Pediatric Dentistry FAQs

Can all children grow up cavity-free?

Ten years ago we might have said no…but today's research and new easy-to-follow professional advice indeed makes it possible for almost every child to grow up cavity-free.

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What guidelines will help children remain cavity-free?

Dr. Parker and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend the following guidelines to help your child grow up cavity free.

  • Brush your child's teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day.
  • Floss your child's teeth once a day to remove plaque and food in-between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach.
  • Get enough fluoride through drinking water, fluoride products and when recommended by Dr. Parker, through fluoride supplements.
  • Have sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of permanent molars soon after they come in.
  • Snack moderately - No more than twice a day.
  • Visit Dr. Parker regularly for check-ups, cleanings and x-rays.

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Is diet important in the prevention of cavities?

Though a balanced diet is certainly important in preventing cavities, experts agree that cavities are not only the result of what children eat, but also how often they eat. Frequent snacking without brushing leaves food on the teeth longer and fosters tooth decay.

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What are good and bad foods for the teeth?

All foods can cause cavities in the absence of good oral hygiene.  Table sugar (sucrose) was once considered the only dietary source of cavities, but recent research shows that cooked starches such as bread, corn flakes, pasta, crackers and potato chips are allowed to remain in the mouth for several hours, bacteria produce acids that attack teeth and cause cavities.  Even foods such as milk, fruits and vegetables, which contribute to strong bones and healthy teeth and gums, can foster tooth decay when left on the teeth for periods of time without brushing.  It's best to reserve sugars and cooked starches for mealtime when saliva production is increased and when naturally rinsing foods and beverages are being consumed.

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Can you provide information on snacking?

It's important to eat a well balanced diet and avoid excessive snacking between meals, since children don't usually brush after having a snack.  Here are a couple of suggestions for healthy snacks to feed your child when hunger hits!

Cheese, including aged Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss is an excellent snack choice.  Cheese stimulates the production of saliva, which clears carbohydrates (sugars and starches) and harmful acids, remineralizes teeth, and also neutralizes harmful acids.  If your child wants something crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables are also great snack choices.  Studies also show that peanuts and cashews fight plaque and neutralize the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

In addition to providing dentally preferred snacks, it is also important to alternate snack choices to incorporate variety, moderation and balance into your child's overall diet.

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At what age should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?

The American Board of Pediatric Dentists and Dr. Parker recommend that your child have their first dental exam before the age of two.  Though this may seem early, 40 percent of all toddlers between one and three years old have some form of inflammation of the gums and/or cavities.

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If our water supply is fluoridated, should my child also use a fluoridated toothpaste?

Absolutely!  Dietary fluoride (fluoride taken into the body through food and water) and topical fluoride (fluoride applied to the teeth with toothpaste, mouth rinses or in-office fluoride treatments) are equally influential in preventing tooth decay.  Toothpaste provides daily fluoride boosts that are necessary in keeping your child's teeth cavity free.

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Is it possible to get too much fluoride?

Parents often worry about too much fluoride, a condition that can cause dental fluorosis.  Dr. Parker and his staff will assess the amount of fluoride your child is receiving from drinking water, toothpaste, mouth rinses and in-office fluoride treatments, and will consider the need for a dietary fluoride supplement.  Confirm with Dr. Parker, or your local water company, that your community observes the Environmental Protection Agency's standard for optimum water fluoridation (0.7 to 1.2 parts per million).  It's also a good idea to teach small children to use a "pea sized" amount of toothpaste for brushing.

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What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants protect the chewing surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found. Made of a clear or shaded composite resin, sealants are painted onto the tiny grooves and depressions in the molars. By "sealing out" food and plaque, sealants reduce the risk of decay. They are quickly and painlessly applied to any baby teeth and permanent teeth that, in Dr. Parker's opinion, are likely to develop decay in the chewing surface. Sealants must be checked periodically and replaced or repaired when necessary, though they generally last for several years.

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Can all children benefit from dental sealants?

Many of the cavities found in children under age 15 develop on the chewing surfaces of back molars.  Molars commonly decay because plaque accumulates in the tiny grooves of these teeth.  Have sealants applied to these surfaces of permanent molars soon after they come in to help seal out decay.

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When should my child begin to brush his/her teeth?

Brushing should actually begin before children are capable of doing it themselves.  A wet cloth or gauze effectively cleans gums and removes plaque after nursing and establishes a good habit early on.  Gentle brushing with a soft bristle brush can begin with the eruption of the first tooth.  Flossing, when most primary (baby) teeth are in.
At eight or nine, children can be expected to be able to adequately brush on their own, and by 11 or 12, they can be expected to floss on their own as well. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says a good rule of thumb is…when children are accomplished enough in caring for their own needs that they can get up, bathe, dress themselves and comb their hair without your help – they are ready to accept full responsibility for their mouth-cleaning program!

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How can my child develop toothbrushing into a habit?

If you want to motivate your children, start by being a good role model with your own daily brushing, flossing and limited snacking program. Let them also notice that you follow a regular dental checkup schedule.

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Is it important to care for my child's baby teeth since they will eventually come out anyway?

Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental in enhancing the health of the growing adult teeth. The primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into position and allow normal development of the jaw bone and muscles. Because primary teeth hold space for their successors, early loss or damage can severely affect the position of the permanent teeth.  As with adults, children need healthy teeth and mouths to chew food easily, learn to pronounce words properly, speak clearly, and smile with confidence.

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What should I do in case my child chips or knocks out a tooth?

If a tooth is broken, save any fragments and make an emergency visit to Dr. Parker's office. If a permanent tooth is knocked out and unbroken, you can rinse it in cool water and gently place it into the socket. Hold the tooth by the top (crown), not the root portion and do not clean or handle the tooth unnecessarily.  Hold the tooth in the socket while you hurry to see Dr. Parker. If the tooth does not seem replaceable, bring it with you to Dr. Parker's office in a glass of milk or cool water. Never delay – The faster you get to the dentist, the better your chances are of saving the tooth. Remember, all injuries to the mouth should be examined by Dr. Parker. A chipped or broken tooth can usually be repaired.

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What does it mean if my child's teeth are sensitive to hot or cold?

Sensitive teeth are not uncommon and can be symptomatic of anything from a harmless sinus headache to more serious problems, such as bruxism (teeth grinding), cavities, loose fillings, or receding gums. Sensitivity can also be magnified by tiny cracks beneath the outer enamel created by chewing on hard objects. If your child complains of momentary pains caused by hot or cold elements, consider all possible causes and consult Dr. Parker. Fleeting sensations are rarely grounds for concern. If these pains tend to linger, see Dr. Parker for an examination.

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My teeth have always been crooked. Is there anything that can be done to make sure that my child's teeth come in straight?

Fortunately, orthodontic treatment has come a long way, especially with early intervention procedures. As Dr. Parker monitors your child's development, he can teach your child to avoid oral habits that encourage orthodontic problems. Dr. Parker can also identify malocclusion (abnormal dental alignment) right away and actively intervene to guide the teeth as they emerge in the mouth. Many times, early orthodontic treatment can prevent more extensive treatment later. Though your child may need braces, new preventative techniques can minimize time needed to wear them.
other problems

If you notice any of the following in your child, check with Dr. Parker.

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth
  • Difficulty in chewing or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Jaws that shift or make sounds
  • Speech difficulties
  • Biting the cheek
  • Facial imbalance
  • Grinding or clenching of the teeth
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