Pediatric Dentists are like the pediatricians of dentistry. Pediatric dentists are oral care providers for infants, toddlers, and adolescents, including children with special needs.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association both recommend that your child’s first dental examination should occur between the ages of 12 and 15 months.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends dental checkups at least twice a year for children to prevent cavities and other dental problems. Some children may need more frequent visits due to increased risk for tooth decay or poor oral hygiene.
Most children should use a soft bristle brush with a small head. Electric toothbrushes are also good tools because they can remove plaque with less effort on your child’s part than a regular brush. However, both are very effective with your supervision.
Parents should use a soft bristled toothbrush with water before the age of two. Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced when your child is 2-3 years of age – once the child is able to spit. Non-fluoridated toddler toothpaste may also be used for young children who cannot spit. When toothpaste is used after the age of 2-3, parents should supervise brushing and make sure that the child is only using a pea-sized amount on the brush. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. If not monitored, children may easily swallow over four times the recommended daily amount of fluoride in toothpaste.
Flossing is a very important way to remove plaque, prevent cavities and avoid gum disease. Cavities between baby molars of in school age children are very common. Taking steps to prevent this tooth decay is very important to your child’s health.
Fluoride encourages remineralization (a strengthening of weak areas on the tooth). These areas are the beginning spots of cavity formation. Fluoride is sometimes added in water and in dental products such s toothpaste, mouth rinses, varnish, and supplements. Fluoride is documented to be safe and highly effective if used in the recommended quantities. You only need to use small amounts of fluoride to get the maximum benefit. It is important to keep toothpaste, gel, rinses and other supplements out of reach for your children and only allow them to use those products with your supervision.
Cavities are caused by normal mouth bacteria that produce acid after food is present in the mouth. This acid dissolves the tooth and causes an infection, called tooth decay. Every time you eat, this acid reaction occurs in the mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts about 20 minutes. During this time, the acidic environment can destroy the tooth structure and lead to cavities. Consistency of a person’s saliva can also make a difference. Thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats a diet high in sugar and high carbohydrates, they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn leaves more bacteria that causes cavities.
Primary, or “baby” teeth ARE important for many reasons. Primary teeth help children speak clearly and chew naturally. Also, they help form a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to grow in. This path will help ensure proper positioning of the permanent teeth.
Avoid nursing children to sleep, nighttime feedings, or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle after his or her first tooth erupts. If the bottle has milk in it at night, the child’s teeth will be bathed in the milk which feeds the bacteria that produces acid, causing decay. Do not put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, formula or sweetened liquid.
Thumb sucking and the use of a pacifier are the most common forms of sucking habits that affect the shape of your child’s mouth and alignment of teeth. Sucking habits should be discouraged by 3 years of age. If they are allowed to continue, changes in your child’s bone structure and teeth can cause bite problems and interference of normal tooth position and eruption. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when their permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by the pediatric dentist to help stop the habit.
Make sure of child has a balanced diet that reflects the proper servings each day of fruits & vegetables, breads & cereals, milk & dairy products, mild, fish and eggs. Limit the servings of sugars, such as cookies, candy, soft drinks, and fruit juices. Suggested snack foods include: low-fat yogurt, fruit, peanut butter, popcorn, cheese, carrots, celery, and other raw vegetables. You should also have your child drink water in between meals for good oral health.
As your child switches from the bottle or nursing, you may offer him or her a training, or “sippy”, cup. However, do not let your child constantly sip liquids containing sugar (milk, juices, or soda) because they encourage tooth decay. Only offer these beverages at meal time because chewing food encourages saliva production that will help neutralize acid production. If your child is thirsty between meals, offer water or sugar free liquids such as Crystal Light. Do not let your child carry the sippy cup around, or get in the habit of keeping it in the car or stroller. Again, frequent sips of sugary liquids encourage tooth decay. Also, your child is at risk for trauma if they are allowed to walk around with the cup. Once your child has learned how to sip, they are ready for a regular cup.
Rinse your child’s mouth (or irritated area) with warm salt water. You can place a cold compress on their face if it is swollen. You may also give your child Tylenol or Ibuprofen for pain if needed – follow the manufacturer’s directions or your pediatrician’s directions for proper dosing directions. Do NOT place aspirin on the gums because this will cause a chemical burn.
From 6 months to age 3, your child may have sore gums when teeth erupt. Many children like to use a clean teething ring, cool spoon, or cold wet washcloth to sooth sore gums. You may also offer them a chilled teething ring. Do not use over the counter topical pain relief products such as Ambesol because there is too much of a risk for overdosing and these products do not relieve pain for very long. You can also give your child liquid Tylenol as directed on the manufacturer’s label for fever and pain relief.
First, if your child has any broken bones or other injuries, you should seek immediate medical attention at a hospital emergency room. If the nature of the injury is only dental in nature, the most important thing to remember is to remain calm so you can find the tooth. Once you find it, do not hold the root and do not rinse it off. Hold the tooth by the crown (the big white part you normally see in the mouth) and try to re-insert it into the socket. If it doesn’t go into the socket, do not try to force it. Just place the tooth in a glass of milk or in a container with your child’s saliva covering the tooth and call our office. In order for the tooth to have a good prognosis, your child needs to be seen as soon as possible.
There is only a very small amount of radiation in a dental x-ray, with very little risk involved. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation children are exposed to. We use lead aprons to protect the children and digital x-rays to minimize the amount and time of radiation exposure.
Pediatric dentists can usually give you an idea if your child will need braces by the age of two. When your child’s first permanent teeth erupt (usually by the age of 6), you and the dentist will discuss the need for braces and whether early intervention will be necessary, or they will need to wait until more permanent teeth are in place.