Ask the Pediatric Dentist

We've provided answers to a number of parent's commonly asked dental questions. If you have a question that is not addressed here, please call us at (209) 549-2400! We look forward to resolving all of your pediatric dental concerns.

Q: What Is Pediatric Dentistry?

Children, pre-teens, and teenagers experience different challenges to oral health than adults. To avoid future dental problems, these challenges require a pediatric dentist trained to deal with these needs. Pediatric dentists receive two to three years of additional training after dental school to focus on the specific dental needs of children from infancy through adolescence. Pediatric dentists only treat children.

Q: Are Baby Teeth Important?

Healthy baby (or primary) teeth are the key to healthy adult teeth. Neglected cavities in baby teeth frequently lead to problems in developing permanent teeth. Baby teeth provide space for permanent teeth and guide them into the correct position, as well as affecting speech development and proper chewing. They also guide sound development of jaw bones and muscles. Proper care of your child’s primary teeth will help prevent a lifetime of dental problems.

Q: When Should I Expect My Child’s First Teeth?

Teething can begin as early as four months, but every child is different. In general, the first baby teeth begin erupting between the ages of 6-8 months. The rate and order will vary, but all twenty primary teeth usually appear by age three. Permanent teeth begin appearing around the age of six. This process will continue until all 28 permanent teeth (or 32 with the third molars or ‘wisdom teeth’) develop.

Q: When Should My Child First Visit A Dentist?

When does one plus one equal zero? ONE baby tooth + ONE pediatric dental visit = ZERO cavities. It’s never too early to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy teeth! Both, the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommend your child visit a pediatric dentist on or before their first birthday. Children who establish an early and regular dental routine are more likely to form a lifetime habit of appropriate oral care.
A 2006 scientific paper in Pediatric Dentistry revealed that children who waited past their first birthday and did not see a dentist until age two or three "were more likely to have subsequent preventive, restorative and emergency visits."

When preparing for your child’s first visit to the dentist, don’t make the mistake of letting your preconceptions color your child’s perception. Your job as a parent is to make your child’s first visit a positive experience. Children old enough to understand should be told what a dentist does; when doing so, avoid providing details that may cause your child to fear the upcoming visit. The dentist and their staff are trained to explain what they are doing in a safe and secure manner that minimizes any anxiety your child may feel. It’s in everyone’s best interest that your child forms positive associations.

A check up every six months is recommended, but we will tell you how often your child should visit based on their personal history.

Q:What Should I Do in a Dental Emergency?

For Toothaches: Have your child rinse their mouth with warm salt water. If possible, use dental floss to free any impacted food. You may give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain, however if the pain persists you should contact your dentist. Do not place aspirin on the aching tooth - this is a old wives tale and will not help! If your child’s face is swollen, apply cold compresses and see your dentist as soon as possible.

For Knocked Out Baby Teeth: This is rarely an emergency and normally will not require treatment. Contact your pediatric dentist during regular business hours.

A Chipped or Fractured Baby Tooth: Contact us immediately.

A Knocked Out Permanent Tooth: Locate the tooth to bring to your dentist. Don’t handle the tooth excessively, although you may rinse it off with water if necessary. Don’t touch the root of the tooth. If the tooth is not fractured, try to reinsert it in the socket. If reinsertion isn’t possible, bring the tooth to your dentist in a cup of milk. When saving a tooth, time is of the essence - see a pediatric dentist immediately!

A Chipped or Fractured Permanent Tooth: Contact us immediately. Have your child rinse their mouth with water. If necessary, apply cold compresses to your child’s face to reduce any swelling. Try to locate any broken tooth fragments and bring them with you to the office. Immediate action on your part can possibly save the tooth and may reduce the need for extensive (and expensive) treatment!

Q: What Is Pulp Therapy?

The pulp is the soft inner core of a tooth. It contains nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue and reparative cells. Your pediatric dentist may recommend pulp therapy to respond to cavities or dental injuries and maintain the health of the tooth. Pulp therapy will involve either a pulpectomy or pulpotomy.

A pulpotomy is indicated for partial pulp issues. Your dentist will remove the diseased pulp tissue in the crown of the tooth. They will then place an agent in the tooth that will prevent bacterial growth. The procedure is completed with a final restoration; usually a stainless steel crown.

When the entire pulp is involved, a pulpectomy is required. In a pulpectomy, the diseased pulp tissue is completely removed from the crown and root of the tooth. The root canals are cleaned, disinfected, filled with a non-resorbing material and capped with a final restoration.

Q: Are X-Rays Dangerous to My Child?

Many parents are concerned with the possible health risks to their children of X-rays. These concerns are greatly exaggerated and are outweighed by the diagnostic benefits. In fact, children face greater risks from undetected dental problems than they do from dental X-rays. Without X-rays, dentists cannot identify serious conditions that require treatment like bone diseases or internal injuries.

However, pediatric dentists are aware of parent’s concerns and do their best to minimize their patients exposure to radiation. Thankfully, modern technology and safeguards have greatly reduced the risk. Advances in high-speed film and shielding insure that children receive minimal exposure to radiation.

When considering the potential risks of X-rays, remember: problems that are detected early on by your dentist are much easier (and less expensive!) to address than advanced problems.

Q: What Causes Bad Breath?

A: While bad breath might be a symptom of some other disorder, it most likely stems from dental decay and peritonitis. Periodontis is a disease affecting gums and bone that support the teeth, and it results from inadequate tooth brushing and flossing. In this disease, the irritated gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets between the teeth and the gums. These pockets fill with bacteria which give off a foul odor.

Patients with bad breath need a complete dental evaluation. If gum disease and/or dental decay are diagnosed, it can be treated readily.

Q: What is Periodontal Disease?

A: Gum disease, or more correctly called "periodontal disease", is a bacterial infection in the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. It is characterized by gum tissue that is red, puffy, and bleeds easily when touched with a toothbrush, floss or dental instrument.

Advanced periodontal disease destroys the bone supporting the teeth, causing eventual tooth loss. The treatment is more involved at these stages, usually consisting of a special cleaning with anaesthesia and sometimes gum surgery. Periodontal disease can go on for years without pain and without detection unless specific examination procedures are performed. Effective prevention and treatment is available, but the damage caused as the disease progresses is irreversible. Early detection and treatment is critical to prevent tooth loss and disfigurement.

Q: What Causes Tooth Decay?

A: Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in dental plaque damages the enamel of your teeth, leaving a hole or cavity. Any part of a tooth can decay, from the roots below the gum line to the chewing surface. If plaque bacteria reach and damage the pulp, the tooth will likely die, because the pulp contains nerves and blood vessels that supply the tooth. Tooth decay can occur due to a number of issues, including poor brushing and flossing habits, diets rich in sugar and lack of fluoride in the water supply.