Top 10 Questions Parents Should Ask Their Child’s Pediatric Dentist

1.       How do I clean my baby’s teeth?

Oral care begins before your baby has teeth.  Wipe their gums with a piece of moist gauze.  As soon as a tooth pushes its way through, start brushing with a soft-bristled brush and water. Once your child learns how to spit, you can graduate them to a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste.  Even though some kids like to brush on their own, come behind them and make sure they’re doing a good job.

2.       Will thumbsucking and pacifiers damage my child’s teeth?

We know, we know. Nothing soothes a baby like their binky. And who really wants to deal with a screaming baby?

Enjoy it – for 3 years at least.  After that, it’s time to bid the binky farewell. Prolonged pacifier use and thumbsucking past the age of 3 could cause your child’s front teeth to slant outward or not come in properly.  (Don’t worry – the screaming will stop eventually. And it’s a small price to pay to avoid buckteeth.)

3.       What are dental sealants and should my child have them?

Children aren’t the best brushers in the world.  This should be no news to you.  After all, you’ve probably seen their attempts to clean their room. They’re just not as thorough as we’d hope for.  On top of that, they simply don't have the manual dexterity to brush well yet.

It’s difficult for children to reach those teeth in the very back and thoroughly clean out all of the food particles in the crevices of their teeth.  Dental sealants solve that problem by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of their teeth.

There are tons of articles out there on dental sealants and whether they’re safe for children.  Research them and seek professional device. While studies show that kids with dental sealants do have less cavities, there’s been some debate about the presence of BPA in sealants.

4.       How much fluoride does my child need?

First, a brief lesson on how fluoride helps your teeth: When you eat sugar, bacteria create acids to neutralize the pH of your mouth.  These acids dissolve the enamel on your teeth and cause cavities.

Fluoride combats tooth decay in 3 ways:

  • It is incorporated into the structure of developing teeth when it is ingested.
  • It protects the surface of teeth by preventing the acid from dissolving tooth enamel.
  • It can’t repair cavities, but it can reverse low levels of tooth decay before it reaches the cavity stage.

With that being said, the recommended amount of fluoride is between 0.7 and 1.2 ppm (parts fluoride per million parts of water).  Fluoride exists naturally in water sources, and almost 60% of the US population receives fluoridated water through their taps. (Some occurs naturally; some is added in at water-processing plants.) Your dentist should be able to tell you the fluoride levels in your local water, or you could check with the local water authority. If you use well water, make sure to have it checked.  If you buy water bottles for your kids, most will not contain fluoride, but there are options available that do.

In general, children under 6 months do not need fluoride.  After that, a doctor or dentist can prescribe fluoride drops, tablets, or vitamins if needed.

5.       When is it safe to start using toothpaste with fluoride?

Toothpaste is perfectly safe (obviously, since you use it every day). The only complication comes with children who can’t or don’t spit out all of the toothpaste.

Repeatedly swallowing the fluoride found in toothpaste can lead to fluorosis, which causes the adult teeth to look mottled.  Once a child can spit out the toothpaste (typically around 4 years old), it’s safe to use toothpaste with fluoride.

6.       What is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay and how do I avoid it?

The culprit? Sugar. The victim? Your child’s teeth, most often the upper front teeth.

When a child sips on sugary drinks for prolonged periods of time (such as falling asleep in their crib), cavity-causing bacteria attacks the teeth for that same prolonged period of time. If a child has their bottle or sippy cup with them most of the day, they’re a likely candidate for Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.

To avoid the decay, don’t give your baby a bottle before they go to sleep. If you absolutely have to, make sure you do not give them any type of sugary drink.

Unfortunately, moms can also unknowingly pass on the cavity-causing bacteria through their own saliva. Ever picked up a pacifier off the ground and “rinsed” it in your mouth? Or put your baby’s feeding spoon in your mouth? You’re probably doing more harm than good.

7.       Are baby teeth really that important?

Baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth.  If baby teeth have decay, they can transfer that decay directly to the adult tooth below it.  If a baby tooth falls out early, permanent teeth may come in crooked or crowded.

Not only are healthy baby teeth a prerequisite for healthy permanent teeth, but they also teach children to chew their food properly and speak clearly.

8.       What kind of toothbrush should my child use?

It makes sense that since your child’s mouth is smaller, they should use a smaller toothbrush.  As a general rule, the brush head of the toothbrush should be a little larger than the child’s upper portion of the thumb.  If your child is using a toothbrush that’s too big for them, they won’t be able to reach all of their teeth in the back. Make sure to pick a soft-bristled brush!  (And if you’re having a hard time getting your child to brush, let them pick their own! It could be just the trick for an easier brushing routine.)

9.       What should I do when my child reaches the teething stage?

Ahh, the teething stage!  First, a little reminder to get you through this: “Parenting is a blessing.”  Now, on to how to survive this wonderful stage.

From six months to age three, your child may experience some discomfort as their teeth erupt (read: lots of crying and sleepless nights). A couple of ways to ease the comfort: use a clean finger or washcloth to gently rub their gums for two minutes at a time, let them chew on cold teething rings, or give them an over-the-counter medication such as Baby Orajel. (Do not give them aspirin!)

10.   When will my child's teeth come in?

At about 6 months old, the two lower front teeth should erupt, followed closely by the two upper front teeth.  All other baby teeth will make their appearances during the next 18 to 24 months, but in no particular order. Between the ages of 2 and 3, all 20 baby teeth should be present.

Then, around 6 years old, you’ll make your debut as the tooth fairy! (Start saving up, the going rate for a lost tooth just hit an all-time high!)

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