Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of young people. After completing a four-year dental school curriculum, two to three additional years of rigorous training are required to become a pediatric dentist. This specialized program of study and hands-on experience prepares pediatric dentists to meet the needs of infants, children and adolescents, including persons with special health care needs.
We are concerned about your child's total health care. Good oral health is an important part of total health. Establishing us as your child's Dental Home provides us the opportunity to implement preventive dental health habits that keep a child free from dental/oral disease. We focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases, and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children.
Pleasant visits to the dental office promote the establishment of trust and confidence in your child that will last a lifetime. Our goal, along with our staff, is to help all children feel good about visiting the dentist and teach them how to care for their teeth. From our special office designs to our communication style, our main concern is what is best for your child.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Four things are necessary for cavities to form: 1) a tooth; 2) bacteria; 3) sugars or other carbohydrates; and 4) time. We can share with you how to make teeth strong, keep bacteria from organizing into harmful colonies, develop healthy eating habits, and understand the role that time plays. Remember dental decay is an infection of the tooth. Visiting us early can help avoid unnecessary cavities and dental treatment.
The pediatric dental community is continually doing research to develop new techniques for preventing dental decay and other forms of oral disease. Studies show that children with poor oral health have decreased school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain from decayed teeth are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.
Importance of Primary Teeth (Baby Teeth)
It is very important that primary teeth are kept in place until they are lost naturally. These teeth serve a number of critical functions. Primary teeth:
- Maintain good nutrition by permitting your child to chew properly.
- Are involved in speech development.
- Help the permanent teeth by saving space for them. A healthy smile can help children feel good about the way they look to others.
Infants and Children
Getting an early start in regular dental care is an important step on the road to teaching your child healthy lifetime habits. We want to share with you the latest available methods for keeping your child healthy and safe.
The first dental visit should occur shortly after the first tooth erupts and no later than the childs first birthday. Beginning tooth and mouth examinations early may lead to detection of early stages of tooth decay that can be easily treated. At the first visit we will present:
- A program of preventive home care including brushing, flossing, diet and the importance of fluorides.
- A caries risk assessment.
- Information about Early Childhood Caries, which may be due to inappropriate nursing habits or inappropriate use of sippy cups.
- The latest facts about finger, thumb and pacifier habits.
- What you need to know about preventing injuries to the mouth and teeth.
- Information on growth and development.
Adolescents have special needs. Appearance and self-image are very important to them. Decayed or poorly positioned teeth or jaws might make them more self-conscious. Teens also eat frequently, and unhealthy snack foods tend to become a major part of their regular diet. We provide a professional, sensitive and caring approach to restoring and guiding teeth, and teaching preventive dental health care through the teen's high school years. When necessary, we will provide information on sealants, oral piercing, wisdom teeth, missing teeth and tobacco use.
Young People with Special Needs
An integral part of our education is concerned with the medical and dental health of the special patient. People with significant medical, physical, or mental disabilities often present challenges to dentists. Our training allows us to address their special needs and provide the best care possible.
Team Approach to Total Health
Good oral health is an important part of total health. When helping children, we often work with pediatricians, other physicians and dental specialists. All young people are served best through this team approach. We, the pediatric dentists, are an important part of your child's health team.
What is a Pediatric Dentist?
The pediatric dentist has an extra two years of specialized training and is dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teenage years. The very young, pre-teens, and teenagers all need different approaches in dealing with their behavior, guiding their dental growth and development, and helping them avoid future dental problems. The pediatric dentist is best qualified to meet these needs.
When Should I Bring My Child to the Dentist?
Your child should visit the dentist by his/her 1st birthday. You can make the first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. Your child should be informed of the visit and told that the dentist and his staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions. Tell the child that we are gentle caring people.
It is best if you refrain from using words around your child that might cause unnecessary fear, such as needle, pull, drill or hurt. Pediatric dental offices make a practice of using words that convey the same message, but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.
When Will My Child get Teeth?
Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth early and some get them late. In general the first baby teeth are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and usually begin erupting between the age of 6-8 months.
Children's teeth begin forming before birth. As early as 4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies.
Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21.
Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or 32 if the wisdom teeth erupt.
Can Babies get Cavities?
One serious form of decay among young children is "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay". This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child's teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.
After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child's head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child's mouth easily.
Why Are The Primary Teeth So Important?
It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth, or baby-teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren't replaced until age 10-13.
How Should I Care For My Child's Teeth?
Begin daily brushing as soon as the child's first tooth erupts. A pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used after the child is old enough not to swallow it. We ask parents to help with at least one brushing a day until age six and then supervise until the child does a thorough job. However, each child is different. Your dentist can help you determine whether the child has the skill level to brush properly.
Proper brushing removes plaque from the inner, outer and chewing surfaces. When teaching children to brush, place toothbrush at a 45 degree angle; start along gum line with a soft bristle brush in a gentle circular motion. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
Flossing removes plaque between the teeth where a toothbrush can't reach. Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch. Floss sticks provide an easy way to remove plaque on small children's teeth. Help your child floss until he or she can do it alone. If possible, floss between the back teeth and then come forward. If using the string floss, start with about 18 inches, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss lightly between the thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape and slide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth. Repeat this procedure on each tooth. Don't forget the backs of the last four teeth.
How Do I Prevent Cavities?
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends six month visits to the pediatric dentist beginning at your child's first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health. Your pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child's molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
What is a Good Diet for Healthy Teeth?
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Sticky snacks, such as fruit rolls, gummy bears, granola bars and raisins are harmful to the teeth. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese which are healthier and better for children's teeth.
Why Do You Take Dental X-Rays?
Radiographs (X-Rays) are a vital and necessary part of your child's dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.
X-Ray's detect much more than cavities. For example, X-Rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. X-Rays allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends X-rays and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay. On average, most pediatric dentists request radiographs approximately once a year. Approximately every 3 years it is a good idea to obtain a complete set of radiographs, either a panoramic and bitewings or periapicals and bitewings.
Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray is extremely small. The risk is negligible. In fact, the dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Lead body aprons and shields will protect your child. Today's equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film and proper shielding assure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.
What is a Sealant?
A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.
How Do You Handle the Fearful Child?
Our staff is trained to make your child's visit fun and enjoyable. With tender loving care and respect for your child's own rhythm we encourage the child to watch one of our stuffed animals have an appointment. Then we give your child oral hygiene instructions and explain to the child how the we count teeth. We explain how our dental "tools" are used as well. When the child feels relaxed and ready we proceed with the appointment.
What if there are Two Teeth for One Spot?
Occasionally the permanent tooth begins to erupt before the baby tooth falls out. Encourage your child to wiggle out the baby tooth. If the permanent tooth is more than half way in, the child may need help in getting the tooth out. Please call our office for an appointment.
What Should I Do in a Dental Emergency?
Toothache: Clean the area of the affected tooth thoroughly. Rinse the mouth vigorously with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge impacted food or debris. DO NOT place aspirin on the gum or on the aching tooth. If face is swollen apply cold compresses. Take the child to a dentist.
Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek: Apply ice to bruised areas. If there is bleeding apply firm but gentle pressure with a gauze or cloth. If bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes or it cannot be controlled by simple pressure, take your child to the hospital emergency room.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth: Find the tooth. Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root portion. You may rinse the tooth but DO NOT clean or handle the tooth unnecessarily. Inspect the tooth for fractures. If it is sound, try to reinsert it in the socket. Have the patient hold the tooth in place by biting on gauze. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, transport the tooth in a cup containing the patient's saliva or milk. The tooth may also be carried in the patient's mouth. The patient must see a dentist IMMEDIATELY! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.
What is Fluoride? Is it Beneficial?
Fluoride is an element, which has been shown to be beneficial to teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. Little or no fluoride will not strengthen the teeth to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a chalky white to even brown discoloration of the enamel.
Fluoride when applied topically either as a gel, paste or rinse helps strengthen the teeth present in the mouth. Fluoride taken systemically or the food, water or tablets helps strengthen the crystals of the teeth forming in the jaw.
What's the Best Toothpaste for my Child?
Toothbrushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. When looking for a toothpaste for your child make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use. Use a "pea size" amount of toothpaste and have your child spit after brushing.
Does Your Child Grind His Teeth At Night? (Bruxism)
Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (Bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. Theories for the cause of grinding are stress, allergies or ear problems. One third of all children grind their teeth.