Frequently Asked Questions

When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?

The American Academy of Pediatricians as well as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend having your child’s first wellness when your child is 6 months old. A child first becomes susceptible to cavities when the first baby teeth begin to emerge in the mouth. Early assessment is key to limiting your child’s risk of developing cavities.

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

Family dentists are basically adult dentists that have a four year dental degree that predominantly focuses on the treatment of adult patients.  Pediatric dentists, in addition to having a general dentistry degree, also have an additional two to three years specialty training that focuses exclusively on the unique and changing treatment needs of children ages 6 months through late adolescence. This advanced training makes pediatric dentists the equivalent of pediatricians for children’s  total oral health care needs. Pediatric dentists are the only dental professionals designated as primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.

My child grinds his/her teeth while sleeping, should I worry?

Teeth grinding, also known as Bruxism, is a fairly common pediatric dental condition. It is estimated up to 35% of children will experience Bruxism at some point in childhood. Many parents report to us that the grinding is so loud, they can hear it from the next room. Although unpleasant for parents to hear, children often are not aware they are clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth at night. If teeth-grinding continues and worsens over a period of time, it is a good idea to have them evaluated by a pediatric dentist.

What are the symptoms of Nighttime (nocturnal) pediatric Bruxism?

The symptoms of night-time grinding may vary, but a few of the more obvious may include:

  • Tenderness in the jaw
  • Tightness in the jaw muscles
  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Visibly worn teeth
  • Increased tooth sensitivity

What Causes a Child to Grind his Teeth at Night?

The incidence of bruxism or “grinding” has been increasing over the past several decades and researchers believe that 70% of grinding is directly related to stress. Society has become increasingly stressful for both adults and children. Families are often “on the go” from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Between this time, there is virtually no true down time or stillness due to invasion of technology. Most children now grow up in front of a screen 24/7. Whether it’s TV, video games, computers, or cell phones, experts all agree that this immersion in constant stimulation is having negative effects on our brains in the form of stress, interruption of sleep, and ability to concentrate.

This combination of chronic unmanaged stress and teeth grinding can fuel insomnia. Insomnia then leads to reduced daily function which can trigger further stress and continue the vicious cycle of stress, teeth grinding, and sleep difficulties. Meditation and other psychological methods of stress reduction may prove helpful in breaking the cycle, but relaxation alone may not be enough to save teeth from the damage of grinding.

How do I help my child if he suffers from night time teeth-grinding?

If a parent is concerned about a child who may be grinding his teeth at night, an important first step is to have him evaluated by a pediatric dentist.

In many cases, a child will not need any treatment other than confident reassurance from a dentist specialized in working with children. Unlike adults, children who grind are rarely prescribed mouth guards to wear at night. Except in severe situations where there may be risk of infection or damage to permanent teeth, treatments such as mouth guards are likely not needed and may not be beneficial. In addition, the continual growth, change and development of a child’s oral cavity make fitting a child with a mouth guard costly as a new mouth guard would have to be made every time a primary tooth was lost.

Children age 13 and over that continue to grind can benefit from a custom “Night Guard” that limits enamel wear, decreases grinding forces, and relieves muscle tension.

It may also be helpful to speak to a counselor trained in stress reduction techniques.

So, what’s the GOOD news?

Most children who suffer from nocturnal Bruxism outgrow the condition on their own without the need for special treatment. Usually grinding lessens between the ages 6-9 and completely stops by the age of 12.

Should my child be taking a fluoride supplement? 

Fluoride is the 13th most common element found on the Earth’s surface. It is naturally occurring in well water and sea water. Trace amounts can be found in most foods we eat, though some foods have higher concentrations such as fish, tea, pickles, grape juice, and many fruit juices. The largest source of ingested fluoride comes from beverages including water.

Before prescribing fluoride drops or tablets, a dentist or pediatrician needs to take into consideration the total amount of fluoride a patient ingests on a daily basis from all sources including: food, drink, and swallowed toothpaste. This figure is often difficult to calculate due to the widely varied eating habits of most people.

Fluoride Rinses are the best choice for children that can rinse and spit out – typically age 6 and over

Fluoride has been an important tool in decreasing the incidence of cavities however, excessive fluoride intake can have negative affects on tooth enamel and bone. The pediatric dentist is the professional best suited to assess a child’s total fluoride intake and factor in a patient’s overall cavity risk factor before deciding whether supplemental fluoride is appropriate.

Why do you place fluoride varnish on my child’s teeth after his/her cleaning?

Regular use of fluoridated toothpaste and fluoride mouth rinses will help protect your teeth. Fluoride binds to the outer surface of your teeth creating a layer that resists acid attacks to your enamel from cavity causing bacteria and acidic foods.

When our hygienist cleans your child’s teeth she uses a special toothpaste that has micro abrasives to aid in the removal of dental plaque and calculus. The micro abrasives also remove the protective fluoride layer that keeps your teeth strong. At the end of every cleaning, our hygienist applies a concentrated fluoride varnish in order to restore and boost this fluoride-enamel (fluorohydroxyapatite) protective layer.

The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend fluoride treatments after every dental cleaning. Unfortunately, there are a number of insurance companies that have begun limiting fluoride application to only once a year. Their decision to limit fluoride coverage is not based on sound science or concern about keeping your child’s teeth protected, it’s based on their desire to maximize their profits. Please check your insurance benefits to make sure your child is getting the maximum protection against tooth decay.

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

Start cleaning your child’s mouth even before her teeth come in. Wipe the gums off after each feeding with a warm, wet washcloth or a dampened piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. You can also buy thimble-like, soft rubbery devices (they fit over your index finger) to use for rubbing off excess food.