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?
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.
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. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Seidman 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.
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 little one and giving you some basic information about dental care. Dr. Seidman will check your youngster’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.
How can I prepare my child for the first dental appointment?
The best preparation for your son or daughter’s first visit to our office is to maintain a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, so if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure that your child will anticipate an unpleasant experience and act accordingly.
Show your little one the pictures of the office and staff on the website. Let him or her know it’s important to keep teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor will help to do that. Remember that Dr. Seidman 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 checkups 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, our first teeth play an important role in development. While they’re in place, 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.
What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean the gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as the first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a brush 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 youngster has a few teeth, you can start applying toothpaste to the brush. Use only a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) during 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 child’s teeth until he or she is ready to take on that responsibility, which usually happens by age six or seven.
What causes cavities?
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. 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 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 pediatric 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.
Does my child need dental sealants?
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 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 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. 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.
When should my child have dental X-rays taken?
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 familiarize your child with the process.
Once the baby teeth in the 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 little one is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.
Braces for children
Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age eight or nine. Phase Two will begin around age 11 or older. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, which lessens the chance of extractions in the future.
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (your youngster should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues to suck his or her thumb after age five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight