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?

I recommend that you make an appointment to see me as soon as your child gets his or her 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.

What happens during my child’s first visit?

The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, I focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. I will check your son or daughter’s teeth for placement and health, and will look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw.

If necessary, I may do a bit of cleaning. I will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your little one’s teeth as they develop. 

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

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

Let your son or daughter know that it’s important to keep the teeth and gums healthy, and that I will help to do that. Remember that I am specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and my staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

I generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, I 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 son or daughter’s first teeth play an important role in development. While they’re in place, these 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. Your baby’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, I 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 children have a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under two, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children.

Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing, to begin a lifelong habit that he or she will need after graduating to fluoride toothpaste. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, but swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain.

You should brush your children’s teeth for them until they are ready to take on that responsibility themselves.

What causes cavities?

Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, and eventually eat through the enamel and create holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Make sure that your children brush their 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, but flossing is difficult for young ones.

Check with your pediatrician about a fluoride supplement that helps tooth enamel become harder and more resistant to decay. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so I can check the health of your son or daughter’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. I recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child 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, so I recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask me 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. 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 if he or she sucks aggressively, let me know and I can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.

When should my child have dental X-rays taken?

I 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, mostly every six months) X-rays are recommended. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and X-rays help me 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, I may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.

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