Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for children’s teeth.
We recommend you make an appointment to see us as soon as your son or daughter gets that 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.
All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) begin by completing dental school, then continue their education with several years of additional specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Lee and Dr. Ben gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents.
Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children, and bring to each patient our expertise in childhood development and behavior. Because our office is geared toward young visitors, you’ll find that our staff, as well as our office design, decorations, and activities, all work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.
The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your little one and giving you some basic information about dental care. One of the doctors will check your child’s teeth for placement and health, and look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. If necessary, we may do a bit of cleaning.
We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child’s teeth as they develop, and provide you with materials that contain helpful tips you can refer to at home.
The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is to maintain a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure your little one will anticipate an unpleasant experience and act accordingly.
Show your son or daughter the pictures of the office and staff on the website. Let your child know it’s important to keep the teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor will help to do that. Remember that our dentists are specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.
We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your son or daughter’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.
Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s first teeth play an important role in development. While they’re in place, the 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.
Even before your child’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his or her gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as that first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush.
Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You most likely can find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore.
Once your little one has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) for each cleaning.
Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, but swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain.
You should brush your son or daughter’s teeth until he or she is ready to take on that responsibility, which usually happens by age six or seven.
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When they come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. The acids attack the enamel on the exterior, and eventually eat through it and create holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, because flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can’t.
Check with our office 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.
Finally, make regular appointments so we can check the health of your son or daughter’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.
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 youngster avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.
Even children’s sports involve contact, so we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect the teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of four without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
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 son or daughter is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.