What is a Pediatric Dentist?
A pediatric dentist is a specialist who has completed 2-3 years of extra training after completing dental school. Very young children, school-aged kids, and teenagers all have different needs and require different approaches when working with behavior, growth and development, and motivating them to avoid future dental problems A pediatric dentist has additional training in those areas. Board certification is an additional step above that. The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry
certifies pediatric dentists who have completed a written Qualifying Examination and an Oral Clinical Examination covering all areas of information on which a pediatric dentist should be knowledgeable. Certification is awarded for a time-limited period and they must renew annually to maintain their board-certified status. Involvement in the certification process is a demonstration of the pediatric dentist’s pursuit of continued proficiency and excellence. Through this accomplishment, a pediatric dentist has earned the title of Diplomat of the American Board Pediatric Dentistry.
Why are Baby Teeth Important?
Dental caries (or cavities) is the most common disease of childhood. Cavities that are not treated can lead to pain, infection, swelling, and problems with the developing permanent teeth. Primary, or “baby” teeth are necessary for proper chewing, aiding in the growth and development of the jaws and permanent teeth, speech development, and of course esthetics.
Development of Your Child’s Teeth
Your kids’ teeth began developing before they were even born! Sometime around 5-6 months is when you may expect to see the first teeth erupt into the mouth (though this is just an approximate). All the baby teeth are typically in the mouth by 28 months of age. The first permanent teeth start to come in around age 6-7 years, with the third molars (or wisdom teeth) not erupting until the late teenage years. There are a total of 20 baby teeth, and a total of 32 permanent teeth.
Dental Trauma and Emergencies
Kids will be kids, and dental injuries are common. We recommend using mouth guards for kids involved in competitive sports, and we’re happy to consult with you about using or making one.
Knocked Out Baby Tooth
Consult our office. It typically requires no treatment, but it’s usually a good idea to bring your child in for an examination and x-ray to make sure there’s no damage to permanent teeth.
Broken or Fractured Permanent Tooth
Contact our office immediately. Most of the time, quick action and intervention can save the tooth/teeth involved. Rinse the mouth with clean water, and apply pressure to any soft tissue bleeding. Try to locate any tooth fragments, and bring them with you to the office.
Clean the area. Rinse the mouth thoroughly with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge any food. If your child is still in pain, call our office. DO NOT place aspirin on the area; it will burn your child’s gum issue severely. If the face or chin is swollen, call us immediately.
Injured Lip or Tongue
Apply ice to injured areas to help control swelling. Clean the area by rinsing it gently with water. Call our office, or an emergency room if after hours.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
Try to find the tooth. If you can, only touch the crown of the tooth (avoid touching the root). You can gently rinse debris away with cool water. DO NOT scrub it or clean it with a brush. If it’s possible to put the tooth back in the socket, do so and call us immediately. You can have your child hold it in place with gauze. If you’re unable to put it back in the mouth, transport the tooth in a cup covered in saliva or milk. Time is of the essence in this situation, so call us immediately!
Dental Radiographs (x-rays)
As part of your child’s initial exam, we will likely take diagnostic x-rays to help aid us in determining your child’s treatment needs. X-rays detect much more than cavities. They can help us diagnose bone disease, evaluate for growth and development (and when orthodontic intervention may be suggested). The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association have guidelines on radiographs, based on disease risk and child age. Our office follows those recommendations; in general, we’ll ask for x-rays once/year.
We are always cautious in recommending x-rays to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation. With the digital x-rays we utilize and following guidelines, exposure is minimized. Lead apron shielding, and high-speed digital film reduce the amount of radiation exposure.
What Toothpaste Should my Child Use?
In short, whatever age-appropriate kind they like! Tooth brushing shouldn’t be an unpleasant chore. If your kids have a flavor or a variety they like, it makes it easier and more fun for them to brush. Pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association for children’s use. Kids should avoid using adult toothpastes or toothpastes that contain fluoride until they are able to rinse and spit in the sink (age 5-6 typically). Use only a pea-sized amount of paste on the toothbrush, have them attempt it first on their own, but make sure you follow up and help them finish the job well.
Is Thumb-sucking Bad for My Kids’ Teeth?
Sucking is a natural reflex for infants and young toddlers; finding objects to suck on like fingers, thumbs, pacifiers, etc. is not uncommon. It provides a sense of security and comfort. Generally, the habit goes away on its own between the ages of 2-4 years. It generally doesn’t cause any problems if the habit has stopped before the permanent teeth erupt, but orthodontic correction may be required if it persists too long. Consult with our office before attempting to stop the habit; we have some helpful tips and tricks to make it easier for you and your child.
When Should I Think about Braces for My Child?
Your child’s bite, or occlusion, is something we’ll evaluate at each check-up. Often, early signs can give us an indication of whether or not your child may benefit from braces later on, and sometimes early intervention can save time and money later on. Stage I, or interceptive, orthodontics can benefit patients by correcting crossbites, managing early tooth loss, or helping sucking habits go away. Sometimes, though not always, this can alleviate the need for further orthodontic treatment. Stage II orthodontic treatment is for kids that have both baby and permanent teeth. This is the most common time to start treatment, and is often the most effective. Stage III orthodontic care is started when your child has all permanent teeth (Age 12-13 and older).