Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PEDIATRIC DENTIST AND A FAMILY DENTIST?
Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
WHEN WILL MY BABY START GETTING TEETH?
Usually the two lower front teeth (central incisors) erupt at about six months of age, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. During the next 18 to 24 months, the rest of the baby teeth appear, although not in orderly sequence from front to back. All of these 20 primary teeth should be present at two to three years of age.
WHEN SHOULD I START CLEANING MY BABY’S TEETH?
You should start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as the teeth come in, because harmful plaque begins to form as soon as teeth erupt.
WHAT SHOULD I USE TO CLEAN MY BABY’S TEETH?
Any soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants. Babies and children’s teeth should be brushed twice per day after breakfast and before bed.
WHAT TOOTHPASTE IS BEST FOR MY CHILD?
Fluoridated toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association, as being effective in reducing tooth decay should. Children aged three years and younger should not use fluoridated toothpaste; please select non-fluoridated infant toothpaste.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE MY CHILD TO THE DENTIST FOR THE FIRST CHECK-UP?
In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth is present or no later than his/her first birthday. Children should see their pediatric dentist every 6 months following the first visit.
WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO TAKE MY CHILD TO THE PEDIATRIC DENTIST EVERY SIX MONTHS?
The pediatric dentist will want to see your child at regular and frequent intervals for several reasons. Regular visits keep the child familiar with the pediatric dentist and his or her staff and encourage a pleasant, confident attitude in the child regarding this necessary, life long health practice. Also, as the child develops and grows, the pediatric dentist will want to be certain that tooth eruption and proper jaw development are progressing normally or, if not, that corrective measured are undertaken in time. Appropriate preventive measures such as regular applications of fluoride on the tooth surfaces, placement of pit and fissure sealants on newly erupted teeth, and reinforcement of good daily health practices (brushing, flossing, and dietary advice) can be continually encouraged by the pediatric dentist and his or her staff when the child is a regular and frequent visitor to the dental office. If decay or other dental defect has occurred, it will be detected in the early stages when it is easier and less costly to treat.
WHY IS FLUORIDE SO IMPORTANT?
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. Most major cities have fluoride in the drinking water system. In communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water, fluoride supplements should be given to your child until their twelve year molars are fully erupted (approximately age 12 years). Your pediatric dentist or pediatrician can help determine if your child needs fluoride supplements or not.
WHAT CAUSES DECAY?
Decay is caused by dental plaque, a thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone’s teeth. When sugar is eaten, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. After repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down, and a cavity (hole) is formed.
HOW CAN I PREVENT DECAY CAUSED BY NURSING?
This decay process happens when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and bottle-feeding. Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle. Also, learn the proper way to brush and floss your child’s teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child’s first birthday.
WHY SHOULD THE BABY TEETH BE FILLED, SINCE THEY WILL BE LOST ANYWAY?
Even though these primary teeth are called “baby teeth”, some of them must serve until the child is at least twelve years old, sometimes longer. Neglect of the baby teeth can result in pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health, and premature loss of teeth, which is a major cause of orthodontic problems. Also, cavities tend to form in teeth that are next to other teeth with unfilled cavities, because decay is really an infection and will spread if left untreated. It is unwise to leave active decay in the mouth. Decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Unfortunately, most children with untreated decay on baby teeth will develop decay on permanent teeth.
WHAT SHOULD I DO 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 ibuprofen or acetaminophen for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.
WHAT IS A SEALANT?
A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where decay occurs most often. This sealant acts as a barrier, protecting the decay prone areas of the back teeth from plaque and acid.
HOW DO DENTAL SEALANTS WORK?
Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
HOW DO I MAKE MY CHILD’S DIET SAFE FOR HIS TEETH?
Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child’s teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children’s teeth.
ARE THUMB-SUCKING AND PACIFIER HABITS HARMFUL FOR A CHILD’S TEETH?
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.
IS IT ALL RIGHT FOR MY CHILD TO REMOVE HER OWN BABY TEETH WHEN THEY BECOME LOOSE?
Perfectly all right. As the tooth loosens, it is natural for a child to assist the process, which may take several weeks.
MY CHILD HAS A DOUBLE ROW OF FRONT TEETH. WHY IS THIS AND WHAT IS DONE ABOUT IT?
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Sometimes the permanent teeth begin to come in before the baby teeth are lost. When this happens, unless the child can work the baby teeth out by himself within a few weeks, the pediatric dentist may have to remove them. Once the baby tooth is out, the tongue usually moves the permanent tooth forward into its proper position, if space permits. If this crowded condition should occur in the upper jaw, the baby teeth should be removed immediately. Sometimes it is necessary for the pediatric dentist to move the permanent tooth forward with an orthodontic appliance.
WHY DO THE PERMANENT TEETH LOOK SO MUCH YELLOWER THAN THE BABY TEETH?
Permanent teeth are normally yellower than primary teeth, but they appear even more so because you are comparing them with the lighter baby teeth still in the mouth.
WHAT ABOUT THE BIG SPACE BETWEEN MY EIGHT-YEAR-OLD’S TWO UPPER FRONT TEETH?
Usually there is no need for concern. The space can be expected to close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. If there is a problem, your pediatric dentist will recognize it.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD FALLS AND KNOCKS OUT A PERMANENT TOOTH?
The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Then find the tooth. Hold it by the crown rather than the root and try to reinsert it in the socket. If that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY CHILD’S TEETH DURING SPORTING EVENTS?
Soft plastic mouth guards can be used to protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. A custom-fitted mouth guard developed by a pediatric dentist will protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head.
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