Infant Care FAQs

Learn about infant oral care and help your child toward a healthy smile for life

What Age Should I Start Taking My Child To the Dentist?
Children should start seeing a dentist by AGE 1. By age 1, children already may have several teeth. By starting visits early, most dental problems can be avoided. We notice that children who start coming early to the dentist are the most comfortable at the dentist as they mature.

When can I expect teeth to come in?
Although newborns usually have no visible teeth, they do have a partially developed set of primary/baby teeth which begin to appear as early as six months after birth. Although on average babies begin to show teeth by 6 months of age, there is a wide range in which children can start a normal teething pattern. When the teeth begin erupting, some babies may have sore or tender gums. Although teething was once thought to be responsible for fevers, diarrhea, and rashes, doctors today generally agree that teething by itself does not produce disorders such as these. If your child continues to be cranky or uncomfortable, consult your physician to rule out other potential illnesses.

How does fluoride help to prevent cavities?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral and is one the most effective substances we have today for preventing tooth decay. The use of fluoride to prevent cavities is considered to be one of the most important health advances of the 20th century.

Fluoride works in a number of ways:

  • It incorporates itself into tooth enamel, strengthening teeth against decay
  • It promotes re-mineralization of early decay lesions
  • It helps to reduce the harmful effects of the mouth bacteria that cause cavities

Why do my pediatrician and pediatric dentist recommend fluoride?
If you have well water without fluoride, non-fluoridated town water, or use only bottled water, your child (ages 6 months – 16 years) could benefit from a properly dosed fluoride supplement. Ask your dentist about fluoride supplementation.

Does bottled water have fluoride in it?
Most bottled water brands do not contain fluoride. The brands that contain added fluoride will be labeled.

When should I start using fluoride toothpaste for my toddler?
Using a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when a parent is supervising brushing is safe starting at age 2-3. Fluoride toothpaste helps to strengthen tooth enamel in the mouth and fight the bacteria that cause cavities.

My child sucks his/her thumb OR uses a pacifier. Should I be concerned?
We generally recommend withdrawing the pacifier during infancy to prevent molding and misshaping of the jaw and bite. We suggest you provide gentle encouragement to discontinue finger and thumb-sucking when your child is old enough to understand. Many changes related to finger-sucking will reverse naturally if the habit is discontinued prior to school age.

What is nursing decay, baby bottle tooth decay, or early childhood tooth decay?
These are all a form of early childhood dental decay (cavities) that can destroy the teeth causing pain and infection in an infant or young child. The teeth of a child who either sleeps with a bottle containing sugary liquids or who nurses continually can develop a type of decay that attacks quite rapidly. The bottle may contain milk or breast milk, formula, fruit juice, or other sweetened liquids. The good news is that it is preventable.

What can parents do to prevent early childhood tooth decay?

  • Do not allow infants or young children to fall asleep  with a bottle containing anything but water
  • Avoid frequent “at will” breast-feeding
  • Avoid allowing your toddler to use a bottle or sippy cup between meals containing sweetened liquids, juice, or soda.
  • Begin oral hygiene early. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding. When your child’s teeth erupt, begin brushing them with a wet, soft-bristled toothbrush to help prevent tooth decay.
  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (www.aapd.org) advises the first dental check-up should be by age 1. By starting visits early you can help establish a positive relationship between your child and the dentist and prevent cavities.
  • Check your child’s teeth regularly
  • Share information about preventing early childhood tooth decay with other caregivers who look after your child to provide a consistent approach to good oral health.

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Pediatric Dentistry FAQs

Is it necessary to floss my child’s teeth?
Yes, flossing daily and eliminating sugary/acidic fluids from the diet (soda, juice, Gatorade) can prevent cavities from starting between the back molars. Begin flossing your child’s teeth daily starting around age 3 when the molars come into contact. Ask your dentist about tips on how to help your child floss.

How does fluoride help prevent cavities?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral and is one the most effective substances we have today for preventing tooth decay. The use of fluoride to prevent cavities is considered to be one of the most important health advances of the 20th century.

Fluoride works in a number of ways:

  • It incorporates itself into tooth enamel, strengthening teeth against decay.
  • It promotes re-mineralization of early decay lesions.
  • It helps to reduce the harmful effects of the mouth bacteria that cause cavities.

Why do my pediatrician and pediatric dentist recommend fluoride?
If you have well water without fluoride, non-fluoridated town water, reverse osmosis home filtration systems, or use only bottled water, your child (ages 6 months – 16 years) could benefit from a properly dosed fluoride supplement. Ask your dentist about fluoride supplementation.

Does bottled water have fluoride in it?
Most bottled water brands do not contain fluoride. The brands that contain added fluoride will be labeled.

What are dental sealants?
A sealant is a plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces of the back permanent teeth. This plastic resin bonds and forms a barrier to protect the tooth from bacteria and food particles in deep pits and grooves where the toothbrush cannot reach. Along with proper brushing, flossing, good nutrition, and fluoride, sealants can help prevent cavities from forming.

How are sealants applied?
It takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are prepared with an etching solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel. A curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth’s chewing surface will be protected from decay.

When will my child start losing baby teeth?
The first baby tooth can be lost between the age of 5-7.

When will my child have all his/her permanent teeth?
Although there is an age range, most children will have a full set of permanent teeth by age 11-13.

How will I know if my child will need braces?
Pediatric dentists will evaluate a child’s developing bite at each dental check-up.

Is my teenager a candidate for tooth whitening?
Ask your dentists if tooth whitening is appropriate for your teenager.

When is a sports mouth guard recommended?
Mouth guards are recommended for any contact sports. They are beneficial in minimizing injuries of the teeth. Mouth guards that can be fitted to your child’s mouth are available at most sporting goods stores. Custom fit guards can be made for your child by your pediatric dentist.

Treatment of Cavities in Children
Tell-Show-Do is a method used to explain and prepare children for their dental treatment. First we explain what is to be done. Then we show how it is done, and finally we perform the procedure.

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Orthodontics FAQs

When should treatment start?
If your jaws are not aligned right, or are too big or too small, your orthodontist may start treatment while the jaws are growing. Intervention most often occurs between ages 6-11 and takes about a year. Afterward, your orthodontist will see you regularly for several years to check your adult teeth as they come in.

If your adult teeth are not properly aligned when they come in (ages 11-13), they may need to be straightened. Most children who have Phase I treatment also need additional alignment. This process may take 12-36 months depending upon the complexity of the problem.

What are the benefits of orthodontic treatment?
The benefits of orthodontics can last a lifetime.

  • You’ll have a nicer smile.
  • With better looks, you may have more self-confidence.
  • Your teeth will be easier to take care of. You’ll be less likely to have tooth decay, gum disease, or jaw problems.
  • Your teeth will be less likely to chip or break.

What is involved in treatment?
During treatment, you’ll most likely wear braces, wires, bands and elastics. You may also have other appliances. Clear aligners (Invisaligntm) are also commonly used to align teeth. All of these put pressure on your jaws and teeth to guide them into the right place. Treatment doesn’t work overnight. But most people who have orthodontic treatment think the results are worth it.

What are diagnostic records?
Diagnostic records include x-rays, photographs, and digital impressions made of the teeth. These diagnostic records collectively enable the orthodontist to develop an appropriate treatment plan for the patient.

What is expected of me during treatment?
Like other types of health care, patient cooperation with the directions of the orthodontist are key in determining the length of treatment and the quality of the outcome. Patients cannot sit back and relax and let the braces do all the work for them. In many instances, patients’ cooperation is needed to help make sure the bite is right. Aligned teeth within each jaw will not stay optimally aligned unless the teeth of each jaw fit properly together. Patient compliance with elastic wear, functional appliance wear or headgear wear can be very important in insuring a successful outcome. In addition, you must continue to see your dentist at least every six months for check-ups and professional cleanings.

Proper cleaning of the teeth to remove food debris and plaque is important to prevent cavities, gum disease and permanent scarring of the enamel. Keeping braces from breaking or wires from getting bent will speed treatment. Avoiding hard, sticky, and chewy foods, including ice, will go a long way in preventing broken braces. Pen and pencil chewing should also be avoided.

Can orthodontic treatment do for me what it does for children?
Yes. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Many orthodontic problems can be corrected as easily for adults as for children. Orthodontic forces move the teeth in the same way for both adults and children, but adult treatment may take longer due to the maturity of the bone. Complicating factors, such as lack of jaw growth, may create different treatment planning needs for the adult. This is why a consultation with an orthodontist is essential.

How does adult treatment differ from that of children and adolescents?
Adults are not growing and may have experienced some breakdown or loss of their teeth and the bone that supports the teeth. Orthodontic treatment may then be only a part of the patient’s overall treatment plan. Close coordination may be required among the orthodontist, oral surgeon, periodontist, endodontist and family dentist to assure that the treatment plan is managed well. Below are the most common characteristics that can cause adult treatment to differ from that of children.

Worn, damaged or missing teeth?
Worn, damaged or missing teeth can make orthodontic treatment more difficult. Teeth may gradually wear and move into positions where they can be restored only after precise orthodontic movement. Damaged or broken teeth may not look good or function well even after orthodontic treatment unless they are carefully restored by the patient’s dentist.

I have painful jaw muscles and jaw joints – can an orthodontist help?
One of the problems commonly associated with jaw muscle and jaw joint discomfort is bruxing, that is, habitual grinding or clenching of the teeth, particularly at night. Bruxism is a muscle habit pattern that can cause severe wearing of the teeth, and overloading and trauma to the jaw joint structures. Chronically or acutely sore and painful jaw muscles may accompany the bruxing habit. An orthodontist can help diagnose this problem. Your family dentist or orthodontist may place a bite splint or nightguard appliance that can protect the teeth and help jaw muscles relax, substantially reducing the original pain symptoms. Sometimes structural damage can require joint surgery and/or restoration of damaged teeth.

My family dentist said I need to have some missing teeth replaced, but I need orthodontic treatment first – why?
Your dentist is probably recommending orthodontics so that he or she might treat you in the best manner possible to bring you to optimal dental health. Many complicated tooth restorations, such as crowns, bridges and implants, can be best accomplished when the remaining teeth are properly aligned and the bite is correct. When permanent teeth are lost, it is common for the remaining teeth to drift, tip or shift. This movement can create a poor bite and uneven spacing that cannot be restored properly unless the missing teeth are replaced. Tipped teeth usually need to be straightened so they can withstand normal biting pressures in the future.

My teeth have been crooked for many years – why should I have orthodontic treatment now?
It’s never too late! Orthodontic treatment, when indicated, is a positive step-especially for adults who have endured a long-standing problem. Orthodontic treatment can restore good function. And teeth that work better usually look better, too. A healthy, beautiful smile can improve self-esteem, no matter the age.

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General Dentistry FAQs

Bleaching
Bleaching is a procedure that brightens teeth that are discolored or stained. It can be performed on all types of teeth, even those that have had root canal treatment.

Advantages of Bleaching
Tooth bleaching doesn’t require any tooth structure to be removed, as do some other procedures to whiten teeth, and it’s also the most economical.

Procedures
There are two types of bleaching procedures. Bleaching may be done completely in the dental office (known as chairside bleaching) or a system may be dispensed by the dentist for the patient to use at home (home-use bleaching).

The procedure that is done in the dental office takes one visit of about 2-3 hours. A chemical oxidizing solution is applied to the teeth and may be activated by heat or a combination of heat and light. At home bleaching trays are provided for maintenance of in office whitening.

With home-use bleaching, the dentist makes an impression for a model of your teeth, fabricates a custom-fitted mouthguard and prescribes a bleaching agent that comes in the form of a bleaching gel. The gel is placed in the mouthguard and worn up to two hours daily or at night for one to two weeks. The amount of time the mouthguard is worn and the duration may vary according to your needs and your dentist’s recommendations.

Bonding
Bonding is a procedure in which tooth-colored materials are applied to teeth to correct tooth defects. In many cases, bonding can be used to treat teeth that are fractured or chipped, too widely spaced, malformed, or badly stained. It often provides a simple solution to problems that once would have required the use of extensive techniques such as crowning (also called “capping”).

Bonding can improve the appearance and shape of your teeth, often without extensive drilling. Bonding typically is performed in one appointment, depending on how many teeth require this procedure. Sometimes a follow-up appointment will be scheduled for the final stage of polishing and finishing the restoration.

Veneers
Veneers are thin layers of tooth-colored materials that are designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are fabricated by in one of two ways: bonding materials can be used in the office for a direct technique. Alternatively, porcelain materials can be shaped by a dental technician in a dental laboratory from the impression provided by the dentist in the office. Veneers are used to close gaps or cover teeth that are stained, poorly shaped or slightly crooked. They may last from 3 to 12 years. Placing veneers is often an irreversible process because a small amount of enamel is usually removed to accommodate the thickness of the shell. Once teeth are veneered, they must either be periodically reveneered or crowned if failure occurs or decay develops adjacent to the veneer.

Dental Implants
Implants are an option for tooth replacement; they attach artificial teeth directly to the jaw. There are three components of an implant: the anchor, which may be surgically embedded into the bone; an abutment which attaches to the anchor and which holds the artificial tooth. Implants can replace one or more teeth, provide support for a partial denture, or be used to attach a full denture.

Implants are not an option for everyone. Because the first step in an implant restoration requires surgery, patients must be in good health, have healthy gums, have adequate bone to support the implant and be committed to meticulous oral hygiene and regular dental visits.

Implants provide artificial teeth that look more natural. Many people also report that when they chew, the implants feel more secure and more like natural teeth. People who need one or more teeth replaced, those who cannot successfully use conventional dentures, or those who need an alternative to removable partial dentures may be candidates for implants.

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Special Services FAQs

Do special children have special dental needs?
Most do. Some special children are very susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease or oral trauma. Others require medication or diet detrimental to dental health. Still other children have physical difficulty with effective dental habits at home. The good news is, dental disease is preventable. If dental care is started early and followed conscientiously, every child can enjoy a healthy smile.

How can I prevent dental problems for my special child?
A first dental visit by the first birthday will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health. The pediatric dentist will take a full medical history, gently examine your child’s teeth and gums, then plan preventive care designed for your child’s needs.

Will preventive dentistry benefit my child?
Yes! Your child will benefit from the preventive approach recommended for all children- effective brushing and flossing, moderate snacking, adequate fluoride. Home care takes just minutes a day and prevents needless dental problems. Regular professional cleanings and fluoride treatments are also very beneficial. Sealants in children can prevent tooth decay on the chewing surfaces of molars where four out of five cavities occur.

Are pediatric dentists prepared to care for special children?
Absolutely. Pediatric dentists have two or more years of advanced training beyond dental school. Their education as specialists focuses on care for children with special needs. In addition, pediatric dental offices are designed to be physically accessible for special patients.

Will my child need special care during dental treatment?
Some children need more support than a gentle, caring manner to feel comfortable during dental treatment. Restraint or mild sedation may benefit your special child. If a child needs extensive treatment, the pediatric dentist may provide care at a local hospital. Your pediatric dentist has a comprehensive education in behavior management, sedation and anesthesia techniques. He or she will select a technique based on the specific health needs of your child, then discuss the benefits, limits and risks of that technique with you.

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