Q: Why choose a pediatric dentist?
A: Just like pediatrics in medicine, pediatric dentistry is a specialty of dentistry. A dentist can only be classified as a pediatric specialist after receiving a certificate of completion of a two to three year long pediatric dental residency training program following their four years of dental school training. During this residency training, pediatric dentists focus on treating children and adolescents as well as patients with special healthcare needs. Pediatric dentists have additional training in dental treatments specific to the needs of pediatric patients, as well behavior management techniques to allow for the highest quality of care of your child.
Being a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry means the dentist has achieved board certification status. This involves successfully completing and passing the highest level written and oral examination, following completion of residency training. It is not a requirement to become board certified in order to practice pediatric dentistry. Those who do demonstrate their specialized knowledge and skills in the field, as well as their dedication to providing the highest quality of patient care and life-long commitment to furthering their knowledge of the specialty.
Q: When should a child begin going to the dentist?
A: For routine care, children can begin going to the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts, but should begin going no later than their first birthday. Parents who have concerns about anything related to their child's mouth are welcome to see a pediatric dentist at any age.
Q: Why should children start seeing a dentist so early?
A: Just as you take your infants for well-child visits to the pediatrician, early dental visits for children are equally as important. These first visits allow the dentist to provide advice and education to assist you in properly caring for your child’s teeth and preventing cavities. During these early visits, the dentist will perform a knee-to-knee exam of your child’s mouth (also called lap treatment). Positioning for the exam this way allows the parent to hold the child for more comfort, and allows for easy visualization of the mouth for both the parent and the dentist. This pain free experience early on helps to create a more pleasant association with the dental office, even if your child is crying. Making dental exams a routine experience early on helps children feel more comfortable at the dental office at a younger age.
Many parents are afraid to bring their child at a young age as they feel they will not “behave”. Pediatric dentists are trained just as pediatricians are in how to properly examine even the youngest patients. We understand child development and behavior and do not require perfect cooperation for these exams. Sometimes while a child is yelling, they open wide enough for us to get a great look at everything!
Q: Why is it important to take care of baby teeth?
A: Primary, or "baby," teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Early loss of primary teeth can increase the likelihood of requiring braces when secondary (adult) teeth start coming in. Baby teeth that get cavities can cause pain and infection long before they will be coming out on their own (The second baby molars are not normally lost until a child is 12 years old!). If these cavities are left untreated, the infection can actually spread through the rest of the body potentially leading to life-threatening infections. Any type of treatment of cavities is never as perfect or ideal as the natural tooth, and many children can have difficulty tolerating dental procedures. While dentists are trained in treating these dental problems, the best solution is to take care of baby teeth and prevent decay from the beginning. The goal of early visits to a pediatric dentist is aimed at prevention for these very reasons.
Q: When should I start brushing my child's teeth?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends all children begin having their teeth brushed by an adult as soon as their teeth erupt using a soft bristled toothbrush. Brushing should be twice a day, ideally after breakfast and before going to bed. Flossing should begin daily once any teeth are touching. The current recommendations for fluoride use are that all children should start using fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first tooth erupts as well. Like with any other type of vitamin or medicine, the safe use of fluoride involves the proper dosing. Children under the age of 3 should use only a smear of toothpaste (or the size of a grain of rice). Children ages 3-6 should use a pea sized amount. Children over the age of 6 can use the same amount as an adult. These doses are based on the assumption that children are not able to adequately spit out excess toothpaste until around age 6, so even if your child is unable to spit yet, the proper amount of fluoride toothpaste should be used. Children should continue to have a parent assisting with brushing until at least age 7-8, and the control of the dispensing and brushing of the fluoride toothpaste should be with the adult not the child.
Q: My kid loves candy. What can I do to protect his teeth?
A: For dental health and overall health, candy and other "junk food" should be considered a treat and not a regular part of your child’s diet. However, some types of candy can be more harmful to teeth. The longer the sugar from the candy sticks to your teeth, the more damage it does. Candy that is extremely sticky, such as taffy or carmel, is particularly bad for teeth. Try to pick candy like chocolate that melts away and does not not linger on the teeth as long. Avoiding tacky candies is also important to prevent pulling sealants, crowns, or fillings off of teeth as well. If candy is consumed, try to brush your child’s teeth as soon afterwards as possible to prevent sugar from being on the teeth for as long.
Q: What if I need someone else to bring my child to their dental visit?
A: Only the parents or legal guardians of a child can legally provide consent for their medical and dental care. Ideally, the first visit should be with a guardian to ensure we have all needed medical history for your child and to discuss any possible treatment needs. In the event of extenuating circumstances, or if you are unable to attend subsequent dental visits and need to have another responsible adult bring your child, you will need to fill out a dental consent release form. This form will allow an adult of your choosing to make medical/dental decisions for your child. Please be mindful of the fact that the person you are granting consent to may make decisions for your child that you would not have made. Additionally, the adult bringing the child will need to be aware of any medications, allergies, or health concerns your child has in order for us to be able to safely treat your child in your absence.