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Pediatric Dental FAQs

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

We recommend that your child's first visit to the dentist be between the ages of 2 1/2 to 3 years. 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 look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. The hygienist will count his teeth with him/her and clean and polish the teeth. We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child's teeth as he develops, and provide you with materials containing helpful tips that you can refer to at home.

How can I prepare my child for his 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 teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor will help him do that. Remember that your dentist is trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our 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 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.

What's the best way to clean my baby's teeth?

Even before your baby's first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his 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 can most likely 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 (about the size of a pea) for each cleaning, and use a toothpaste specifically made for children. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing; 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 until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age 4 or 5.

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 teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can't. Check with your dentist about a fluoride supplement, which helps tooth enamel be 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.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Definitely! 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.

My child plays sports; how can I protect his 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 his thumb?

The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of 4, without causing any permanent damage to the teeth. If your child continues sucking after the 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 the time that the permanent teeth begin to erupt. Permanent teeth start coming in around age 6, 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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