Pediatric Dentistry is not just a regular branch of Dentistry. It is so much more than the science of baby teeth.
I compiled some of the important topics, questions, myths and common misconceptions I get faced with in the clinic down below to spread the awareness and knowledge ☺
1. A child’s dental health at a young age
Has the thought ever crossed your mind that, it is less important to look after our teeth as children, because they will fall out and be replaced by another set anyway? If it has, you are not alone, but it is a thought that you must change right now.
Your child’s first set of teeth, or ‘baby teeth’ are fundamental to their health and development, and if you do not care for them correctly, you could be preventing your child from leading a healthy and happy life.
The very best way to teach your child to care for their teeth and gums is by making it a fun adventure, where they can explore, discover and be proud of their efforts. Help them to value the precious gift they have been given and excited to learn more!
2. When do baby’s get their first teeth?
The teeth are already present in a baby’s jaw at birth and typically begin to appear between the ages of 6 months to 1 year. Most children develop their first full set of 20 primary teeth by the time that they are 2.5 to 3.
3. When do I first need to take my baby to the dentist?
Welcoming a child into the world is one of the most wonderful, yet scary experiences any parent can go through. That is why it is important to surround yourself with knowledgeable and supportive professionals who can advise and guide you on your journey. Your child’s pediatric dentist is there to assist you in raising a strong and healthy human that will grow free from unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Decay can occur from the moment that your child’s first tooth begins to break through the protective gum layer that has been keeping them pristine and safe. Make sure to seek out a trusted and reputable pediatric dentist that specializes in early age dentistry as soon after their first tooth appears as possible, for their ‘well-baby checkup’. The dentist will be able to check that your child’s teeth are developing correctly and give you practical tips for proper cleaning. Taking your child by his first birthday, gives you the chance to have a great discussion with your dentist about how to keep your child’s teeth decay free for life. The dentist will also be able to give you nutritional advice, such as avoiding sugary drinks in juice bottles and pointers on how to handle habits like dummy sucking.
4. How to take better care of your child’s teeth: (Preventive Dentistry)
We all know that, ‘prevention is better than cure’, but it’s easy to forget these wise words until it is too late. Help your child escape years of pain and misshapen smiles by using play to build healthy habits from an early age, with correct cleaning techniques and oral hygiene.
Your dentist will be able to provide you with a guide specific to your child’s developing gums at their well-baby checkup, but generally you should:
a. Birth to first tooth: Keep your baby’s gums clean and moist with a clean, damp cloth.
b. First tooth to 3yrs: Brush teeth gently with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste in the morning after waking and the night, before bed. Make sure that you child does not swallow the toothpaste.
c. 3yrs – 6yrs old: Supervise your child to continue their brushing routine, morning and night, but now using a pea sized amount of toothpaste to reach each aspect of their teeth and gums.
d. 6yrs and older: Continue to supervise your child to continue their brushing routine, morning and night until they are 10 years of age. Now your child has developed better motor skills to maneuver the brush around his teeth. However, recent studies show that despite their dexterity, they would still need help and assistance; as it is so easy for them to miss some surfaces, which may lead to decay!
Once your child’s teeth have grown to touch each other, speak with your dentist about how to use dental floss safely and effectively.
5. When to see a dentist again?
Visit the dentist every 3 to 6 months to check that your child’s teeth are developing correctly, and that there are no signs of cavities. Regular appointments ensure that any signs of decay can be treated immediately, and further damage to their health can be prevented.
It will also allow your child to form a trusted relationship with their dentist and gain a solid understanding of how to care for their teeth throughout their entire life. In addition, well cared for teeth, are pain-free teeth, so your child will associate the dentist with feeling comfortable, relaxed and beneficial for their wellbeing.
6. How can we deal with decay if it happens? (What is Restorative Dentistry)
Where possible, you should always look to protect your child’s teeth and educate them about preventative care. However, if damage, infection, or decay does occur, it is important that you know exactly what to do.
Restorative dentistry is the prevention and treatment of diseases of the teeth, letting your smile shine brightly once again.
- Dental Fillings: a composite material that is tooth colored and replaces cavitated parts of the teeth
- Dental Crown: a strong cap that protects a severely cracked or decayed tooth
- Dental Extraction: removal of a tooth due to decay or crowding
What happens during restorative procedures?
Your child’s dentist will begin by taking an x-ray of your child’s teeth and discussing the procedure with you. They will also discuss how to ensure that your child remains calm and comfortable throughout the treatment. In cases when a root, or a nerve inside the gum needs to be restored, then the dentist may discuss applying a local anesthetic to numb the area that is being treated.
7. How can I keep my child calm when they go to the dentist? (Relaxed Dentistry)
Visiting the dentist can be a scary experience, even for adults sometimes, but for children it can be especially frightening if they do not know what is going to happen. As parents and caregivers, it is important that we work together to ensure your child understands that they are safe and secure.
Make going to the dentist a comfortable experience for your child by:
- Visiting the same practice regularly, so that the child is familiar with the environment and has time to develop a trusted relationship with their dentist.
- Talking through the experience with your child, letting them know what will happen and what to expect.
- Keeping your child calm with soothing conversation and allowing them to bring along a ‘comfort’ item, like a stuffed toy.
- Rewarding them for staying calm and behaving well, perhaps with a sticker or a visit to their favorite play-ground.
- Reaffirming to your child that the experience is beneficial and that they are not to blame for needing treatment.
8. How can my child be very comfortable during the procedure? (Painless Dentistry)
It is important to ensure that your child’s visit to the dentist is as fun and enjoyable as possible. This can be achieved by making them feel calm and secure, reassuring them of a positive, pain free experience.
Advances in the study of dentistry have made this completely possible and pediatric healthcare providers can now treat children and teenagers comfortably- pain free.
There are new systems for delivery of local anesthetics now that are as advertised- completely pain free. They are essentially a computer-controlled dental injection. This ensures a steady, slow flow of anesthetic solution working its magic into the tissues. This ensures they don’t see anything intimidating and above all they don’t feel the needle at all- making for a very comfortable experience.
9. Why should I come for my follow up visits after having done a procedure for my child?
Consider your dentist as a family friend. Keep in contact with them on a regular basis and let them know how your child’s dental and overall health is developing. They will be able to guide you and spot any possible cause for concern.
Following up dental treatment given is a great way to maintain the teeth in great shape for longer.
Also, when your child sees that you have a comfortable, relaxed and trusted relationship with their dentist, they will also feel happier in their care.
10. Why choose a Pediatric Dentist not a general dentist for my child?
Pediatric dentists are a very special kind of dentist who have trained long and hard to have the knowledge and care to treat infants, children and adolescents up to the age of 18.
In addition to the five years of study that general adult dentists complete, pediatric dentists undergo an extra three year advanced residency to make sure that they are fully equipped to treat their young patients.
The extra training includes child psychology, growth and development and behavior management to promote healthy oral health habits. There is also an acute emphasis on natural techniques to alleviate anxiety and build trust with children, so that a child’s experience of the dentist is as positive as possible.
11. What to expect at your child’s first visit to the dentist
Your child’s first visit to the dentist, between the age of 6 months and the eruption of their first tooth, is really just for your dentist to welcome them to the world of dentistry and to help them discover the pearly white’s that they are beginning to become aware of in their mouths. It is very rare that they should need any procedures.
A typical session will include a quick-look in your child’s mouth with a hand-held mirror and a game of counting their teeth aloud. These primary visits will help you as a parent, and your baby to feel comfortable with the dentist, the office and the environment. Feel free to ask any questions that you may have. Your pediatric dentist is specially trained to give practical tips for cleaning and caring for teeth correctly, as well as advice on normal child behaviors, such as thumb sucking.
12. What diet and lifestyle choices can we make to protect our child and their teeth? (Diet, lifestyle and Dentistry):
We always hear about the bad substances and behaviors that harm our teeth, but what about the good things?
- Water: Nature’s elixir boosts every area of your child’s body and washes away any food particles that may be clinging to their teeth.
- Fruits and Vegetables: Serve fruits and vegetables that have a high water content instead of carbohydrates or sugar dense produce, like banana’s, kiwis and raisins. Fruits like banana are sugar rich and cling to teeth, fueling the acid forming bacteria that cause decay.
- Serve sugary foods as dessert, not as snacks: When we eat, saliva floods our mouth, aiding with digestion, neutralizing acids in our mouth and also helping wash away any debris left on our teeth. If you are going to serve sugary foods to your child, do so at the end of the meal when saliva levels are at their highest.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: Calcium is a mineral that helps your body to build strong teeth and bones. Vitamin D is needed to help your body absorb the calcium. Serve your child calcium and vitamin D rich foods, such as dairy products (like cheese and plain yoghurt), dark green vegetables (like spinach/kale) and oily fish (like salmon and sardines).
The human body also produces large amounts of vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. Let your child run around sun-screen free for the first 10 minutes of playtime before you slather on their sun cream.
Even with all of these precautions, damage to our teeth can still occur. Visit the dentist every 6 months to check that your child’s teeth are developing correctly, and that there are no signs of cavities.
Regular appointments ensure that any signs of decay can be treated immediately, and further damage to their health can be prevented.
13. What causes tooth decay in toddlers?
You may feel that tooth decay only occurs in adults, but in fact The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that 28% of children aged 2 to 5, and 42% of children aged 2 to 11 develop a cavity in their primary teeth.
Tooth decay is caused when the bacteria rich, sticky substance plaque forms on the outside of teeth and creates acid as a bi-product of sugar. The main causes of plaque formation in toddlers are, unhealthy eating habits and incorrect dental hygiene, these include:
- The habit of allowing toddlers to go bed with a bottle of juice or sippy cup exacerbates both of these causes, resulting in high levels of tooth decay.
- Not flossing and brushing teeth twice a day
- Drinking sugary or carbonated beverages.
14. What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Tooth decay in infants and very young children is often referred to as baby bottle tooth decay (or scientifically as Early childhood caries). It normally primarily effects the upper front teeth, but can affect other teeth too. Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when sugary liquids, both natural and artificial (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) cling to an infant’s teeth for a long time (especially due to overnight feeding).
If you give your child a bottle (with milk), sippy cup, or pacifier dipped in sugar, before they go to bed, you are allowing this acid to attack their teeth for the entire night. Decay is accelerated due to decreases in saliva as we sleep. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth. The acid attack is constant. This results in teeth that are weak, decayed and break easily.
15.How can you treat tooth decay in toddlers?
Once a child’s teeth have become to decay, they will need to see a dentist. They may advise fillings, crowns or tooth removal depending on the severity of the decay.
The problem with the decay in toddlers is that they can not be treated on the dental chair since they are too young to help the dentist out, stay still and allow for dental treatment to happen. Mostly in such cases a child needs to be treated in a hospital environment to make for their lack of cooperation.
16. How can I stop my child thumb sucking?
Children naturally suck their thumb, it is a normal, comforting reflex that makes them feel secure and happy. Early age thumb sucking is not seen as a problem, and most children lose the habit between the ages of 2 to 4
It is not until a child’s permanent teeth erupt, that thumb sucking can cause problems, by affecting the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The more vigorously a child sucks their thumb, the greater the risk of problems.
- Praise your child for not sucking.
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
- For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
- Your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.
If these tips don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance.
17. Dental Emergencies
Children are accident prone, it is part of the beauty of their curious nature.
If you have come to this page because your child has already had an accident and you need immediate assistance, then you should contact your dentist immediately.
What is considered a dental emergency?
If your child chips or cracks a tooth, it is not always a dental emergency. If their injuries are not causing pain, then the dentist will most probably be able to treat the injury in normal dental hours.
You will know if you need to contact the emergency line if your child:
- Is bleeding from the mouth
- Is in severe pain
- Has loose teeth
- Has had a tooth knocked-out
- Has swelling in the mouth or facial area
- Has swelling in the gum
My Child’s tooth has been knocked-out
When a child’s tooth is knocked out, it is easy to think that emergency care is less critical than for an adult, because we presume that their adult teeth will grow through and fill the gap anyway. However, we often forget that a child’s full set of permanent teeth only reach maturity around the age of 12 or 13. If a child is 8 when a tooth is knocked out, that means they will be without that tooth for around 5 years. Many complications can develop in this time, so it is important that you treat a knocked-out tooth seriously and find your child emergency dental care immediately. If the appropriate emergency steps are followed, the chances are very good that the tooth can be reinserted and preserved by a dentist:
What do when your child’s tooth is knocked out:
- Pick up the tooth by the widest part, the crown. Be careful not to touch the roots.
- Rinse the tooth gently, making sure not to touch any of the tissue. Place a plug or towel in the sink to avoid the tooth accidently being washed down the drain.
- If possible, ask your child if they can put the tooth back in the socket and keep it there until you reach the dentist.
- If they are too upset or you have any doubt that they will be able to keep the tooth in place, put the tooth in a container or a cup of milk.
- Make an emergency appointment as soon as possible. Time is critical to ensuring the tooth can be replanted successfully.
18. How to prepare for your child’s first visit to the dentist
Your child’s first visit to their pediatric dentist is meant to be a relaxed, stress-free event. While the dentist will do their best to put you at ease, there are a couple of things that you can do at home to prepare:
- Reflect on your own feelings about the dentist. If you notice any resistance, or negative emotions, explore how you may avoid unconsciously transferring those emotions to your child.
- Create a positive experience around your child’s visits to the dentist. Perhaps start the day with their favorite breakfast, or take them to the park, so they feel relaxed. Practice speaking in a positive, reassured way about the dentist, focusing on the benefits to their health and that the dentist will be looking forward to seeing them again.
- Let your child take a comfort item with them to the dentist, perhaps a blanket or a toy that they can hold on to.
- Be your child’s cheerleader. Congratulate them whenever you can and reassure them that they are doing a great job! Even if their behavior is less than immaculate, and they are kicking and screaming, be supportive instead of critical. Your pediatric dentist has years of training and experience, and has seen everything before!
- Reward your child with a treat after the dentist. Many dental practices will let a child choose a sticker of their favorite cartoon character or super hero to wear as a reward for a successful visit. This simple concept creates a positive feedback loop in the child’s mind, so that they focus on being well-behaved in-order to get their exciting sticker, rather than thinking about any negative thoughts that may be associated with the dentist.
19. What happens if my child becomes anxious at the dentist?
There are a number of things the dentist can do to help make the experience easier.
- The pediatric dentist has special ways to relax your child and put them at ease, including coping strategies and control cues that make the child feel in control
- The dentist can also offer laughing gas, which is a mild anxiolytic for decreasing anxiety- mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide delivered through a mask. The effects of the gas, are for your child to feel like they are “on a cloud”. It is safe and effective and its effects can be easily reversed in 3 minutes.
- Giving painless dental numbing solution became a possibility with the advances of technology, rather than injections. If your child is still scared, then other advanced behavior tools may be used
20. How can I prepare my special needs child for a visit to the dentist?
Many children dread going to the dentist. For a child with special needs (such as autism), a trip to the dentist can be even more terrifying child- equally so to the parent. The new sights, sounds, and sensations can be incredibly overwhelming, and it can create a situation that is stressful for everyone involved.
However, preventative dental care is important, and getting your child used to the experience early on could potentially save you some problems down the road.
Here is a list of tips and tricks to make sure we are able to make the visit as comfortable as possible for your child with special needs:
Find the Right Dentist
Make sure your child’s dentist has experience with special needs. Not every person is able to manage the extra needs that a child with autism has. However, with the right dentist and staff who are experienced with special needs, it can make a world of difference for your child.
Create a Social Story
A personalized social story with pictures from the actual dental office would be very helpful. The short description of what to expect is a great way to communicate with the kids on the spectrum
Start dental habits early
Brushing and flossing regularly is important for the health of your child’s teeth. Help your child pick out her own, soft-bristled toothbrush. Finding one that has her favorite character on it or is in her favorite color can be a big help. Make sure it’s the right size and that she can hold it comfortably. Experiment with different types of flavored toothpaste to find one that is tolerable — you can often get a wide variety of flavors from a pediatric dentist
- Start by showing your child the toothbrush and toothpaste, so she familiarizes herself with them. Place them against mouth so knows what they feel like. Then begin brushing your child’s teeth, standing behind her with the back of her head against your chest.
- Use a social story to teach brushing has different icons for standing still, brushing, spitting, flossing, etc., that she can move after each task is completed.
- Maybe she will need to be facing a mirror, so she can see what you’re doing; maybe you’ll need to brush her teeth in the living room or in bed, wherever she’s most comfortable; or perhaps you’ll need a visual board or schedule that
- A timer may also be beneficial, so she knows exactly how long it will take. You can try distracting your child by singing a song, watching a show, or reading a story while brushing. After you are finished, move on to flossing, starting again with her head against your chest, and working through each tooth.
- It may take time to figure out what’s best for your child’s individual needs. Once you figure out what works, be consistent and make it part of the daily routine. You may wish to incorporate small rewards after each step or after the task is complete, whether it’s verbal praise, time with a toy, or something else she loves. As she gets older and more accustomed to this routine, the goal is to have her to do it on her own, if possible. You can also eventually graduate to a power toothbrush, but establish good habits with a standard toothbrush first.
Play Dentist at Home
Before you even introduce your child to a dentist, get your child some dental instruments so that they can view and hold the instruments. It can be very beneficial for your child to hold the instruments so that they know that the tools will not hurt them. If your child will participate, practice a pretend dental exam at home. Have your child lay down while they open their mouth wide.
Bring along whatever your child requires for comfort. If they have a favorite blanket, animal, fidget toy, or whatever they like, bring the item along and allow the child to have it at all times.
Take frequent breaks. If your child requires breaks from all the movement, lights, and sounds from the dental office, then by all means, take a break. Do what needs to be done for your child.
Learning about our child’s dental health can be a little confusing at times. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! If you still haven’t found your answer in the pages of our site, then most probably you’ll find them here. The FAQ section is a collection of all the questions we have ever received, and there’s been quite a few! Let us know if your question is not there, and we’ll be sure to answer it.
Welcome to Kids Corner! Here, you can download the latest information and learning material to help your child become a dental health super star. They will never be bored of brushing their teeth, or eating their green vegetables again with these fun packed activities. If you need assistance in helping your child with a specific problem, feel free to contact me!
- Tooth Brushing Chart (links)
- Reward Chart
- Healthy Food Stories
- Dental Stories for Kids
To saving another child’s smile ☺