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 that you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets his first tooth. 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.
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/her gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth or infant gum brush. As soon as the first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head designed for infants. Brushing at least once a day at bedtime will remove plaque bacteria that may lead to decay.
What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?
Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing or when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and/or bottle-feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. He/she should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.
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 for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under three, 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 they will need when they graduate 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 them until they are ready to take on that responsibility themselves, which usually happens by age six or seven.
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 at least twice a day. Flossing daily is also important, because flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing doesn't. Check with us 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.
If my child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, should it be filled?
Primary, or “baby” teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth may follow when they are ready to erupt. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health and premature loss of teeth are just a few of the problems that may happen when baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth may cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of your child!
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 child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach. Dental sealants are easily, quickly and comfortably applied and they may effectively protect teeth for many years.
What should I do if my child sucks his thumb?
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits that go on for a long period of time may create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. If they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended. Most children stop these habits on their own.
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 child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.
My child plays sports. How can I protect his teeth?
A mouth guard should be a top priority on your child’s list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouth guards, are made of soft plastic and fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. For the best protection and fit a custom fitted mouth guard by our doctor is recommended. They help protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. No matter what sport you participate in the American Dental Association recommends you wear a mouthguard.
What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?
First of all, remain calm. If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with milk and give us a call. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.
My child has space between their two upper front teeth. Is this cause for concern?
Usually, the space will close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. At your regular scheduled dental visits we will determine whether there is cause for concern.