Dental FAQ

Brushing Teeth

Dental Radiographs

Radiographs (x-rays) are a vital and necessary part of your child’s dental diagnostic process.  Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.

X-rays detect much more than cavities.  For example, x-rays may be used to look at erupting teeth, evaluate an injury or plan orthodontic treatment.  They allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during an examination.  When dental problems are found early on treatment is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends x-rays and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay and less frequently for lower cavity risk children.  After the age of 5 it is a good idea to obtain a full series of x-rays approximately every 3 years.

Pediatric dentists are very careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation.  Even though the risk of radiation is very small, lead aprons and shields are still used to protect your child.

Care of Your Child’s Teeth

As soon as the first tooth erupts you will want to begin brushing your child’s teeth.  A pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used.  By the age of 7, children should be able to brush their own teeth twice a day with supervision to ensure that they are doing a thorough job.

Proper brushing removes plaque from the surfaces of the teeth.  When teaching your child how to brush, instruct him/her to place the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and start brushing at the gum line in a gentle circular motion.  Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower.  Use the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of all the teeth.  Finish by brushing the tongue to keep breath fresh and to remove bacteria.

Even by brushing thoroughly there are still some places a toothbrush cannot reach.  Flossing removes plaque between the teeth.  Floss your child’s teeth until he/she is able to do it alone.  Use approximately 18 inches of floss and wind it around the middle fingers of each hand.  Using the thumb and forefinger, hold the floss and guide it gently between the teeth.  Use a gentle back and forth motion to remove plaque from the teeth.

Good Diet = Healthy Teeth

A healthy mouth and healthy body go hand in hand.  Both require a well-balanced diet.  Children need to eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups:  fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meats and beans, dairy, oils and fats.  Most of the snacks that children eat can lead to the formation of cavities.  The more frequently a child snacks, especially sipping on juice or soda and eating sticky dried fruits, fruit snacks, crackers and potato chips, the more likely he/she will develop decay.  If your child needs to snack, choose nutritious foods like veggies, yogurt and cheese, not dried sticky fruit snacks or raisins.

For recommendations on a well balanced diet for your child, please visit

Pop can be a hazard to you child’s teeth for many reasons –  primarily the sugar content, but diet pop can be just as harmful.  Diet pop contains low acid levels.  Tooth enamel will dissolve when exposed to acid levels less than 5.6.  Consequently your child’s tooth decay can become very serious with daily exposure.

Helpful information about Soda Pops.

Children’s Teeth

Teeth are formed before birth.   Infants generally get their teeth between 4-8 months, but it can vary.  The teeth first to arrive are usually the bottom teeth. Teeth begin to erupt as early as 4 months of age and continue until there are 20, usually by the age of 3.  Permanent teeth start to appear around age 6 and continue until the age of early adulthood. An adult has 32 teeth which include the third molars, or wisdom teeth, 28 if they have been extracted.

Dental Emergencies

If your child has any of the following emergencies you may follow the instructions listed and then contact your pediatric dentist as soon as possible.

ToothacheMake sure the infected area is clean.  This can be done by rinsing the mouth with warm water or using dental floss to dislodge any food particle that may be trapped causing the discomfort.  If the face is swollen apply a cold compress and contact your child’s dentist.

Permanent tooth knocked out Find the tooth, rinse it (do not touch the tooth’s root), and try to reinsert it into the socket.  If reinserting the tooth is not possible, put the tooth into a container of milk or water and see your dentist immediately.  When a permanent tooth is knocked out, time is very critical.

Cut/Bitten Tongue, Cheek or Lip Apply ice to the affected areas.  If the child is bleeding try to apply pressure with a cloth or gauze.  If the bleeding continues after 10-15 minutes, take the child to the emergency room.

Early Childhood Decay

Early childhood decay is very serious and can come from bottles and sippy cups.  This situation comes from frequent and prolonged exposure of young teeth to sugary liquids.  Sugary liquids are milk, breast milk, formula, fruit juice and other sweet drinks. When a child is put to bed or down for a nap with a bottle of sugary liquid, the liquid sits on the teeth and gives plaque bacteria a chance to produce acids that attach to the tooth’s enamel.  If a bottle is absolutely necessary for comfort at bedtime it is best to fill it with only water.


Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been shown to benefit teeth.  Using too much or too little fluoride can damage the teeth, however.  Too little fluoride will prevent the teeth from becoming strong and incapable of protecting against bacteria and cavities.  Too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis which makes the teeth appear stained and overly white or in some cases, even brown. It is very important to monitor the amount of fluoride that an infant, not less than 6 months old, and young child receives, especially during periods of important tooth growth.  This can be done by only using a small “pea sized” amount of fluoride tooth paste. Fluorosis can also be caused by excessive use of fluoride supplements.  These supplements should not be used on infants under 6 months old, and should only be used if recommended by your pediatric dentist.


Some children grind their teeth at night while sleeping.  An indication of this might be hearing the child grind his/her teeth during sleep or obvious wear of the teeth.  Grinding can be caused by changes to their environment such as moving, school or family, and is often seen in children growing new teeth (teething). Most children outgrow grinding and it is not generally treated by pediatric dentists.  As the child becomes older, he or she might choose to wear a mouth guard at night to protect the teeth.


Mouth Guards

One way to protect the teeth during sports or recreational activities is to have your child fitted for a mouth guard.  Mouth guards are a heavy duty plastic mold shaped to fit your child’s teeth.  When fitted properly it can prevent broken teeth and any injury to the lip, tongue or face.  Your child will be able to talk and breath appropriately when it is in place.

Oral Piercing

Many risks are involved with oral piercing including:  damage to tissue, chipped or cracked teeth, and blood related contaminations such as clots or poisoning.  The mouth contains millions of bacteria which can lead to serious infection.  It is strongly recommended that your child refrain from oral piercing.

Pulp Therapy

The pulp of a tooth is the inner central core of the tooth and it contains nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue and reparative cells.  Pulp therapy is used in pediatric dentistry to maintain the vitality of infected teeth. A tooth may require pulp therapy if it has a severe cavity or has had trauma.  The two common forms of pulp therapy are the pulpotomy and pulpectomy. During a pulpotomy, or partial pulp therapy, the unhealthy tissue within the tooth is removed.  Then the tooth is restored using a stainless steel crown. During a pulpectomy, the entire pulp, or unhealthy tissue, is removed from the tooth and the root.  A stainless steel crown is also used as a final restoration.


A sealant is a plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.  Sealants help to protect the decay-prone areas of the teeth and block the tooth from food buildup, plaque and acid.

Handicapped Child at Dentist

Special Needs Patients

Our dental team is trained and committed to providing all children, regardless of any disability or special health care need, with the care they need and deserve.  It is very important that if an infant, child or adolescent visits our office and is unable to care for himself or herself, that the individual is accompanied by someone with whom he or she has daily contact.  This person, whether it be a parent, grandparent or caregiver, must be involved in preventative care, oral health and a healthy diet.

The American Association of Pediatric Dentists defines a person with special health care needs as any individual who has a physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioral, cognitive, or emotional impairment or limiting condition which requires medical management, health care intervention and/or the use of specialized services or programs.

Rest assured our team will provide you with the gentle and special attention that your special needs child deserves.  We find it very rewarding to work with the special needs population and to play an integral part in their dental health.

Thumb Sucking

Many young children suck their thumb, fingers and other objects because it is a natural comforting reflex.  The act of sucking provides a sense of security and can be relaxing to children. Thumb sucking may appear innocent, but if it persists it can damage the eruption of permanent teeth.  Teeth can come in crooked and overall proper growth of the mouth can be affected.  Children generally outgrow thumb sucking, but it should be stopped by the time the permanent front teeth come in. Pacifiers are just as harmful to the teeth as sucking on thumbs, fingers or objects.  The use of a pacifier can be controlled more easily than the use of a thumb or fingers because it can be taken away.

To help your child work through thumb sucking you can:

  1. Reward your child when he/she does not suck during a difficult time
  2. Provide comfort and security to your child so that he/she does not have to get it from sucking
  3. Don’t scold your child for sucking, praise them for not doing it instead
  4. Talk with your pediatric dentist regarding other ways to stop your child from sucking


Tobacco use is dangerous and can lead to many serious health conditions.  Tobacco is commonly used as smokeless or cigarettes.   Some may think that smokeless tobacco, also called spit or chew, is less harmful because it is not inhaled into the lungs.  However, this is not true.  Smokeless tobacco is highly addictive and more concentrated than cigarettes.  Smokeless tobacco is proven to cause periodontal disease and in some cases, oral cancer.  Smoking cigarettes can cause various forms of cancer including mouth and lung.

It is important to educate your child about the risks associated with tobacco use.

Brushing with Toothpaste


There are many brands of toothpaste available.  Some of them can be harmful because they are abrasive and can wear down young teeth.  It is important to select toothpaste for your child that is recommended by the American Dental Association because these specific toothpastes have been proven safe for your child.

Wisdom Teeth (3rd molars)

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt and usually arrive during the late teen years.  When wisdom teeth erupt it can be painful and problems can persist because there is not enough room in the mouth to accommodate these extra teeth.  Often, wisdom teeth are removed.  Wisdom tooth surgery is generally performed by an oral surgeon under local anesthesia at an office, outpatient surgical facility or hospital.