Pediatric Dentistry FAQs

Why are the baby teeth so important?

Baby teeth help children speak clearly and chew naturally. They are also an important foundation for the permanent teeth, because they form a path for the permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to come in, or “erupt.”

What causes cavities?

Bacteria inside the mouth (called plaque) causes cavities. Plaque is a thin, sticky, colorless form of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria feed on sugars and carbohydrates and produce an acid that attacks tooth enamel. With time and repeated acid exposure, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.

What is baby bottle decay?

One serious form of tooth decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay, also referred to by dentists as early childhood caries. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar.

Among these liquids are milk, formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened drinks. Putting a baby to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay.

How can I help prevent cavities?

Pediatric dentists agree that good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the leftover food particles that combine to create cavities. Begin wiping the gums of your infant with a soft washcloth or soft toothbrush, even prior to tooth eruption, to establish a daily oral hygiene routine.

Our dentists believe that twice-daily brushing should begin as soon as the child’s first tooth appears. Use a soft, small toothbrush and a half-a-pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste until age three. Pediatric dentists suggest that after age three, you may use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Flossing should begin when two teeth touch, typically between two and two-and-a-half years of age. A parent or other adult should help brush and floss until the little one is at least eight years old. At that point, transition the youngster to brushing and flossing independently, with occasional supervision.

In addition, healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Children should eat a well-balanced diet and minimize between-meal snacks or drinks. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay.

When do the first teeth come in? When will my child lose teeth?

The two front lower teeth come in first, around six months of age. The upper front teeth follow shortly thereafter. The remainder of the baby teeth appears during the next 18 to 24 months.

All 20 of the baby teeth should have emerged between the ages of 2 and 3 years old. Eruption of permanent teeth (and loss of baby teeth) begins between 5 and 7 years and typically finishes by 13.

Are dental X-rays safe?

The pediatric dentists and staff at Pediatric Dental Associates are particularly careful to minimize the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. As a pediatric dental office, we maintain contemporary safeguards; the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small.

In fact, the dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Body aprons and shields are used to ensure safety and minimize exposure.

Today’s pediatric dental equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest. Also, the digital X-ray system used at Pediatric Dental Associates emits a fraction of the radiation in traditional film X-rays.

Can I stay with my child for the dental visit?

Yes, we believe that keeping the parents and child involved in the process works well. Parents are allowed in the treatment room at Pediatric Dental Associates. As pediatric dentists, it is our goal is to make children feel as comfortable as possible and the presence of the parent often helps achieve that goal.

However, if the doctor or staff feels that parental presence might be a hindrance to effective communication with the child, the parent may be asked to step outside the treatment area or remain as a silent observer.

Is it OK that my child sucks his or her thumb?

Sucking is a natural reflex for infants and young children. Pediatric dentists believe that most children should discontinue their sucking habit around the age of three.

Thumb sucking that persists beyond age three can cause problems with correct growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. Praise, rewards, and positive reinforcement are all good ways to help children stop the habit.

When should my child stop using a pacifier?

Pacifier use should ideally discontinue around the age of three. Beyond that time, the pacifier can become a true “habit,” and can cause changes in jaw growth and tooth alignment. A pacifier is easier to control than a thumb-sucking habit: Parents are encouraged to take the pacifier away before dental problems occur.

My child grinds his or her teeth at night. What should I do?

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is common in children. Parents may hear their children grind their teeth at night or begin to notice wear on the teeth. Children may grind their teeth due to the eruption of primary teeth at different times or to develop an even bite.

Most children outgrow tooth grinding around six to nine years of age as the permanent teeth erupt. The habit usually stops completely by age 13 when the baby teeth are gone.

What should I do in the case of a dental emergency?

Toothache: Gently clean the area around the sore tooth and use dental floss to dislodge any food trapped between the teeth. Over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be used for temporary pain relief. Never place aspirin next to an aching tooth. See our team as soon as possible. If the face appears swollen, contact our office immediately.

Cut tongue, lip, or cheek: Apply ice to injured areas to help control swelling. If there is bleeding, apply firm pressure with gauze or a clean cloth. If bleeding cannot be controlled by pressure, call us or go to a hospital emergency room.

Broken tooth: Rinse the mouth with water and recover any broken tooth fragments, if possible. Contact us as soon as possible.

Knocked-out permanent tooth: Recover the tooth and hold it by the crown, or the top part of the tooth. Do not touch the root end. Gently rinse (do not scrub) the tooth of any debris and reinsert it into the socket. Hold it in place by biting on a piece of gauze. If the tooth cannot be reinserted, place it in a cup of milk. See us immediately! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.

Possible broken jaw: Tie the mouth closed with a towel or handkerchief to keep the jaw from moving. Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Bleeding after a baby tooth falls out: Fold a piece of gauze and place it tightly over the bleeding area. If bleeding persists more than 15 minutes, call our office.

What is the best time for orthodontic treatment?

As pediatric dentists, we have found that there are typically two periods of time or “phases” of that are optimal for orthodontic treatments in children. In our pediatric dental office, phase I treatment occurs in the mixed dentition, when the child has the four first permanent molars and permanent incisors in place. This period is usually between the ages of 8 and 12 years.

Phase I treatment is recommended for children with jaw relationship discrepancies and severe crowding that affects the eruption of the remaining permanent teeth. Phase II treatment occurs when all the baby teeth are lost. This phase deals with the alignment of all the permanent teeth and development of the final bite relationship.