Frequently Asked Questions

This page outlines some of the most frequently asked questions regarding pediatric dentistry and how to care for your child’s teeth. Click on a question below to view the answer, or schedule an appointment today to consult with one of our board-certified NYC pediatric dentists.

How should I clean my baby’s teeth?

A baby's teeth should be brushed using a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. Brushing at least once a day (at bedtime) will remove plaque and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay.

At what age should my child have his or her first dental visit?

The general rule is "first visit by first birthday". To prevent dental problems, you should bring your child to see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, usually between 6 and 12 months of age.

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

Pediatric dentistry is a dental specialty that focuses on the oral health and growth of young children and adolescents. Following dental school, a pediatric dentist has two to three years of additional specialty training in the unique needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health needs.

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 breastfeeding 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 children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach his or her first birthday. He/she should be weaned from the bottle/breast at 16-18 months of age.

Can thumbsucking or a pacifier be harmful for my child's teeth?

We recommend discontinuing thumbsucking by four years old. The best way to help your child discontinue the habit is to reward positive behavior. A pacifier should be discontinued at ten months. If they are still sucking their thumb, finger or pacifier when the permanent teeth arrive, a retainer may be recommended by your pediatric dentist. Most children stop these habits on their own.

When do the first teeth start to erupt?

At about six 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 two to three years, all of the 20 primary teeth should be present.

How can I help my child through the teething stage?

When teeth erupt, sore gums are part of the normal process. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a teething biscuit or a frozen teething ring. To help with pain from teething, a dose of acetaminophen can be administered according to your baby’s weight.

When should my child start using toothpaste?

We advise parents to not use fluoridated toothpaste until the age of two. Earlier than that, clean your child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. After age two, parents should supervise brushing. Use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste.

What are dental sealants and how do they work?

Dental sealants are a clear or shaded resin material applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free. Sealants fill in the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, which are hard to clean, and seal out food particles that can get caught in the natural grooves of the teeth. Fast and comfortable to apply, sealants can effectively protect teeth for many years.

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.

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 of age. 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. Decay in baby teeth can cause decay in permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth, including fillings when necessary, is instrumental to enhancing the health of your child.

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 acetaminophen for pain. Make an appointment with your pediatric dentist 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. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially in communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.

How safe are dental X-rays?

With contemporary safeguards such as digital X-ray machines (that are installed in our office), the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of pediatric patients to radiation. In fact, dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem.

How should I protect my child’s teeth while playing sports?

A mouthguard should be a top priority on your child's list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth protectors, or mouthguards, 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 mouthguard works better than no mouthguard, but a custom-fitted mouthguard fitted by our pediatric dentists is your child's best protection against sports-related injuries.

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 water or milk and take your child and the container immediately to the pediatric dentist. The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.

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