Childrens FAQ's

Why are the baby teeth so important?

It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do cause pain and/or infection.  When left untreated, these cavities can negatively affect developing permanent teeth.  Primary teeth, or baby-teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13.

Does my child require x-rays and why?

Radiographs (X-Rays) are a necessary part of your child’s dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.

X-Ray’s detect much more than cavities. For example, X-Rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. X-Rays allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.

Dentists may recommend X-rays and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay. On average, most dentists request radiographs approximately once a year. It is recommended that your child obtain a complete set of radiographs approximately every three years, either a panoramic and/or bitewings.

Dentists are particularly careful to minimise the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. The risk is negligible. In fact, the dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film and proper shielding assure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.

What is the best way to take care of my child’s teeth?

Begin daily brushing as soon as the child’s first tooth erupts. A tiny pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it. By age 4 or 5, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with supervision.  However, each child is different. Your dentist can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.

Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45 degree angle.  Start brushing along the gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.  Establishing a specific routine (brushing the teeth in a certain order) will help ensure that the child does not miss any areas.

Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. You should floss the child’s teeth until he or she can do it alone. Use about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don’t forget the backs of the last four teeth.  Floss picks can be substituted if you wish.

How does my child’s eating habits effect their teeth?

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.

Do not forget that water is a very important dietary ingredient.  Review your water supply with the dentist to determine if it is fluoridated.  If you use bottled water for your child, make sure it is fluoridated.  If you need to discuss this issue, please let us know.  Water should not be replaced by soda or juice in the diet.  Soda should be eliminated if possible.  Limit your child's consumption of juice to 4-6 mL a day.  Juice should be diluted with water for younger children to limit the amount of sugar intake.  It is best to have children drink the juice at a sitting instead of consuming it freely throughout the day.

How do I prevent cavities?

Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the leftover food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. See "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay" FAQ for more information.

For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.  Remember that dried fruit treats are mostly sugar!

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends six month visits to the pediatric dentist beginning at your child’s first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.

Your pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.

A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.

How does Baby Bottle Tooth Decay form?

One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.  If your child won't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of two to three weeks. 

After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.  Be sure to lift the lip to check along the gum line.

When will my baby start to get teeth?

Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth early and some get them late. In general the first baby teeth are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and usually begin erupting between the age of 6-8 months.

Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. As early as 4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies.

Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21.

Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).

How to deal with a child in an emergency?

Toothache: Clean the area of the affected tooth thoroughly. Rinse the mouth vigorously with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge impacted food or debris. DO NOT place aspirin on the gum or on the aching tooth. If the face is swollen, apply cold compresses. Take the child to a dentist.

Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek: Apply ice to bruised areas. If there is bleeding apply firm but gentle pressure with a gauze or cloth. If bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes or it cannot be controlled by simple pressure, take child to hospital emergency room.

Knocked Out Permanent Tooth: Find the tooth. Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root portion. You may rinse the tooth, but DO NOT clean or handle the tooth unnecessarily.  Make sure the sink drain is plugged before rinsing it in the sink!   Inspect the tooth for fractures. If it is sound, try to reinsert it in the socket. Have the patient hold the tooth in place by biting on a gauze. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, transport the tooth in a cup containing the patient’s saliva or milk. The patient must see a dentist IMMEDIATELY!  Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.  In the case of a baby tooth being knocked out, it will not be reinserted into the socket.

Is fluoride good for my child’s teeth at a young age?

Fluorides are a natural occurring trace element in most sources of water.  Too little fluoride in your child's water will lead to a lifetime of unnecessary decay.  Too much can lead to dental fluorosis.  Fluorosis is a chalky white, yellow, or even brown discoloration of the permanent teeth.  Many children often get more fluoride than their parents realize. Being aware of a child’s potential sources of fluoride can help parents prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis.

Some of these sources are:

  • Too much fluoridated toothpaste at an early age.
  • The inappropriate use of fluoride supplements.
  • Hidden sources of fluoride in the child’s diet.

Two and three-year olds may not be able to expectorate (spit out) fluoride-containing toothpaste when brushing. As a result, these youngsters may ingest an excessive amount of fluoride during tooth brushing. Toothpaste ingestion during this critical period of permanent tooth development is the greatest risk factor in the development of fluorosis.  A very tiny pea-size amount of toothpaste should be used with this age group.

Excessive and inappropriate intake of fluoride supplements may also contribute to fluorosis. Fluoride drops and tablets, as well as fluoride fortified vitamins should not be given to infants younger than six months of age. After that time, fluoride supplements should only be given to children after all of the sources of ingested fluoride have been accounted for and upon the recommendation of your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.

Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially: powdered concentrate infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Please read the label or contact the manufacturer. Some beverages also contain high levels of fluoride, especially white grape juices and juice drinks manufactured in fluoridated cities. 

Parents can take the following steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in their children’s teeth:

  • Use baby tooth cleanser on the toothbrush of the very young child.
  • Place only a tiny, pea-size drop of children’s toothpaste on the brush when brushing.
  • Account for all of the sources of ingested fluoride before requesting fluoride supplements from your child’s physician or pediatric dentist.
  • Avoid giving any fluoride-containing supplements to infants until they are at least 6 months old.
  • Obtain fluoride level test results for your drinking water before giving fluoride supplements to your child (check with local water utilities).

What toothpaste should I use on my child?

Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles. They contain harsh abrasives which can wear away young tooth enamel. When looking for a toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use.

Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. If your child is too young or unable to spit out toothpaste, consider providing them with a fluoride free toothpaste, using no toothpaste, or using only a "tiny pea-sized" amount of toothpaste.

Does your child grind their teeth at night?

Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school, etc. can influence a child to grind his or her teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure.  Children who are very active, often "burn off energy at night" by grinding their teeth.  Growing jaws can also sometimes result in grinding if one jaw grows more rapidly than the other.  Disproportionate growth in jaws can be detected by your pediatric dentist.

The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, then a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The mouth guard can help to prevent wear to the primary dentition.

The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding gets less between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.

What can be the repercussions of “thumb sucking” as a child?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex and a normal activity.  Fingers, thumbs, or pacifiers may be preferred by some infants.  When the habit is intense or vigorous and persists longer than normal, severe uncorrectable orthodontic problems can result.  Individual counseling is recommended to determine if your child is prone to these problems.

When is the best time for orthodontic treatment?

Developing malocclusions, or bad bites, can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age. Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.  Your child may benefit from one or more of the following treatments:

Stage I – Early Treatment: This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years. At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss of primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking. Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very brief and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II – Mixed Dentition: This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6-year molars. Treatment concerns deal with jaw malrelationships and dental realignment problems. This is an excellent stage to start treatment, when indicated, as your child’s hard and soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.

Stage III – Adolescent Dentition: This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.

Importance of a mouth guard for children while playing sport?

When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile. It should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.

Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitting mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.

Ask your dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.