At what age should my child have their first dental visit?

“First visit by the first birthday” is the general rule. Your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, usually between 6 and 12 months of age, or no later than the first birthday. This allows us to monitor their development and treat any potential dental problems.

How often should my child see the dentist?

We recommend scheduling your child for a dental appointment every six months. At each of these checkups, we will complete an oral exam, clean your child’s teeth, and apply fluoride.

Why should my child see a pediatric dentist instead of our regular family dentist?

Dr. Michael Coppe with assistantsPediatric dentistry is a dental specialty that focuses on the oral health of young people. Following dental school, a pediatric dentist has two to three years of additional specialty training in the unique needs of infants, children, and adolescents, including those with special health needs. This extensive training gives pediatric dentists the knowledge they need to treat children’s specific dental and orthodontic needs, provide a positive dental experience, and to educate children on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

How should I clean my baby’s teeth?

For babies without any erupted teeth, you can rub a clean, soft cloth over their gums nightly. For infants who have visible teeth, a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head is the best choice. There are many brushes available that are designed specifically for infants. Brush the teeth once per day at bedtime to remove the plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.

Can thumbsucking be harmful for my child’s teeth?

When thumb and pacifier sucking habits go on for a long period of time, they can create bite problems, or crowded and crooked teeth. For children who are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist or orthodontist, but most children do stop these habits on their own.

What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?

Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay that is associated with prolonged nursing, which happens when a child goes to sleep while breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced, diminishing the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth. To prevent this decay, avoid nursing your child to sleep or putting anything other than water into his or her bedtime bottle. Encourage drinking from a cup as the first birthday approaches and aim to have your child weaned from the bottled by 12-14 months of age.

How can I help my child through the teething stage?

Sore and painful gums are a normal part of the tooth eruption process, but they can be distressing for both baby and parents. This discomfort may be eased by using a teething biscuit, a clean, frozen washcloth, or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have medications available to rub on the gums to help reduce soreness.

When do the first teeth start to erupt?

Tooth eruption follows a fairly regular pattern. At around 6 months of age, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth will appear over the next 18 to 24 months, but not necessarily in an orderly sequence from front to back. By the time your child is about three years old, all twenty primary (“baby”) teeth should be present.

There is a space between my child’s two upper front teeth. Is this cause for concern?

Although this space will usually close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt, an exam by one of our pediatric dentists or orthodontist can determine if there is any cause for concern.

When should my child start brushing with toothpaste?

We recommend using a fluoride toothpaste when your child’s first baby molars emerge.  At this stage, it is important to limit the amount of toothpaste to no larger than a grain of rice.  As your child grows and becomes more comfortable with the process of spitting while brushing, that amount should increase to about the size of a pea.

Should my child be flossing?

Absolutely! Daily flossing is an important part of any oral health routine, and it protects your child’s teeth from harmful plaque and bacteria. Your child will likely need your help to learn how to floss effectively, and we have a collection of tips here to get you started.

How often should I replace my child’s toothbrush?

We recommend replacing your child’s toothbrush every three to four months, or if you notice that the bristles are noticeably worn. It is also important to change your child’s toothbrush after he or she has recovered from any sickness, as germs can hide in toothbrush bristles and can lead to reinfection.

Is my child getting enough fluoride?

Fluoride has been shown to dramatically decrease a person’s chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger. Fluoride in the drinking water is the best and easiest way to get it, but to make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.

What causes tooth decay?

There are four things that must be present for cavities to form – a tooth, bacteria, sugars or other carbohydrates, and time. Dental plaque is a thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. When you eat, the sugars in your food cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. With time and repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms. This is why it is important to establish a good dental hygiene routine at a young age, as well as regular dental visits, as these are essential building blocks for healthy teeth and gums.

If my child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, should it still be filled?

Baby (primary) teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, but they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to grow into the mouth. Some baby teeth are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health, and premature loss of teeth are just a few of the problems that can happen when decaying baby teeth are left untreated. In addition, it is important to understand that tooth decay is an infection, and infections will spread; therefore, any decay on baby teeth can cause decay on the permanent teeth as well. That is why proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the overall health of your child.

If my child gets a toothache, what should I do?

If your child is suffering from a toothache, rinse his or her mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress to the cheek if it is swollen. Do not put heat or aspirin on the sore area, but you may give acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. If your child’s toothache persists, contact us as soon as possible.  If your child’s symptoms include fever or fatigue, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible.

What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?

Stay calm! If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If you can’t put the tooth back into the socket, place it in a clean container with milk, and take this and your child to a pediatric dentist immediately. The faster you act, the better your chances are of saving the tooth.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

Sealants are clear or shaded plastic that are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free. Sealants fill in the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, which are hard to clean, and shut out food particles that could get caught and cause cavities. Sealants are fast and comfortable to apply, and can effectively protect the teeth for many years.

How safe are dental X-rays?

With contemporary safeguards like lead aprons and digital x-rays, the amount of radiation received in a dental x-ray examination is extremely small. In fact, dental x-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Although there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation and we take as few as possible on every patient.

What is early interceptive orthodontic treatment?

Early interceptive orthodontic treatment addresses any significant bite or eruption problems and prevents them from becoming more severe. It can also improve self-esteem and self-image. Early interceptive treatment is normally initiated for children between the ages of 7 and 10, and lasts around 1 year. It may be followed up with a short second phase of treatment once all of the permanent teeth have grown into the mouth.

Do braces hurt?

Generally speaking, braces are not painful. After they are applied, and sometimes after adjustment visits, there may be mild tenderness to the teeth, but this kind of discomfort is short-lived and responds well to treatment at home. Many patients never feel any soreness at all!  Modern orthodontic materials have greatly decreased the amount of discomfort felt by most patients.

Can my child return to school the day he or she receives braces?

Yes, your child can return to school the same day. There is no reason to miss school because of an orthodontic appointment.

Can my child still play sports while wearing braces?

Yes, although we do recommend a mouth guard for all sports.

Are there foods my child cannot eat while in braces?

Yes. Once treatment begins, we will provide complete instructions, including a comprehensive list of foods to avoid. These foods will include anything hard, crunchy, sticky, or chewy. Most extra appointments to repair broken or damaged braces can be avoided by encouraging your child to carefully follow our instructions throughout the course of treatment.

How often should my child brush his or her teeth while in braces?

We recommend that our patients in braces brush their teeth at least three times each day – morning and night as well as one extra time. We take the time (at each appointment if necessary!) to show children how to brush and floss their teeth effectively with braces. We may also provide a prescription for a special fluoride if necessary.

What is a retainer?

The most common retainer is a removable appliance made of a combination of metal wires and sturdy acrylic that is designed to keep your child’s teeth in place after orthodontic treatment has been completed. This retainer is custom-made using digital impressions of your child’s teeth, so that it fits snugly and comfortably in the roof of the mouth, while any wire or acrylic framing keeps the teeth in the perfect position.

What are separators?

Separators are small elastics that fit snugly between certain teeth to move them slightly so that orthodontic bands can be placed around them later. Separators can fall out on their own if enough space has already been created. To determine if it needs to be replaced, give our office a call and we can help you through this process.

My child plays sports. How should I protect my child’s teeth?

A mouth guard should be a top priority on your child’s list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouthguards, are made of soft plastic, fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth, and protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums. Any mouth guard works better than none, but a custom-fitted mouth guard fitted by our pediatric dentists is your child’s best protection against sports-related injuries.