Pediatric Dentistry FAQ

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

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. Each stage of a child’s life (toddler, adolescents, and teenagers) requires different approaches in dealing with their behavior, guiding them through their dental growth and development, and helping them to avoid future dental problems. A pediatric dentist is uniquely trained and qualified to care for your child through each of these stages.

When should I bring my baby in to see the pediatric dentist?

Children are susceptible to dental decay as soon as the first baby teeth appear (around the age of six months). The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child have his/her first dental checkup by 1 year of age. By bringing your child to our office at a young age, he/she will become comfortable visiting our pediatric dental office, and you will be teaching your child good dental habits at an early age.

How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a check-up every six months to prevent cavities and other dental diseases. At each check-up, we will review your child’s growth and development and have recommendations specific to your child’s age and level of development.
When will my baby start getting teeth?

Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, can be different among individual babies. Generally, the first baby teeth to appear are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and they usually begin erupting between 6-8 months of age.
Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

Primary, or “baby,” teeth are very important for:

  • Proper chewing and good nutrition
  • Speech development
  • Providing space for the permanent teeth, and guiding them into the correct position
  • Allowing normal development of the jaw bones and muscles
  • Building self-esteem and confidence in your child

Neglected cavities on baby teeth can and frequently do lead to problems that affect developing permanent teeth. If baby teeth are lost early, the erupting adult teeth can shift, resulting in an irregular bite that could require additional treatment. If primary teeth are kept healthy until they’re ready to fall out on their own, there is a better chance of the adult teeth erupting in normal alignment.
How can I help my child prevent cavities?

When certain bacteria in our mouths come into contact with the sugars left on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the tooth structure, weakening the enamel and causing a hole in the tooth, which we call cavities.

Parents can help their children prevent cavities by:

  • Brushing twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush. Children under two should be using a non-fluoridated toothpaste, and can transition to a fluoride toothpaste once the child can rinse and spit. Help your child with this process until he/she is about 7 or 8 years old.
  • Flossing daily helps remove food particles from between the teeth that cannot be achieved by brushing alone. Disposable flossers found at your local drugstore can be easier to use in a child’s mouth.
  • A healthy and well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheeses. Try to limit sugary and sticky snacks (like candy and juices) to special occasions.
  • Avoid sending your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk, formula, or juice. The sugars from these liquids can sit on the teeth all night, maximizing the risk of getting cavities. Allow your child to have one last drink before bedtime, and then brush the teeth.
  • Making regular appointments to see the pediatric dentist. At these appointments, we will provide checkups and professional cleanings, and make recommendations, such as fluoride and sealants to help your child prevent cavities.

All these steps will help your child achieve a healthy smile that will last a lifetime!

How do I make my child’s diet safe for his teeth?

A child’s overall health is directly linked to his/her oral health. Therefore, providing your child with a well-balanced and nourishing diet is more likely to lead to a healthy smile. The nutrients from a good diet are necessary for gum tissue development, building strong bones and teeth, and protecting the child against certain illnesses. We recommend one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars, starches, and sticky foods will also help to protect your child’s teeth from decay. Also, give your child plenty of water to drink at mealtimes (instead of soda or juice) to help rinse away food particles off the teeth.

How does fluoride help my child’s teeth?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance that is safe and effective when used appropriately. Fluoride works in several ways. It makes your child’s teeth stronger against acid attacks, repairs early tooth decay, and affects the actual bacteria that cause cavities.

Fluoride comes in two forms: topical and systemic

  • Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through a public water supply. While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth structure, making the tooth enamel, stronger and more resistant to cavities.
  • Fluoride can also be topically applied to help prevent cavities on teeth. It is a key ingredient in many brands of toothpaste, oral gels, and mouthwashes used at home. Fluoride can also be professionally applied at the pediatric dentist’s office in the form of gels and varnishes, and is a valuable tool in preventing cavities.

When used correctly, fluoride is very effective in preventing and even reversing the early signs of dental decay. The most important thing about fluoride treatment is proper dosage! Too little fluoride will not help your child’s teeth become cavity-resistant. On the other hand, overconsumption of fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis, a condition that can cause discoloration and damage to your child’s permanent teeth. The pediatric dentist is able to monitor fluoride levels, and check that children are receiving the appropriate amount.

Children under the age of two should use an ADA-approved, non-fluoridated brand of toothpaste. Once your child is able to rinse and spit (usually between 2 to 5 years of age), you can transition him/her to using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on a clean toothbrush twice daily.

Is it safe to have x-rays taken?

Radiographs (x-rays) are an essential part of your child’s dental checkup. X-rays allow the pediatric dentist to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a visual clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.

Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. In addition, dentists take necessary precautions, such as lead aprons and high-speed film, to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental x-rays. Our office uses a digital x-ray system, which supplies less radiation than conventional x-rays.

The need for dental x-rays is based on each patient’s individual dental health needs. The pediatric dentist will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for diseases.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

Sealants are clear or white plastic coatings applied to the teeth to help prevent cavities. Sealants work by covering the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, which are often difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to cavities. This “seals” out food particles that could potentially get caught in the teeth. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.

What should I do if my child sucks his thumb or uses a pacifier?

A large majority of infants have thumb or pacifier habits, which can provide a sense of security for the child. Most children outgrow this habit, without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. Prolonged habits, however, can cause jaw misalignment, shifting of teeth, bite problems, and even mouth sores. It is recommended for the child to stop habits by the age of 3. If the habit continues when the front permanent teeth erupt, the pediatric dentist may recommend a type of dental appliance to assist in stopping the habit.

Here are some suggestions that may help your child stop his/her sucking habits:
  • Always be positive and supportive. Give praise your child when he/she is not sucking, and avoid scolding or punishing them when he/she is sucking.
  • Gently remind your child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or placing a sock or mitten on their hand at night
  • Create a reward system where the child can earn prizes for not thumb sucking or using the pacifier
Helpful books for stopping a dental habit:
  • “Harold’s Hideaway Thumb” by Harriet Sonnenschein
  • “Helping the Thumb Sucking Child” by Rosemary Van Norman
  • “David Decides about Thumbsucking: A Story for Children, A Guide for Parents” by Susan Heitler, Ph.D.

Remember, the breaking of a habit takes time, patience, and plenty of encouragement!

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, refers to excessive grinding of the teeth and/or excessive clenching of the jaw. This is common in children, and often occurs at night when your child is sleeping. Possible causes of teeth grinding in children include irritation in the mouth, inner ear pressure, allergies, and stress. Luckily, most children usually grow out of bruxism by age ten without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. However, if excessive wear of the permanent teeth is present, your child’s dentist may recommend wearing a nightguard.

What can I do to protect my child’s teeth during sporting events?

Oral injuries are common when your child is playing various types of sport activities. An athletic mouthguard is a flexible appliance made out of plastic that is worn by your child while playing sports to protect their smile. Wearing a mouthguard can help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to your child’s lips, tongue, face, or jaw from sport-related injuries. A properly fitted mouthguard will stay in place when your child is wearing it, allowing him/her to talk and breathe easily.

When should my child see an orthodontist?

Orthodontic treatment is primarily used to prevent and correct “bite” irregularities. These bite issues can be caused by genetic factors, early loss of baby teeth, and prolonged oral habits (thumb sucking or pacifier use). Often times, orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected at an early age, before the jaws have completed growing. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. Early treatment may mean that your child can avoid possible surgery and more extensive orthodontic complications in the future.

During routine dental checkups, Dr. Rahman will monitor your child’s teeth for any orthodontic issues, and if necessary, make recommendations for early intervention strategies.

Stage I

Early Treatment (2-6 years of age): At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the early loss of baby teeth, and harmful oral
habits such as finger or thumb sucking. Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II

Mixed Dentition (6-12 years of age): Treatment during this stage deals with discrepancies in jaw relationships and dental realignment problems. This is an excellent stage to start treatment, when indicated, as your child’s hard and soft tissues are usually very pliable and responsive to orthodontic forces.

Stage III

Adolescent Dentition (13+ years): This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship. The main goals of orthodontic treatment during this stage include straightening the permanent teeth, and improving the esthetic appearance of the smile.