Dentistry and Family Dental - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What guidelines should I follow for my child's oral health?
- What will happen during my childs first dental exam?
- How old should my child be at her first dental visit?
- How do I help protect my child's teeth?
- How do I prepare my child and myself for the visit?
- How often should I have my teeth cleaned?
- What are sealants?
- How effective are sealants?
- How are sealants applied?
- Provide a well balanced diet for your child. Limit snack and sugar intake.
- Brush your child's teeth in the morning and at bedtime. Floss regularly.
- Make an appointment for your child's first dental visit no later than their first birthday.
- Talk to your dentist about fluoride supplements or rinses for your child.
- Use only water in the bottle that your child uses at bedtime.
- Ask your dentist about mouth guards if your child is involved in sports.
- Schedule regular 6 month dental check-ups.
- Monitor harmful oral habits such as thumb-sucking and pacifier use.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants.
What will happen during my child's first dental exam? Short, consecutive visits are meant to build the child's trust in the dental office and the dentist, and can prove valuable if your child needs to be treated later for any dental problems.
If the child is fearful, uncomfortable or non-cooperative, a rescheduling may be necessary. Many first visits are nothing more than breaking the ice to acquaint your child with the dentist and the practice. Patience and calm on the part of the parent and reassuring communication with your child are very important in these instances.
Parents may be asked to stay in the reception area so a relationship can be built between your child and the dentist. It is suggested that a child appointment be scheduled early in the day, when your child is alert and fresh. If the child is cooperative, the first session often lasts 30 minutes and may include the following, depending on age:
- Assessment of the need for fluoride
- A demonstration on proper home cleaning
- If indicated, a gentle cleaning, which includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar build-up and stains
- A gentle but thorough examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues to monitor growth and development and observe any problem areas
The dentist can answer any questions you have and try to make you and your child feel comfortable during the visit. The entire dental team and the office should provide a relaxed, non-threatening environment for your child.
How old should my child be at her first dental vist? Unless you see complications, we feel the finest time to see your child is when all their baby teeth are erupted, which is between 2 1/2 - 3 years old. This time frame is the ideal moment for the dentist to carefully examine the development of your child's mouth. To safeguard against problems such as prolonged thumb-sucking, gum disease, teething irritations , and baby bottle tooth decay, the dentist can provide or endorse special preventive care. Because dental problems often start early, the sooner the visit, the better.
How do I help protect my child's teeth? A proper system of home preventive care is important from the day your child is born. Parents typically administer oral hygiene care until the child is old enough to take personal responsibility for the daily dental health routine of brushing and flossing. Listed below are five ways to protect your child's oral health at home.
- Help a young child brush at night – the most critical time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities and plaque. Perhaps let the child brush his teeth first to build self-assurance, then the parent can follow up to ensure that all plaque is removed. Usually by age 5 or so, the child can learn to brush his or her own teeth with appropriate parental instruction.
- As soon as the first tooth comes in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and pea-sized dab of non-fluoride infant toothpaste. Remember, most children are also getting fluoride from the community water supply.
- The best way to advise a child how to brush is to lead by good example. Let your child to watch you brush your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.
- To avert baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, try to remove your child off of the breast and bottle by one year of age, and monitor extreme sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs. Never give your child a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier at nap time or bedtime.
- Clean your infant's gums with a clean, damp cloth. Ask your dentist if you may rub a tiny dab of infant toothpaste on the gums.
How do I prepare my child and myself for the visit? Plan a course of action for either cooperative or non-cooperative behavior your child may exhibit . Very young children may be fussy and not sit still. Talk to your child about what awaits and build excitement as well as understanding about the upcoming visit. Before the visit, ask the dentist about the procedures of the first appointment so there are no surprises. Bring with you any records of your child's complete medical history.
How often should I have my teeth cleaned? Many patients benefit from professional cleanings that happen often rather than every six months, especially those who does not floss daily. Studies show that calculus (tartar) begins to collect on tooth surfaces between 90 and 120 minutes after professional cleaning. Every patient (even denture patients) needs to be seen at least once a year, and the vast majority of patients should visit their dentist two to four times a year.
What are sealants? The first sealant was accepted by the American Dental Association Council on Dental Therapeutics in 1972, however, they were developed through dental research in the 1950's and first became available commercially in the early 1970's. A dental sealant is a thin plastic film painted on the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars (the teeth directly in front of the molars). Sealants have been shown to be highly effective in the prevention of cavities.
How effective are sealants? In fact, research has shown that sealants actually stop cavities when placed on top of a slightly decayed tooth by sealing off the supply of nutrients to the bacteria that causes a cavity. Because sealants act as a barrier to decay, protection is determined by the sealants' ability to adhere to the tooth. Scientific studies have proven that properly applied sealants are 100 percent effective in protecting the tooth surfaces from caries. As long as the sealant remains intact, small food particles and bacteria that cause cavities cannot go through or around a sealant. Sealant protection is reduced or lost when part or all of the bond between the tooth and sealant is broken. However, clinical studies have shown that teeth that have lost sealants are no more susceptible to tooth decay than teeth that were never sealed.
How are sealants applied? Sealant treatment is painless and could take anywhere from five to 45 minutes to apply, depending on how many teeth need to be sealed. Sealants must be applied properly for good retention. An etching solution or gel is applied to the enamel surface of the tooth, including the pits and grooves. Sealant application involves cleaning the surface of the tooth and rinsing the surface to remove all traces of the cleaning agent. After 15 seconds, the solution is thoroughly rinsed away with water. After the site is dried, the sealant material is applied and allowed to harden by using a special curing light. Other sealants are applied and allowed to harden much the same way nail polish is applied to fingernails.
Allan R. Pike, DDS. MS, Portland, OR
American Dental Association;
The National Institute of Dental Research;
B.J. Mistry, DDS, Tarrytown, NJ;
Peter G. Sturm, DDS, MAGD, Cranbury, NJ;
Mario Gildone, DDS, Reno, NV;
Kevin Boyd, DDS, University of Chicago;
University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Leonard Cohen, DDS, MPH, MS, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Education and Instructional Resources, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, June Owens, DDS, MScD, Nashville, TN;
Leslie V. Margens, DDS, MPH, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Ecology, School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota;
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.