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Pediatric Dental FAQs

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions patients have about pediatric dentistry and oral health issues.  If you have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment at our Silver Spring Maryland Pediatric Dental Office , we would love to hear from you.

How can I help my child during teething?

Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.

When is it time for my child's first dental visit?

By your child's first birthday.  We'll do a brief oral and dental examination, give you very important pointers, and demonstrate how to take care of baby's teeth. Dr Hill will answer any questions you may have and We'll also start to get your baby comfortable with our office for future visits.  A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future visits.

Why Your Baby's Teeth Are Important

Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.

Good Diet and Healthy Teeth

The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Most snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should more often than not receive healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants who need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.

A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice for infants. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will help remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.

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

Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. 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. Try to avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Also try to encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. Ideally, you'll be able to wean your baby from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.

Can thumbsucking be harmful for my child's teeth?

Thumb and pacifier sucking habits that go on for a long period of time can unfortunately create crowded, crooked teeth, or even bite problems. If your child is still sucking her or his thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, we may recommend some corrective action, just as a mouth appliance. The good news is that most children stop these habits on their own.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

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

When should my child start using toothpaste?

Avoid fluoridated toothpaste until age 3. Earlier than that, clean your child's teeth with non flouridated toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. After age 3, parents should continue to supervise brushing. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and be very careful to try to make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste.

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

To comfort your child, rinse his or her mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a cloth on your child's face if it is swollen. Do not put heat or aspirin on the sore area, but you may give the child an appropriate dose of acetaminophen for pain. Call us to come in for a visit as soon as possible.

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, assuming you live in an area that has fluorinated water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride at home through water, feel free to speak with Dr Hill  when you come in so that we can determine the need for a Flouride test kit and the indication for flouride supplements..

How safe are dental X-rays?

With contemporary safeguards, such as lead aprons and high-speed film, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, we are always very sensitive to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. In fact, dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. At Hill Pediatric Dentistry we use digital x-rays which provides less radiation , require shorter processing time . Also very importantly our x-ray film size are smaller and hence more comfortable for young children

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 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 developed by a dentist is your child's best protection against sports-related injuries.

When do the first teeth start to erupt?

At about 6 months, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appear during the next 18 to 24 months but not necessarily in an orderly sequence from front to back. At 2 to 3 years, all of these 20 primary teeth should be present.

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

First of all, remain 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 in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with milk and take your child to see us immediately. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.

How can I help my child through the teething stage?

Sore gums when teeth erupt are part of the normal eruption process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have medications that can be rubbed on the gums to reduce the discomfort.

I noticed a space between my child's two upper front teeth. Is this cause for concern?

Usually, the space will close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. We can determine whether there is cause for concern.

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

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 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 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 the your child.

What causes tooth decay?

Four things are necessary 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 everyone's 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.