FAQ

How should I clean my baby's teeth?

A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice for your baby’s teeth. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.

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At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?

In order to prevent future dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when his/her first tooth appears or no later than his/her first birthday.

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What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a regular family dentist?

You should think of pediatric dentists as the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years of additional specialty training after dental school. During this time they focus only on the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.

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Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

Primary teeth (baby teeth) are important to your child’s overall health for many reasons. They will help your child to speak clearly and chew naturally, but they will also assist in creating a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.

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If my child gets a toothache, what should I do?

Rinse his/her mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress on your child's face if it is swollen. Give the child acetaminophen for pain, but avoid putting heat or aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see your pediatric dentist as soon as possible.

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Can thumbsucking be harmful for my child's teeth?

Thumb and pacifier sucking habits can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems if allowed to continue for an extended period of time. Most children drop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.

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How can I prevent decay caused by nursing or using a bottle?

Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. It happens 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. And remember that all children should see their pediatric dentist by his/her first birthday.

Learn more from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?

It is recommended that a child has a dental check-up every six months in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems. Your child’s pediatric dentist will tell you how often your child should visit based on his/her individual oral health.

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If my child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, should it still be filled?

Primary (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 can 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 can happen when baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of the your child.

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Toothpaste: when should my child start using it?

Floridated toothpaste should be avoided until your child is 2 to 3 years old. Prior to that, you should clean your child's teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. When toothpaste is introduced as the child reaches 2 to 3 years of age, no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be used on the brush. Make sure children spit out and do not swallow excess toothpaste.

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How can I help my child through the teething stage?

Sore gums when teeth erupt are part of the normal eruption process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have medications that can be rubbed on the gums to reduce the discomfort.

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When do the first teeth start to erupt?

At about 6 months, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appear during the next 18 to 24 months but not necessarily in an orderly sequence from front to back. At 2 to 3 years, all of these 20 primary teeth should be present.

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I noticed a space between my child's 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. We can determine whether there is cause for concern.

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How can I make sure my child’s diet benefits his/her oral health?

You should always make sure that your child is eating a balanced died that includes one serving of each of the following: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish and eggs. You should always limit your child’s sugar and starch intake to prevent tooth decay. Your pediatric dentist can help you select foods that will protect your child’s teeth.

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What are dental sealants and how do they work?

Sealants are clear or shaded plastic that are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free. Sealants fill in the crevasses, grooves and chewing surfaces of the teeth, which are hard to clean. This shuts out food particles that get stuck between the teeth and cause cavities. Fast and comfortable to apply, sealants can effectively protect teeth for many years.

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How do I make sure my child is getting enough fluoride?

Fluoride has been shown to dramatically decrease a person's chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger. Have your pediatric district evaluate the fluoride level of your child's primary source of drinking water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride in their water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.

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What can I do to protect my child’s teeth during sporting events?

A soft, plastic mouth guard should be a top priority on your child's list of sports equipment. They protect a child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any mouth guard works better than no mouth guard, but a custom-fitted mouth guard placed by our doctor is your child's best protection against sports-related injuries to the teeth, face and head.

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What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?

Most importantly, remain calm. If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. If you can't put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.

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How safe are dental X-rays?

With contemporary safeguards, such as lead aprons and high-speed film, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation.

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How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

Parents need to take their children to the dentist regularly. The eruption of your child’s first tooth means it is time for their first visit to their pediatric dentist. The dentist will recommend a program of brushing, flossing and other treatments for parents to supervise as their children learn about the importance of maintaining good oral health. Good oral hygiene, regular visits to the dentist and maintaining a balanced diet will set your child on a path toward a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Learn more from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry