Below are some of the most frequently asked questions parents have about pediatric dentistry and oral health issues. If you have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, we would love to hear from you.
Q: When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?
A: In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears or no later than his/her first birthday.
Q: What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
A: Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
Q: Are baby teeth really that important to my child?
A: Primary, or "baby," teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
Q: How can I prevent decay caused by nursing?
A: Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle. Also, learn the proper way to brush and floss your child's teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child's first birthday.
Q: Do I really need to floss my child's teeth?
A: Yes, maybe, depends?
Generally, you do not need to floss your child's teeth until the teeth are touching each other weather they are in the front or the back teeth. Once the teeth are in contact brushing alone is not going to reach the areas in between the teeth.
Brushing our teeth removes food particles, plaque, and bacteria from all tooth surfaces, except in between the teeth. Unfortunately, our toothbrush can’t reach these areas that are highly susceptible to decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.
Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that cause cavities and irritate and inflame the gums. Also, when plaque is not removed above and below the gum line, it hardens and turns into calculus (tartar). This will further irritate and inflame the gums and also slowly destroy the bone. This is the beginning of periodontal disease.
How to floss properly:
- Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gum line. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.
Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss.
Daily flossing will help you keep a healthy, beautiful smile for life!
Q: How do I make my child's diet safe for his teeth?
A: Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children's teeth.
Q: How do I know if my child is getting enough fluoride?
A: Have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child's primary source of drinking water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially if the fluoride level is deficient or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), then your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.
Q: How do dental sealants work?
A: Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.
Q: Are amalgam (silver) fillings safe?
A: Over the years there has been some concern as to the safety of amalgam (silver) fillings. An amalgam is a blend of copper, silver, tin and zinc, bound by elemental mercury. Dentists have used this blended metal to fill teeth for more than 100 years. The controversy is due to claims that the exposure to the vapor and minute particles from the mercury can cause a variety of health problems.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), up to 76% of dentists use silver containing mercury to fill teeth. The ADA also states that silver fillings are safe and that studies have failed to find any link between silver containing mercury and any medical disorder.
The general consensus is that amalgam (silver) fillings are safe. Along with the ADA’s position, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, the FDA, and others support the use of silver fillings as safe, durable, and cost effective. The U.S. Public Health Service says that the only reason not to use silver fillings is when a patient has an allergy to any component of this type of filling. The ADA has had fewer than 100 reported incidents of an allergy to components of silver fillings, and this is out of countless millions of silver fillings over the decades.
Although studies indicate that there are no measurable health risks to patients who have silver fillings, we do know that mercury is a toxic material when we are exposed at high, unsafe levels. For instance, we have been warned to limit the consumption of certain types of fish that carry high levels of mercury in them. However, with respect to amalgam fillings, the ADA maintains that when the mercury combines with the other components of the filling, it becomes an inactive substance that is safe.
There are numerous options to silver fillings, including composite (tooth-colored), porcelain, and gold fillings. We encourage you to discuss these options with your dentist so you can determine what the best option for you is.
Q: How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
A: You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:
- Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
- Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
- Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
- Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
- Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
- Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
- Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
- Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
- Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health.
As you can see, a good dental exam and cleaning involves quite a lot more than just checking for cavities and polishing your teeth. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care, and to do so will require regular check-ups and cleanings.