Laura E. Davies, D.D.S.
Carl R. Stonecipher, D.D.S.
Answers to Questions About Your Child's Dental Care Needs
Are baby teeth really that important to my child?
Those toothless smiles are adorable but yes, primary teeth (a.k.a. baby teeth) are important for many reasons. They help children speak clearly and chew naturally, and aid in forming a path for permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to erupt.
What should I use to clean my baby's teeth? What should I use?
It is important to develop the habit early on of removing plaque bacteria that can lead to decay, starting at birth. For newborns, clean your baby's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing at least once a day (at bedtime) with a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants; twice a day is even better, especially as more teeth come in and the child's diet becomes more varied.
Should I use toothpaste with my child?
The American Dental Association recommends using fluoridated toothpaste once you start using a toothbrush. Use a smear of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For youngsters 2-5 years old, dispense a pea-size amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child's tooth brushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively on their own. Make sure they spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
When should I schedule my child's first dental appointment?
The American Dental Association, American Academy of General Dentistry, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all recommend that your child's first dental visit should take place around 12 months of age or shortly after the eruption of the first baby tooth. This proactive approach will help us identify potential problems early on, and introduce your baby to all the sights, sounds and sensations of the dentist's office.
Do not wait until your child has a toothache or a dental emergency. This could result in your child developing a fear of the dentist which is sometimes very hard to overcome–and we wouldn't want that to happen!
What about bedtime bottles or bedtime nursing?
Bedtime bottles should only have water – no juice, formula or milk, as your child will not be brushing his/her teeth after consuming these, and these liquids break down into sugars which cause cavities if left unattended. If you nurse your child to sleep, consider rinsing the mouth with water afterwards to avoid possible decay over time. The Academy of General Dentistry instructs parents to clean and massage the baby's gums after every feeding to help establish healthy teeth and to aid in teething. Do this by wrapping a moistened gauze square or washcloth around the finger and gently massage the gums and gingival tissues.
What should I do if my child has a toothache?
First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Give the child acetaminophen for any pain–do not place aspirin on the teeth or gums. Then call and come see us as soon as possible.
Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child's teeth?
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of three, a mouth appliance may be recommended to correct any palate irregularities.
How often does my child need to see the dentist?
A checkup every six months is recommended in order prevent cavities and other dental problems. We set up exam schedules with parents based on each child's personal oral health. We will also recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their children. Children should visit the dentist regularly, (beginning shortly after the eruption of the first tooth). These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits– and healthy teeth and gums.
How do I make my child's diet safe for his teeth?
Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, and good sources of calcium and protein such as legumes, dairy products or meats and eggs. Avoid sticky sweets, limit the servings of sugars and starches, and make sure tooth brushing is happening according to your dentist's recommended program. We can discuss food selections with you to protect your children's teeth.
What are dental sealants and how do they work?
Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. They fill in the crevasses there, keeping out food particles that could get caught in the teeth and cause cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
How do I know if my child is getting enough fluoride?
Depending on the fluoride level of your child's primary source of drinking water, we might prescribe fluoride supplements to ensure your child is getting enough. The American Dental Association recommends using a fluoride toothpaste as well.
What can I do to protect my child's teeth during sporting events?
Protect your child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport-related injuries with a soft plastic mouth guard; a well-fitting mouth guard can even provide protection from severe injuries to the head. Our office can develop a custom-fitted appliance.
What should I do if my child's permanent tooth is knocked out?
The most important thing to do is to remain calm...then find the tooth. Do not touch the root or attempt to clean the tooth as this can cause damage.
Hold the tooth by the crown (not the root) and try to reinsert it in the socket. If that is not possible, and there is no imminent medical emergency such as uncontrolled bleeding, unconsciousness, or other bodily injury, put the tooth in a glass of milk, contact us immediately, and bring your child and the glass with the tooth to our office for an evaluation.
How safe are dental X-rays?
There is very little risk in dental X-rays. Dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. We use lead aprons and high-speed film to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation.