We recommend that you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets his first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be seen within 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?
Pediatric dentists begin by completing dental school and continue their education with two years of additional, specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Webb and Dr. Reddy gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and bring to each patient 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.
All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) begin by completing dental school and continue their education with several years of additional, specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, your doctor gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and bring to each patient 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.
The first visit is usually short and simple–don’t worry if you don’t think your little one will be cooperative. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some helpful information about oral hygiene, home care, and a healthy diet. The doctor will check your child’s teeth for placement and health, and apply a professional strength fluoride treatment if you desire. If behavior permits, we may do a bit of cleaning and, starting around age five, get some diagnostic x-rays. We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child’s teeth as they develop, discuss upcoming dental milestones, and offer advice for dealing with any dental trauma.
The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is maintaining a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, your child may expect an unpleasant experience and act accordingly. Show your child the pictures of the office and staff on the website. If you receive a new patient packet, familiarize your child with the materials we send you: a glove, a mirror, a tooth polisher. Let your child know that it’s important to keep his teeth and gums healthy, and that the friendly doctor will help him do that. Remember that your dentist is specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment. We’re also not above bribes–we reward every child with a prize, a sticker, and a balloon animal.
We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.
Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s baby teeth play an important role in his or her development. Baby 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 baby tooth too early (due to damage or decay) nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in future orthodontic issues or misplaced permanent teeth. Also, your child’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as his first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You can most likely find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore.
In 2014 the ADA updated its guidelines for infants and toddlers, recommending parents brush baby teeth twice a day with a tiny smear (no larger than a grain of rice) of fluoride-containing toothpaste as soon as they erupt. There is no need to wait until a child is older as long as the correct amount of toothpaste is used. After three years of age or when your child is able to expectorate, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste can be used. You should help your child brush his teeth until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age seven or eight.
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria 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, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
Be sure that your child brushes his teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can’t. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child’s teeth and provide professional cleanings.
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.
Even children’s sports involve contact, and we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other contact sports, we recommend using a sports mouth guard available at many sporting goods stores. If your child has no more baby teeth left, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect his or her teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
A large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it without causing any permanent damage to the teeth or bite. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, we can help with some ideas to help your child stop this habit and hopefully avoid the problems that can arise from prolonged thumb or finger sucking.
Dental X-rays are a critical tool in diagnosing oral problems that cannot be seen with a visual exam. The need for dental X-rays varies with your child’s oral health and development. If your child has had many cavities and fillings or is at higher risk of tooth decay, we may recommend x-rays as often as every 6-12 months, in accordance with the guidelines of the American Dental Association. If your child is at low risk, cavity-detecting X-rays may not be needed as frequently.