chewing surface of a tooth to prevent the formation of dental decay.

Are athletic mouthguards necessary for sports activities?

A mouthguard protects the teeth from possible sports injuries. In addition, it also protects the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw bone. Most injuries occur to the mouth and head area when a child is not wearing a mouthguard. Custom mouthguards provide the most comfort and best fit for your child’s mouth.

What should I do if my child sucks his or her thumb?

First, most children outgrow this habit by age four. If your child continues  after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.

Does it hurt to loose a tooth?

It doesn’t have to hurt. Usually it hurts if you try to get your tooth to fall out before it is ready. Sometimes the dentist has to pull your baby tooth out so the adult tooth can grow in. Kids are sometimes scared that this will hurt, but dentists do a great job to make sure that it doesn’t hurt. The strange feeling you feel when your tooth falls out can sometimes be scary, but it doesn’t have to hurt. Just be patient, and the tooth will fall out.

What if my child has a toothache?

First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Give the child acetaminophen for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.