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

A. Pediatric 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 additional specialty training in the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.

Q. When will my child get teeth?

A. A child's teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary (baby) teeth push through the gums—the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3. Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 18. Adults have 32 permanent teeth—4 of which are the third molars (wisdom teeth).

Q. At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?

A. "First visit by 1st birthday" is the general rule. To prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears – usually between 6 and 12 months of age – and certainly no later than his/her 1st birthday.

Q. How should I clean my baby's teeth?

A. A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head is the best choice for babies and small children. For infants with only a few teeth, some parents find it easier to simply wipe the teeth off with a damp washcloth. Brushing at least twice a day, especially at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.

Q. What type of toothpaste should I use for my child?

A. We recommend using a toothpaste that contains fluoride, but for children who are unable to spit it is important to only use an appropriate amount. For infants, you should only use a smear of toothpaste, less than a grain of rice and just enough to be visible on the brush. For toddlers, you should only use about the size of a grain of rice. For older children and adults, we only need to use a pea sized amount.

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

A. Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing or bottle feeding. It happens when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and/or bottle-feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced, and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing or bottle feeding children to sleep on a regular basis, especially once teeth have erupted if you are unable to wipe them off after feeding. This is especially important once your child begins to eat solid foods, as the bacteria in his/her mouth changes.

Q. How can I help my child through the teething stage?

A. When teeth erupt, sore gums are part of the normal eruption process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a variety of teethers. To help aid in restful sleep, you may give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help alleviate the discomfort per manufacturer’s instructions. Although your pharmacy may have medications that can be rubbed on the gums to alleviate the discomfort, we do not recommend the use of these numbing agents due to risks of toxicity in infants and small children.

Q. Can thumb sucking be harmful for my child's teeth?

A. Thumb and pacifier sucking habits that go on for a long period of time can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems. If children are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when their permanent teeth erupt, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist. Most children stop these habits on their own.

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

A. In the event your child has a toothache, you may give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with the discomfort. Do not put aspirin on the sore area as this can cause additional problems. Please see us as soon as possible, and should your child have any facial swelling he/she needs to be seen immediately.

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

A. A mouth guard should be a top priority on your child's list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouth guards, are made of soft plastic and fit comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth. They protect a child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any mouth guard works better than no mouth guard, but a custom-fitted mouth guard fitted by our dentist is your child's best protection against sports-related injuries.

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

A. Primary, or "baby," teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or older. 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 baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of your child.

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

A. First of all, try to remain calm. If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown (top) rather than the root. Place the tooth in a clean container with milk, saline/contact solution, or Hank’s Balanced Solution if available. Call the office immediately for treatment, as time is essential. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.

Children’s Dentistry of Richmond

  • Children’s Dentistry of Richmond - 4025 Mechanicsville Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23223 Phone: (804) 321-6800 Fax: 804.321.8800

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