Little mouths are a BIG Deal!
Good oral health and a lifetime of healthy habits begin even before your child’s first teeth arrive. Tooth Docs Dental pediatric dental team is focused on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral health in children infancy through young adulthood. Led by Dr. Diba, Tooth Docs Dental’s pediatric dentists and technicians will care for your child’s teeth and gums as they grow-up.
Children shouldn’t be afraid of their pediatric dentist, but we know that the unknown can be scary, particularly for a toddler. That is why it is essential to find a pediatric dentist who is both gentle and understanding, as well as provides children with a simple and comforting explanation for every technique and treatment they use.
It’s important to make your child’s dental visit as stress-free (for you and them!) as possible, so please come in and meet our team before your child’s first visit!
Understanding Teething and Baby Teeth
Primary teeth, more commonly called baby teeth, will typically come in starting at around age six months and will continue and off until three years of age. This time can be difficult for both the child and parents as soreness of the gums can cause understandable crankiness in your little one. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the pain. Try running cold water over a washcloth and rubbing the cold cloth on the sore area. Teething rings, cold or not, can also be used. When all is said, and done, your preschooler should have 20 primary teeth.
Baby teeth will typically become loose and fall out on their own with the first permanent tooth starting as early as five and a half. By 12 years old, all your teeth are in except for the third molars (wisdom teeth) which erupt at around age 21. Once the wisdom teeth have erupted, the teeth total in the average adult will be 32.
Demonstrating and Encouraging Healthy Dental Hygiene
Proper dental hygiene starts at birth. From the very beginning, infants should have their gums gently rubbed by a warm cloth or a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean the area after feedings. Once the child’s teeth start to erupt, begin brushing the teeth a minimum of once per day and gradually increasing until your child is brushing after every meal. Check each tooth on a regular basis for signs of decay such as discoloration and, if you see anything out of the ordinary, make an appointment immediately.
Many babies and toddlers enjoy tooth brushing time. Most drug stores have infant and toddler toothbrushes that have fun colors and characters on them to make brushing a fun activity. Make sure that you continue to help your child with brushing until they have mastered the practice and are able to do so thoroughly without assistance.
Just like adults, children should floss as well. Flossing is a slightly more complicated aspect of dental hygiene and, if you are unsure how to properly teach flossing to your child, allow Dr. Diba to show you and your child at your next visit.
The Role of the Pediatric Dentist
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), children should begin seeing a dentist as soon as their first teeth erupt. We recommend you bring your child in for their first visit by around age one to one and a half. Ensuring that they develop the right brushing and flossing habits and receive regular dental checkups from a young age will greatly reduce the occurrence of future cavities, gum disease, and other issues.
Having healthy brushing and flossing habits are important, but they certainly don’t replace the need to visit the dentist on a regular basis. It is recommended that your child receive a dental cleaning and general checkup once every 6 months. Other common procedures might also include fluoride treatments to increase tooth strength as well as dental sealants which are used to prevent decay on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
Infant Oral Care
From your baby’s first days, clean the gums with a wet washcloth after each feeding to keep the mouth free of breastmilk and formula residue.
Babies should not be put to sleep with a bottle. Doing so can lead to decay/cavities, which are often medically referred to as nursing caries, bottle caries, and rampant caries. If you must put your child down with a bottle, please try using only water.
Once the first tooth erupts, your Tooth Docs Dental pediatric specialist will suggest a soft-bristle toothbrush and non-fluoride toothpaste. Remember that fluoride toothpaste should not be swallowed, so use non-fluoride toothpaste until your child is able to spit out the toothpaste after each brushing. At our practice, we take great care in providing your baby not only with a thorough examination but with a positive experience as well.
While it is true that baby teeth will eventually fall out to make way for the adult tooth, baby teeth are very important. Cavities and infection of the baby teeth can affect the developing permanent teeth. Baby teeth also serve as placeholders for the adult teeth and the loss of a baby tooth before the proper time can result in the shifting of the other baby teeth, making it difficult for the adult teeth to properly erupt. Baby teeth also allow your child to chew and speak clearly.
As toddlers, children learn from example. Brushing and flossing your teeth as well as teaching them to care more about their own oral habits can help them for a lifetime. If you are unsure how to care for your child’s teeth or your own, give us a call or ask any questions you have during your next visit.
Thumb sucking and the use of a pacifier are both common in infants. Pacifiers should generally not be used past the age of two. Any longer and your child may develop problems. Thumb sucking is a big cause for concern in toddlers and should be addressed. If your child consistently or aggressively sucks his thumb, it may be necessary to actively wean him or her off the habit. Dr. Diba is experienced with guiding concerned parents and their children through this process.
Once your child’s adult teeth begin to come in, we often recommend the use of dental sealants. These sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars to help prevent decay and cavities. Regular brushing and flossing should become part of the everyday routine.
By the age of seven, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that each child receive what is referred to as an orthodontic screening. The purpose of the screening is to identify any causes for concern and address them before your child grows any older and the problem more severe.
During the teenage years, cavities become increasingly likely largely due to a change in diet. Teenagers will typically consume more sugary and starchy foods than infants and young children. These foods contain acids that lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay. Pre-teens and teenagers are also far more likely to require orthodontic treatments such as braces or Invisalign. During this time in your child’s life, you can begin to see whether they have developed good oral hygiene habits or not, and any problems can be addressed before they become severe.
If your child plays any sports, talk with us about a custom mouth guard. These devices can go a long way toward preventing dental and facial injury.
As your child becomes a young adult, you should see the results of good early oral hygiene habits. Your hard work and diligence will prove to be worth it!
The young adult years see the eruption of the wisdom tooth, usually between the ages of 16 and 20. Oftentimes, the mouth simply does not have the room to house these teeth, leading them to become impacted, or partially erupted. If this occurs, the wisdom teeth are often extracted.
Adults are also more likely to develop gum disease which is the leading cause of tooth loss. Signs of gum disease include red and easily bleeding gums, pockets between the gums, and loose teeth. Any of these symptoms merits a visit to our office right away.
PEDIATRIC DENTAL FAQS
At what age should my child begin seeing a dentist?
We usually recommend you schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist at around age one to one and a half.
How often should my child visit a pediatric dentist?
Just like adults, children should visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and to check for any decay or other problems. Doing so will also significantly reduce the likelihood that your child will develop a cavity. If an issue is found, you may need to bring your child in more frequently.
What should I use to brush my infant’s teeth?
Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush with a smaller head or find one that is specifically made for baby teeth. They can be found at most drug stores and can go a long way to preventing tartar and plaque buildup and decay.
How many times a day should I brush my baby’s teeth?
Infants should have their teeth cleaned a minimum of once per day, right before going to bed. Ideally, however, you will be brushing your child’s teeth twice each day.
When should I start using toothpaste on my child’s toothbrush?
It is never too soon to start using toothpaste with your child. From day one, you should clean your newborn’s gums with a wet washcloth or with an infant toothbrush. Once the teeth start to erupt, use an appropriate toothbrush twice a day along with a non-fluoride training toothpaste until your child can reliably spit after brushing rather than swallowing. Use only a small amount of toothpaste to minimize swallowing. From 2 until the age of 5, use the standard pea sized amount and supervise your child so that you ensure that they are brushing properly. Make sure that they spit out the excess toothpaste and rinse thoroughly after each brushing session.
How does a family dentist differ from a pediatric dentist?
Family dentists treat all members of the family regardless of age. Pediatric dentists, however, only provide dental care to children and receive between two and three years of additional training after dental school in caring for children’s specific dental needs. Pediatric dentists will provide both general and specialty dental care for children from infancy through puberty.
How can I prevent my child from developing tooth decay due to nursing?
Try to avoid nursing your baby to sleep. If the baby must be put to bed with a bottle, only provide water. You should also make sure to learn how to care for your child’s teeth properly. Flossing and brushing at least once per day can keep away plaque and decay. Lastly, take your child to a pediatric dentist to make sure that the gums and teeth are healthy and developing normally.
Will my baby experience lasting damage due to pacifiers or thumb sucking?
For the most part, infants and toddlers will not develop any lasting problems because of pacifier use or thumb sucking. However, pediatric dentists may become concerned if these practices continue past the third birthday and the child shows no sign of stopping. In this case, the dentist may recommend the use of an appliance to help break the habit.
Are my child’s baby teeth really that important?
Absolutely, they are. For one, the health and placement of the baby teeth can have a significant impact on your child’s ability to both speak as well as chew their food. They also serve as a bookmark for the permanent teeth that will erupt later. Any significant damage to the baby teeth can affect the developing permanent teeth.
How will my child’s diet affect the health of their teeth?
Try to limit the amount of starchy and sugary foods and juice that your child consumes. These foods have been linked to an increased risk of decay. On the other hand, a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, eggs, fish, and meat can keep away tooth decay as well as keep your child happy and healthy. Remember also that the eating habits you impart early on will likely be a part of who they are for a lifetime.
How can I treat my child’s toothache myself?
If your child comes to you complaining about a toothache, try to get them to identify which tooth or area of the mouth is troubling them. Then, rinse the mouth with warm water mixed with salt and use a cold washcloth to reduce swelling. Some children’s acetaminophen can then be administered to relieve any pain your child might be feeling. Make an appointment to visit the pediatric dentist as soon as possible to rule out any serious causes.
Is my child getting the proper amount of fluoride?
It’s best to speak with your dentist about specific concerns. Fluoride has been proven to help prevent cavities, however, too much fluoride can be a problem. Fluoride is added to the drinking water of all five NYC boroughs, but it is not added in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Fluoride should not be in bottled water unless the label specifically says it is added.
What is the purpose of dental sealant?
When a person chews, food particles naturally become trapped in the tooth’s nooks and crannies. Sealants are used to fill in the tooth’s chewing surface to prevent decay and cavities caused by food. Sealants are easy and painless to apply to children’s teeth.
Are dental X-rays safe?
Fortunately, there are very few risks associated with x-rays. When children require x-rays, pediatric dentists will take particular care to reduce the radiation using high-speed film and lead aprons.
How can I reduce the risk that my child will lose a tooth or experience another form of dental injury during a sporting event or other physical activity?
Most sporting goods stores sell plastic mouth guards that you boil in water to soften and bite into to form a protective guard. These can help to protect the checks, gums, lips, and teeth from injury. However, if your child participates in several sports and requires a mouth guard on a regular basis, you should think about having your pediatric dentist develop a custom-made mouthpiece. These mouth guards will mold perfectly to the teeth, stay in place during the rowdiest of events, and protect your child from sustaining serious injury to the head, face, and teeth.
What actions should I take if my child has an accident that knocks out an adult tooth?
When a child falls, and loses a permanent tooth, your first reaction may very well be to panic. Try to stay calm and to comfort your child. Call your pediatric dentist for an emergency appointment. Find the missing tooth and, while holding the crown, attempt to place it back into its proper location. If you are not able to do this, put the tooth in milk and bring with you to the appointment.
Why does my child have two rows of teeth; they look like “shark teeth”?
This “shark teeth” look is most commonly caused by over-retained baby teeth. If the permanent teeth have already erupted and the baby teeth have not yet fallen out, you should come in to our office for an examination and likely removal of the baby teeth.
PEDIATRIC DENTAL EMERGENCIES
Children are adventurous and ever-curious. This is an essential part of the growing process but the results aren’t always pleasant. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, your child can take a tumble leading to an injury that requires emergency pediatric dental care.
If your child has experienced any of the following dental emergencies, contact us immediately and we will devote all our attention to fixing the problem and getting your child safely back on the playground.
Object Lodged in the Teeth
The most common dental complaint in children usually arises from some food or another object stuck between the teeth. It can usually be resolved with a simple flossing. Make sure that you only use floss and not a sharp tool made of metal or plastic. If gentle flossing doesn’t do the trick, call us for an appointment. To prevent the occurrence of stuck food, avoid giving your child hard foods such as popcorn kernels.
Bitten Tongue or Lip
We all do this from time to time while eating. Most of the time the wound will heal on its own within a few short minutes. However, sometimes a bite can be severe enough to cause significant bleeding. If this occurs, wet a washcloth with cold water and place on the area. This will help to stop the bleeding as well as reduce swelling. In the event of a serious bite, contact us for an appointment and we will determine if additional treatment is required.
Toothaches can have several causes so it is crucial to schedule an immediate appointment with us so that we can determine the source of the pain. In the meantime, rinse the mouth with warm salty water and apply a cold washcloth to the painful area to reduce swelling. You can also give your child some acetaminophen to reduce pain and swelling. Remember, brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits can go a long way to preventing toothaches.
Now a tooth may become loose because it is its naturally time to fall out. Assuming we are talking about an abnormally loose tooth, the most important thing is to not wiggle it. Wiggling a loose tooth can only make it looser. Try to protect the tooth and eat soft foods until you can see a dentist.
If your child takes a fall or hits his head against a hard object causing a tooth to chip or fracture, schedule an emergency dental appointment with us right away. Rinse the mouth with warm salt water to decrease the risk of infection and bring the missing piece of tooth, if any, with you to our office.
If some rowdy playing or another accident leads to a tooth becoming knocked-out of the mouth, rinse the tooth with warm water and attempt to replace the tooth while touching only the crown. If you are unable to return the tooth to the socket, place in a milk-filled container and bring to us. If proper treatments are sought immediately, it might be possible to save your child’s adult tooth. In the event of avulsed teeth, where the alveolar bone is knocked-out along with the tooth itself, the child will require a root canal due to the damaged tissue and nerves in the area. Adult teeth are the only teeth that will be reinserted. If the tooth that was knocked-out was a baby tooth, still schedule an appointment with us so that we can make sure that the tooth was completely removed and that there are no lingering tooth fragments.
Broken jaws are often indicative of another potential trauma as well. Immediately place a cold washcloth on the area and call 911 or our emergency number. Blows to the head, which are the most likely cause of the broken jaw, can also lead to concussions and other potentially life-threatening issues. If your child is very active and participates in sports, talk to us about custom mouth guards that can prevent a myriad of dental and facial injuries.