Pediatric Dentistry

Why a pediatric dentist?

The American Dental Association (ADA) defines pediatric dentistry as an "age-defined specialty that provides primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence". The primary reason for pediatric dentistry is that infants, children, and adolescent have special physical and psychological needs. Children need different approaches in dealing with their behavior, guiding their oral and facial growth and development, and helping them avoid future dental problems. A pediatric dentist is uniquely qualified to meet these needs.

A pediatric dentist is a specialist with an additional 2 – 3 years of training after dental school. Pediatric dentists emphasize the establishment of trust in children in order to build a cooperative relationship. Accordingly, one of the main skills of pediatric dentists is child psychology. Pediatric dentists utilize multiple communication styles and approaches to make dental visits enjoyable.

The importance of "Baby Teeth"

Primary teeth aka “baby teeth” play an important role in your child's overall health, development, and well-being. Premature loss of a baby tooth has the potential to destabilize the developing dentition due to space loss, arch collapse, and premature, delayed or ectopic eruption of the permanent successor dentition. In addition, baby teeth allow your child to chew and talk appropriately.

If baby teeth are not properly cared for they can develop cavities just like adult teeth. Primary tooth decay is a serious, infectious, and transmissible disease that can spread quickly and lead to pain or abscess without proper precautions. Oral disease is related to poor quality of life, inability to thrive and poor educational achievements.

However, the most important aspect of taking care of your child's primary teeth is the example you help to set. Early on, your child should develop proper oral hygiene and nutritional habits that will carry into adulthood. Healthy teeth also lead to easier dental visits, teaching your child that there is nothing to be afraid of at the dentist.

Tooth decay in children.

Bacteria in our mouth break down sugars and produce acid leading to cavities. Cavities appear as white, yellow, brown, or black spots on the front or tops of teeth. Once a child has a cavity, it is more likely that the child will develop more cavities because the bacteria spread from one tooth to another. One way to detect if your child is prone to cavities is visible plaque on the upper front teeth. Plaque is a soft, sticky biofilm made up of bacteria and bacterial products, is off white to light yellow in color, and usually starts building up closest to the gums.

Tooth decay can also be caused by bacteria passed from the parents or siblings to the baby through saliva by sharing spoons, testing foods before feeding them to the baby, and cleaning off a pacifier in your mouth instead of with water. These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before your baby’s primary teeth emerge, so it’s important to avoid sharing saliva with your baby from the start.

Oral health from Day One

Follow these easy guidelines and your child will be on the way to a lifetime of fantastic oral health.

Caring for Mouths from day one.

Even before your baby's first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After nursing or bottle feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby's gum tissue. This practice both clears your baby's mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits. It also helps the baby to get used to you cleaning his or her mouth.

Once you start bottle feeding place only formula, milk, or breast milk in the bottle. Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle that contains anything but water. Giving a child a sugary drink at nap or night-time can be especially harmful, because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth. Avoid liquids such as sugar water, juice, or soft drinks. Never dip a pacifier in anything sweet, like sugar water or honey.

First Tooth at six months.

When that first tooth erupts – usually around six months of age - you can start cleaning it. According to new guidelines from the American Dental Association, parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt, instead of waiting until children are older. You can use either a toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, or a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles should be soft.

Avoiding Cavities

Do not give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks, sweetened juices or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is crucial. Make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth will lead to early childhood decay, also called baby bottle caries.

Be a Great Role Model

As part of their natural learning process and development, children are expert mimics. You can take advantage of this gift by brushing and flossing while your child is observing. As soon as your toddler shows interest, encourage him or her to “brush” with you. You can find toothbrushes specially designed for children with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.

Most children will not have appropriate manual dexterity to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they are six and a half years old. Therefore, you will have to assist your child. We recommend allowing the child to brush his or her teeth first and then having the parent take a turn to clean any areas the child might have missed. Try different strategies to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. There are many applications available for your iPad or smart phone to motivate children to brush. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of oral health.


Preventive Care at Home

Preventive dental care is important throughout life, especially at a young age. By practicing good oral hygiene at home and following healthy nutritional habits your child can preserve a healthy dentition.

Make sure your child follows this oral hygiene routine: Supervise your child as necessary until capable of following these instructions without supervision.

  • Flossing: Bacteria can linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Therefore, flossing is indicated at least once a day.
  • Brushing: brush her teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush using a fluoridated toothpaste. Tooth brushing removes food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces. Also, brush the top surface of the tongue. Tongue brushing removes any extra plaque-causing food particles and helps keep their breath fresh.
  • Rinsing: use a rinse once daily at night after flossing and brushing. Have your child vigorously swish 10 ml (2 teaspoonfuls) of mouthrinse for 1 minute and then spit out. Make sure your child DOES NOT swallow the rinse. Ensure your child does not eat or drink for 30 minutes after rinsing.


Healthy Nutrition

Sugars throughout the day can lead to the development of cavities. Therefore, limit your child’s sugar intake to meal times and avoid sugars at snack times. Candy, sweets, and desserts are one form of sugar, but juice, soda and other sweet drinks are another way sugar is introduced into the child’s diet. Juice consumption should be limited to 6 ounces per day and only with meals. Drinking water and eating healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables can help prevent to cavities.