What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist takes two additional years of specialized training that focuses on children. This gives pediatric dentists the skills they need to build strong and trusting relationships with children from infants to young adults and an understanding of their unique dental health needs.

When should my child have his or her first dental visit, and what can I expect?

Your child should visit the dentist by his or her first birthday. Be sure to inform your child of the visit and its purpose, but take care in how you present it. Avoid using words that cause fear such as “needle”, “pull”, “drill”, or “hurt.” The first visit rarely requires such things, and, even should they be necessary at some point, keep in mind that pediatric dentists are trained to convey the information in a non-threatening way, helping to keep your child calm and comfortable.

Why are baby teeth (or “primary” teeth) so important?

Healthy primary teeth are important for many reasons:

  • They facilitate proper chewing, enabling good nutrition. Research shows that children with numerous cavities are often underweight because eating begins to hurt. As a result, they limit food choices, disrupting proper nutrition.
  • We are often asked, “Why put fillings in baby teeth when they will fall out anyway?” Unfortunately, neglected cavities create problems that affect the development of permanent teeth. Neglected cavities progress to the core of the tooth and eat away at the nerve. The tooth becomes painful and the nerve becomes inflamed, eventually dying. This creates an abscess that often results in the loss of the tooth and serious damage to the permanent tooth growing below. Some severe cases require emergency hospitalization.
  • Children learn to talk using their primary dentition. Research shows that, because most speech skills are already formed by the age of seven, children who lose their primary front teeth too early often need speech therapy.
  • Brown or missing teeth often affect the development of self-esteem. A beautiful smile enhances self confidence regardless of age.

What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Also known as Early Childhood Caries or Nursing Caries, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is caused by over exposure to sugary liquids. It is usually caused by putting a baby to bed with a bottle containing milk, juice, or pop, nursing babies on demand through the night, or allowing toddlers to graze with a sippy cup. This condition often destroys primary teeth, creating a need for major dental treatment. In addition, it will eventually damage your child’s permanent teeth if left untreated.

You can prevent this by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, breast milk, fruit juices, or any sweetened liquids.
  • Never give your baby a pacifier dipped in sugar or honey.
  • Only allow water in bottles and sippy cups used for grazing.
  • Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after each feeding, and begin brushing with water as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Encourage children to drink from a regular cup by their first birthday.

Is thumb sucking a problem for dental health?

Thumb sucking is normal for infants and will have no negative effect on their dentition as most children stop doing it by age 2. Discourage thumb sucking after age 4 as it can create crowded, crooked teeth and bite problems. If needed, we can suggest ways to break the habit.

Why is it important to use dental floss?

Brushing your teeth effectively removes plaque and food particles from tooth surfaces, but can’t properly clean the hard-to-reach areas between them. This leaves these areas highly susceptible to decay and periodontal disease (gum disease). Daily flossing corrects this problem by cleaning between the teeth and under the gum line, disrupting the build up of plaque colonies and helping to prevent damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.

Plaque is an invisible film of living bacteria combined with food debris and saliva. It produces the toxins that cause cavities and irritate the gums. When left in place, it hardens and turns into tartar (known as calculus) which further irritates and inflames the gums while slowly eating away at the dental bone structure, marking the beginning of periodontal disease.

How to floss properly:

  • Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss free between them.
  • Using the thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert it between the teeth and slide it back and forth in a sawing motion.
  • Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.

For those who might struggle with this process, we recommend floss holders.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

First, check with your physician regarding allergies to pain medications. Then, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on your child’s face if it is swollen. You can give acetaminophen for pain, but avoid placing aspirin directly on the teeth or gums. See your dentist immediately.

If I want to clean my children’s baby teeth, what should I use?

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head at bedtime. There are toothbrushes are specifically designed for both infants and young children.

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