Pediatric Dental Faqs
Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for children’s teeth.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen by six months after their first tooth erupts, or at one year of age, whichever comes first. Most of the time your pediatrician will look in the child’s mouth as part of their general exam.
We often have parents bring their children with them to their cleaning appointments. This will familiarize the child with the dental office, they can read a children’s book about dentistry, get a prize (bribe), and many times we’ll take a quick look in the child’s mouth to screen for any obvious problems. We call this a “Happy Visit!” We don’t usually do any x-rays at an appointment like this.
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.
Dr. Ness is highly comfortable working with children of all ages, however, there are times where behavioral or serious medical or dental issues exist. Utilizing the unique services of a pediatric dentist is sometimes necessary.
As a general rule, we do not sedate children under the age of 14. If a child requires this level of care, we typically would refer your child to a pediatric dentist who has additional training in Pediatric Advanced Life Support and sedation techniques that create a safe and efficient environment.
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 containing helpful tips that you can refer to at home.
We’ve found that most kids are 2-3 years old before they can really sit in the chair on their own for a comprehensive cleaning and exam with x-rays should it even be necessary. Prior to your child possessing the ability to sit in the chair we might only be able to perform a very quick, general exam to screen for serious issues.
The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is to maintain 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 teeth and gums healthy and that the doctor will help him do that. Remember that your dentist is specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.
We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits, like if they are in braces making perfect oral hygiene rather challenging, for instance.
Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s first teeth play an important role in his development. While they’re in place, these 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 child’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as his 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.
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 two, because 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’ll need when he graduates 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 until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age six or seven.
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.
Be sure that your child brushes his teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, 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. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.
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.
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 teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
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 if he sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
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 familiarize your child with the process. Once the baby teeth in the 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 child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.