Frequently Asked Questions

A pediatric dentist is a specialist dedicated to the oral health of infants, children, adolescents and patients with special health care needs. Pediatric dentists complete two or three years of additional specialized training (after the required four years of dental school), which includes study in child psychology, growth, and development. They are also trained and qualified to care for patients with medical, physical, or mental disabilities. Their specialization allows them to provide treatment for a wide variety of children's dental problems such as tooth decay and cavities, malocclusion and crooked teeth, and emergency care.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child's first visit to the dentist should occur by 12 months of age. This visit will enable the dentist to evaluate your child and introduce you to proper oral hygiene. Diet, fluoride, finger and pacifier habits and tooth eruption will be discussed to insure optimal dental health.

General anesthesia provides a way of effectively completing dental care while a child is unconscious. Due to the risks of any surgical procedure and high cost, usually only children with severe anxiety and/or severe tooth decay are recommended for general anesthesia. Typically, these children are young or have compromised health issues. Standard behavior management techniques may not be effective to accomplish treatment.

YES. While normal risks are always present with surgery, an anesthesia provider with special interest and much experience with children will put your child to sleep. They are responsible for delivering the general anesthesia, monitoring and the medical care of the child. Many precautions are taken to provide safety for the child during general anesthesia care. Patients are monitored closely during the general anesthesia procedure by anesthesia personnel who are trained to manage complications. We will discuss the benefits and risks involved with general anesthesia and why it is recommended for your child's treatment.

Most times, your child's surgery will be done on an "outpatient" basis. This means they will have their surgery in the morning and be allowed to go home in the afternoon. Special considerations include:

  • A physical examination – An examination is required prior to a general anesthesia appointment to complete dental care. This physical examination provides information to ensure the safety of the general anesthesia procedure. We will advise you about any evaluation appointments that may be requested.
  • Prior to surgery - Minimal discussion to your child about the appointment may reduce anxiety. Explain they are "going to go to sleep when their teeth are being fixed."
  • Eating and drinking - It is important NOT to have a meal the night before general anesthesia. You will be informed about food and fluid intake guidelines prior to the appointment.
  • Changes in your child's health - If your child is sick or running a fever, contact our office immediately! It may be necessary to arrange another appointment.

Usually, children are tired following general anesthesia. You may wish to return home with minimal activity planned for your child until the next day. After that, you can usually return to a routine schedule.

The chewing surface of children's teeth are the most susceptible to cavities and least benefited from fluorides. Sealants are adhesive coatings that are applied to the tops of teeth and can be very effective in preventing tooth decay. Current research has shown that 4 out of 5 cavities in children under age 15 develop on the biting surface of back molars. Molars are the most decayed teeth because plaque accumulates in the tiny grooves of the chewing surfaces. Sealants prevent the cavities that fluoride cannot effectively reach.

The majority of children stop sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects on their own between two and three years of age without any harm being done to their teeth or jaws. However, children that repeatedly suck on a finger, pacifier or other object over long periods of time may cause the upper front teeth to tip toward the lip or not come in properly. We will carefully monitor the way your child's teeth come in and jaws develop. For most children there is no reason to worry about a sucking habit until the permanent front teeth are ready to come in, but it should be discouraged by the age of four.

The majority of children stop sucking habits on their own. Some children may need the help of their parents. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, We can encourage your child to stop and talk about what happens to the teeth if your child doesn't stop. Typically, this advice along with the support from parents, helps most children quit. If all other options have been exhausted, your dentist may discuss the use of a fixed appliance to discourage the habit.

If a child is exposed to too much fluoride during the years of tooth development they may face the condition called enamel fluorosis. Too much fluoride can result in defects in tooth enamel resulting in white, yellow or brown splotches, streaks or lines, usually on the front teeth.

First, your dentist can determine the appropriate fluoride supplementation, if any, that should be given. Your dentist may choose to test the level of fluoride in your child's source of drinking water. After he knows how much fluoride your child receives from their water supply and other sources, they will decide if your child needs a fluoride supplement.

Second, monitor your child's use of fluoridated toothpaste. A smear of paste for young children or pea-sized amount in older children is plenty for fluoride protection. Teach your child to SPIT out the toothpaste. Do not swallow it after brushing.

Once fluoride is part of the tooth enamel, it can't be taken out. The appearance of teeth affected by fluorosis can be greatly improved by a variety of treatments. If your child suffers from severe enamel fluorosis, your dentist can tell you about dental techniques that can enhance your child's smile.

Definitely NO! Fluoride prevents tooth decay. It is an important part of helping your child keep a healthy smile for a lifetime. Getting the correct amount can be easily accomplished with the help of your dentist.

Primary teeth have been labeled "baby teeth." However, the first tooth is usually lost around age 6 and some primary molars must remain in place until 12 or 13 years of age. Primary teeth are necessary for proper chewing, speech, development of the jaws, retaining space for the proper eruption of permanent teeth and esthetics. Care of the primary teeth is important not only for proper function, but also to avoid a number of unpleasant conditions, such as pain, that result from their neglect.

Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) is a safe medical/dental gas breathed by your child with oxygen, through the nose, during dental procedures. Some of the objectives of nitrous oxide sedation include reducing or eliminating anxiety, raising the pain threshold, increase tolerance for longer appointments, and reduce gagging.

Although a well-balanced diet is important in preventing cavities and to ensure good general health, cavities are not only the result of what children eat but also the frequency of meals. Frequent snacking without brushing leaves food on the teeth longer and increases the likelihood of a cavity developing. Additionally, frequent "sipping" on sugar-drinks (including juice and soda) in a baby bottle, "sippy" cup, or re-sealable bottle can cause widespread dental cavities.