OK, so you’re ready to visit our office. What happens next?
In this section we give you an overview of the pediatric dental process, what to expect when we get started, treatment options, important tips to promote great oral health, and so much more!
Why See a Pediatric Dentist?
Because we stress preventive dentistry, it’s important we regularly monitor the development of your child’s teeth. When necessary, we also provide other pediatric services such as restorative dentistry, as well as interceptive orthodontic treatment to return the smile to your child’s face.As a pediatric practice, we don’t just treat the mouth, we treat the entire child. This means offering comfort and compassion, as well as the ability to see every child as an individual. We feel it’s important for every child to feel good about oral health — a healthy smile contributes to health and self-esteem. We motivate children to take responsibility for their oral health because nothing makes us happier than seeing our kids taking pride in their smile.
Pediatric dentists have comprehensive education in behavior management, sedation, conscious sedation, and anesthesia techniques so you can feel comfortable that your child will receive the best relaxation treatment based on their needs. For our patients who require extensive care or who are medically compromised, we offer hospital dentistry.
No matter the age of your child, from toddler to teen, the beginning of a great smile begins with the first visit.
Some women experience dental problems during pregnancy brought on by increasing the amount of times they snack (especially on snacks with sugar which can cause tooth decay) and/or by hormonal changes which can make gums more sensitive to swelling and/or bleeding. If you are pregnant, it’s important to remember that what you eat can also affect your baby. For this reason your doctor may suggest you take vitamins and supplements — not only for your health, but for your baby’s health.
Did you know that baby teeth begin to form around the sixth or seventh week of pregnancy and that adult teeth begin to form in the twelfth week? A nutritious diet will help assure your unborn baby is getting the nutrients needed for development of healthy teeth and body.
Also, be aware of which drugs you use during pregnancy. Some drugs, such as Tetracycline, can cause discoloration in your baby’s teeth and may even cause problems in adult teeth. Smoking during pregnancy can also cause problems for your unborn baby such as delayed tooth formation.
It’s also important that you regularly brush and floss — gum disease has been linked to premature birth. We recommend you visit your general dentist for a check-up before your baby is born. We’ll help keep you on the right track to oral health.
Infant Dental Treatment
We recommend that you bring your infant for a check-up by their first birthday or when the first baby teeth appear.
You may wonder, “Why are baby teeth so important if they’re only going to fall out anyway?” That’s a question we hear quite often. Well, baby teeth may be more important than you think — early loss of baby teeth can harm the permanent teeth and lead to overcrowding and crooked adult teeth. Baby teeth can stay in the mount up to 14 years of age and baby teeth are critical for speech development, ability to eat properly and forming a path that the permanent teeth can follows.
Did you know that fruit juice and even milk may damage baby teeth? Did you know that habits such as prolonged thumb sucking, the use of pacifiers or tongue thrusting can lead to severe bite problems? Typical issues for infants include:
- Tooth Development
- Baby Bottle Decay or Early Childhood Caries
- Sucking Habits
- Dental Injuries
Even before your baby’s teeth start to erupt it is important to check their mouth every once in a while to make sure everything looks normal. Checking regularly will also allow you the opportunity to notice when your infant’s baby teeth begin to erupt — which is usually around their sixth month. If your baby is 12 months old and baby teeth haven’t erupted yet, you should bring your child in to our practice for a check-up. By 18 months, babies usually have six bottom teeth and six upper teeth. All 20 primary teeth should have erupted by their third birthday.
If your baby is becoming increasingly irritable, is having trouble sleeping, and has been losing their appetite, it may be a sign that they are teething. Check their gums for signs of swelling or bleeding and feel around for any sign that a tooth is erupting. The best thing to do for your baby during this time is to keep their mouth clean by using a damp gauze pad or wash cloth and by giving them a teething ring.
Baby Bottle Syndrome
One of the more serious dental problems related to dietary habits is nursing bottle decay, otherwise known as Baby Bottle Decay or early childhood caries. This condition usually occurs in young children between the ages of one and two who use a nursing bottle containing milk, juice, or soda as a bedtime/naptime pacifier. These fluids are rich in sugar and, as swallowing is reduced during sleep, the sugars in the fluids have time to react with bacteria in the mouth which triggers the beginning of the decaying process. It’s for this reason that nothing sweet should be rubbed on pacifiers. Prolonged exposure to the sugars in milk and juice can turn teeth brown and cause them to lose their strength — they can turn rubbery in texture and they can even begin to crumble away which can result in further complications, including pain and infection. Treatment for this condition depends on the severity of decay but can often result in the placing of crowns over the damaged teeth. This may require treatment in a hospital setting with child asleep.
Sucking habits such as thumb or digit sucking, and tongue thrusting can cause a number of problems with a child’s dental development, including severe malocclusion (bad bites), open bites and crossbites. Many children suck their thumbs but stop the habit early enough to avoid any dental complication. However, if a child continues to suck their thumb and/or digits beyond the age of five or six, they can cause severe problems to their bite which often requires treatment.
Our goal is to motivate the child to quit their sucking habit on their own to avoid the possibility of treatment. However, in some cases we use fixed habit appliances to discourage and eliminate a thumb sucking or a tongue thrusting habit. These appliances are made specifically for each individual case to ensure proper fit and function.
Infants are especially prone to dental injuries. As babies learn to crawl and walk they are prone to falling and could possibly damage their teeth and/or surrounding gum tissue. Injury that results in a chipped, cracked, loose, or lost tooth should be treated and evaluated by our office immediately.
It is not uncommon for young children to be anxious when visiting a dentist’s office. We do all we can to relieve your child’s anxiety — we are specially trained to understand child behavior, our staff loves working with children, and, from the relaxing atmosphere to the special fun area, our office has been designed with children in mind. We also recommend that you bring your children in for regular check-ups so they become used to visiting us and we become friendly faces. It’s also important not to be too nervous yourself as children can sense parents’ emotions through words and gestures — the less anxious you are, the less anxious your child will be.
If you have any questions regarding your infant and their oral health feel free to ask. We’re here to baby your infant’s smile because early dental care today leads to a healthy smile tomorrow.
Teen Dental Care
As children grow older, and especially when they reach their teens, they become more concerned with appearance — an unattractive smile can make them very self-conscious. We have special training so we are able to understand the special needs of teens and to understand the emotional importance of a healthy smile. As much as we promote preventive dentistry, sometimes our restorative services are the best option to rejuvenate a smile. Typical dental and dental-related issues surrounding teenagers include:
Diet and Dental Decay
- Wisdom Teeth
- Crowded/Crooked Teeth & Bite Problems
- Esthetic Dentistry
- Dental Injuries
Diet & Dental Decay
A balanced diet is an important part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. During the teen years, your child will grow rapidly and they need more vitamins and minerals than ever before. To satisfy their body’s demands, your teenager will eat more and more often. Unfortunately, teenagers often snack on foods that are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates and don’t take proper care of their teeth. The longer food is in the mouth the more the teeth are at risk to decay. It is important for teenagers to eat well and to take care of their teeth. Snacks should be limited and ideally, should be low in sugar and simple carbohydrates.
Dental decay is caused by sugar mixing with plaque found on teeth to form an acid. The acid that is formed attacks the teeth and causes decay. Your teenager can avoid dental decay by brushing and flossing regularly, by reducing their sugar intake (especially in snacks) and by using a fluoride toothpaste or by taking fluoride supplements as prescribed by a pediatrician or dentist.
To remove plaque and food particles, brushing with a soft-bristled brush (hard bristles can damage gums) is recommended after each meal and before going to bed at night. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months or when the bristles become frayed.
Flossing is an important procedure as brushing alone only cleans 60% of the surface of your teeth — approximately 40% of your teeth are cleaned by flossing! Flossing not only removes food particles from between your teeth but by running the floss along teeth, it can remove plaque build-up which leads to gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. It is recommended that you rinse after flossing to remove any loose food particles in your mouth.
Wisdom teeth usually erupt around the late teens. Common difficulties with wisdom teeth include impacted teeth (when they don’t break through the gums) and lack of room, in which case we may suggest they are removed.
Crowded/Crooked Teeth & Bite Problems
Most facial growth in children is completed by the time they reach the age of 20. By the age of 12, most children will have had all but their wisdom teeth showing, which should erupt around the late teens. Regular check-ups allow us to observe your teenagers dental development and allow treatment of early problems before they become bigger ones. Common problems for growing children include malocclusion (bad bites such as cross-bites or overbites), and the development of crooked and/or crowded teeth.
Sometimes bad bites are hereditary but they can also be a result of sucking or tongue habits as a young child. We can identify and treat some forms of malocclusion and minimize or reduce the development of further problems including excessive wearing of teeth.
Crooked teeth are usually an outcome of crowding. Crowding occurs when there isn’t enough space in the mouth for teeth to fit properly, and can be caused by early or late loss of primary teeth, or improper eruption of teeth. Crooked and/or crowded teeth can prevent the proper functioning of your teeth and can be difficult to keep clean leading to a greater chance of tooth decay. To correct crooked teeth due to crowding, appliances can be used to create space, or sometimes teeth are taken out, while braces can be used to properly align the teeth.
As much as we stress the importance of preventive dentistry, sometimes our esthetic services are required. Your child will become more concerned with their appearance (especially teenagers) as they grow older. We offer a variety of restorative and esthetic services designed to return the smile to your child’s face including:
- Tooth-colored fillings not only look natural, but they’re stronger than mercury amalgams
- Bonding involves using natural-colored materials which are attached directly to the tooth surface to improve unsightly stains, spaces, cracks, or chips
- Professional Whitening quickly restores the natural brilliance to a smile
The teen years mark a time of increased athletic activity including many sports with physical contact. Common dental injuries with teenagers include fractured teeth or teeth that are displaced. Knowing what steps to take during a dental emergency can make a difference between losing and keeping a tooth. However, the first step is always to remain calm. Here are some suggestions for treating dental emergencies:
- Lost tooth -If the tooth has fallen to the ground, it needs to be cleaned. Hold it by the crown under running water, and replace it in the socket (the sooner this is done the better, as the tissues that attach teeth to bone dry out and die over time. If the tooth is replaced within 30 minutes is has a higher chance of reattaching itself). Once the tooth is back in the socket, the child should bite down normally to ensure proper positioning. Call us immediately after this is done.If the tooth cannot be replaced immediately, it should be placed in milk. If milk isn’t available, store it in the child’s mouth between their cheek and teeth. Your child should see us as soon as possible so we can complete treatment.
- Broken tooth – Clean the mouth by gently rinsing with warm water. Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Call us immediately — a fractured tooth can be treated using esthetic techniques to look as good as new.
Although teenagers have visited dental offices many times, it isn’t uncommon for them to remain anxious about their dental visits. The staff and doctor at pediatric practices are trained to recognize and understand the special concerns of teenagers so they feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible.