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Pediatric Dental FAQs

Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for children’s teeth.

When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen for their first dental exam by six months after their first tooth erupts, or at one year of age, whichever comes first.

How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?

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 after dental school. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Irma and Dr. Giancarlo gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, adolescents, and patients with special health care & behavioral needs.

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.

What happens during my child’s first visit to the dentist?

The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care.

Dr. Irma or Dr. Giancarlo will check your son or daughter’s teeth for placement and health, and look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. Plaque or other debris may be removed from the teeth with a toothbrush or other cleaning instrument. 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.

How can I prepare my child for the first dental appointment?

The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is maintaining a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, it is likely that your child will anticipate an unpleasant experience and act out accordingly.

Show your little one the pictures of the office and staff on the website.  Read a book about first dental visits, such as "The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist." Let your child know that it’s important to keep the teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor will help him or her do that. Remember that your dentist is specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

We generally recommend scheduling a checkup every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.

Baby teeth aren’t permanent; why do they need special care?

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 son or daughter’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.

What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?

Even before your infant’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his or her gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as the 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.

At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?

Once your child has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to consult your dentist regarding whether you should use toothpaste with or without fluoride. 

You should help with brushing your son or daughter’s teeth until manual dexerity has developed and they are ready to take on that responsibility, which usually happens around age 8.

What causes cavities?

Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When they come into contact with sugary or starchy foods (including milk) left behind on our teeth after eating/drinking, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, and eventually eat through it and create holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth twice per day for about 2 minutes.  It is also important to floss all teeth that are touching at least once per day.  This cleans areas between the teeth that brushing can’t.  And remember... many children have spacing in their front teeth, but have back teeth that are touching.

Talk with our dentists to see if a fluoride supplement is recommended, which can help tooth enamel become more resistant to decay. Avoid excessive sugary foods and drinks (including juice), limit snacking, and maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits & vegetables.

Finally, make regular appointments so we can check the health of your child’s teeth and perform professional cleanings.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Sealants cover the pits and fissures (grooves) in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your son or daughter avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.

My child plays sports; how can I protect his or her teeth?

Even children’s sports involve contact these days, 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.

What should I do if my child sucks a thumb?

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 he or she sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.

When should my child have dental X-rays taken?

The age at which dental radiographs (x-rays) are initially taken can vary.  Usually, the first set is taken around age 3.  In many cases, the first set consists of easy-to-take pictures of the upper & lower front teeth, which familiarizes your child with the process and builds confidence.

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.