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 you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets his or her first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen by six months after the 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, a pediatric specialist gains 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 their offices are geared toward young visitors, patients find that staff, as well as office design, decorations, and activities, all work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.
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 check your child’s teeth for placement and health, and will look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. If necessary, we may do a bit of cleaning.
We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child’s teeth as they develop, and provide you with materials that contain helpful tips you can refer to at home.
How can I prepare my child for the 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, so if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure that your child will anticipate an unpleasant experience and act accordingly.
Show your son or daughter the pictures of the office and staff on the website. Let him or her know it’s vital to keep our teeth and gums healthy, and the doctor will help to do that. Remember that the dentist is specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and the 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.
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 essential role in development. While they’re in place, 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 youngster’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 infant’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean the gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as the 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) for each cleaning.
Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, but swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain.
You should brush your child’s teeth until he or she is ready to take on that responsibility, which usually happens by age six or seven.
What causes cavities?
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When they 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, and eventually eat through the enamel and create holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also crucial, 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. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet.
Finally, make regular appointments so we can check the health of your son or daughter’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 youngster avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.
My child plays sports; how can I protect 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 the teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
What should I do if my child sucks a thumb?
The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants. 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.
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 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 son or daughter is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.