Child Dentistry

Your child’s first visit

The American Dental Association recommends that a child’s first dental visit occur within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than your child’s first birthday. The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. We may ask you to sit in the dental chair and hold your child during the examination. Often times for a child one year of age or younger, the child will not cooperate enough to do a comprehensive exam and we will focus more on nutritional and dental counseling. Do not wait to schedule an initial visit if your child has trauma to the mouth, complains of pain or you notice a problem.

We will gently examine your child’s teeth and gums. X-rays may be taken if your child is older (to reveal decay and check on the progress of your child’s permanent teeth under the gums). We may clean your child’s teeth and apply topical fluoride to help protect the teeth against decay. We will make sure your child is receiving adequate fluoride at home. Most important of all, we will review with you how to clean and care for your child’s teeth.

What should I tell my child about the first dental visit? We are asked this question many times. We suggest you prepare your child the same way you would before their first haircut or trip to the shoe store. Your child’s reaction to his first visit to the dentist may surprise you.

During your first visit the dentist will:

  • Examine your mouth, teeth and gums.

  • Evaluate adverse habits like thumb sucking.
  • Check to see if you need fluoride.
  • Teach you about cleaning your teeth and gums.
  • Suggest a schedule for regular dental visits.

What about preventative care?

Tooth decay and children no longer have to go hand in hand. At our office we are most concerned with all aspects of preventive care. We use the latest in dental sealant technology to protect your child’s teeth. Dental sealants are space-age plastics that are bonded to the chewing surfaces of decay-prone back teeth. This is just one of the ways we will set the foundation for your child’s lifetime of good oral health.

Cavity prevention

Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in carbohydrates and a lack of brushing. Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help. The longer it takes your child to chew their food and the longer the residue stays on their teeth, the greater the chances of getting cavities. Monitor what your child is drinking. Frequent sipping throughout the day on milk, fruit juice, soda and sport drinks, significantly increases the risk of tooth decay.

Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20 minutes after food or drink is ingested. Sipping on beverages with natural or artificial sugars throughout the day, and frequent snacking lengthens the acid reaction time significantly. During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities. In addition to the sugar content, sport drinks and soda (even diet) contain phosphoric acid which cause additional damage to tooth structure. Putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice without cleaning their teeth immediately afterwards can lead to a devastating condition known as baby bottle tooth decay and should be avoided. Put water in bottles or sippy cups that your child can drink throughout the day. If your child wants juice or milk, have them drink it quickly and not periodically throughout the day.

Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars, they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn allows more of the acid-producing bacteria that can cause cavities.

We recommend a topical fluoride treatment every 6 months for children. We will also check the grooves of your child’s teeth with a special laser that measures for the presence and extent of tooth decay at every visit.

Tips for cavity prevention

  • Limit frequency of meals and snacks.
  • Encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing.
  • Watch what your child drinks.
  • Avoid giving your child sticky foods.
  • Make treats part of meals.
  • Choose crunchy nutritious snacks.

Tooth Eruption

The first baby teeth that come into the mouth are the two bottom front teeth. You will notice this when your baby is about 6-8 months old. Next to follow will be the 4 upper front teeth and the remainder of your baby’s teeth will appear periodically. They will usually appear in pairs along the sides of the jaw until the child is about 2 1/2 years old.

At around 2 1/2 years old your child should have all 20 teeth. Between the ages of 5 and 6 the first permanent teeth will begin to erupt. Some of the permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don’t. Don’t worry if some teeth are a few months early or late as all children are different.

We will check your child’s tooth development and eruption every 6 months. If a child has significant crowding, crossbite, or significant discrepancies in the size of the upper jaw compared to the lower jaw, we will let you know. If your child has one of these conditions, we may recommend an expansion appliance that is a removable retainer that your child wears to correct the problem while they are still growing. These appliances significantly reduce the need for significant orthodontic treatment in the future that may require surgery or removal of permanent teeth.

You should try to wean your child off of a pacifier or from thumb sucking as soon as possible. These habits can cause the jaws to become constricted and can lead to significant crowding and overbites that may require extensive orthodontic treatment to correct.

Home Care

Children should be encouraged to brush their teeth frequently (at least twice a day for 2 minutes each time). You should allow your child to brush their teeth on their own to develop their motor skills and then brush them yourself when they are finished. Most children do not have the manual dexterity to brush on their own appropriately until they are 8 years old.

Flossing in children is necessary between any teeth that have visual contact. Ideally, the baby teeth should have generalized spaces between them and do not require flossing.

Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance. For this reason, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene.