Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why are baby teeth important?

Healthy primary teeth enable children to chew food properly and learn to speak clearly. From a dental perspective, primary teeth act as placeholders in the jaw for the developing permanent teeth. If a primary tooth comes out prematurely, neighboring teeth may move into the empty space. When the permanent tooth starts to grow, there may not be enough space for it. If this is the case, the teeth may become crooked or crowded.

2. When should I take my child to see the dentist?

Ideally, the first dental visit should be by the first birthday. If seen at an early age, we can help you prevent any problems. We will check for decay and other issues, teach you how to clean your child's teeth daily, identify fluoride needs and provide critical nutritional guidance during the cavity prone years of development. By starting dental visits early, you'll help your child build a lifetime of good dental habits.

3. When will my baby start getting teeth?

Usually the two lower front teeth (central incisors) erupt at about six months of age, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. During the next 18 to 24 months, the rest of the baby teeth appear, although not in orderly sequence from front to back. All of these 20 primary teeth should be present at two to three years of age. However, there is a normal range and these are averages. Some children get their teeth earlier and some later.

4. Do I need to clean my baby's mouth if there are no teeth yet?

Yes. Begin cleaning the baby's mouth during the first few days after birth. After every feeding, wipe the baby's gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. This establishes at an early age the importance of oral hygiene and the feel of having clean teeth and gums.

5. Can babies get cavities?

Yes. As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One serious form of decay is bottle rot, now known as early childhood decay. This condition can occur when an infant is allowed to nurse continuously or given a bottle of milk, formula, sugar liquids such as fruit juices or kool-aide during naps or at night. These liquids will "pool" around the child's teeth during sleep, allowing the teeth to be attacked by acids for long periods of time, resulting in significant tooth decay. If you must give your baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, make sure it contains only water. And never dip a pacifier into sugar or honey.

6. When should my children be able to brush
their own teeth effectively?

Parents should continue to brush their children's teeth until age 6 to 9 years of age. Studies have shown that children do not have the dexterity skills required or ability to brush their own teeth to prevent tooth decay until that age.

7. Are sealants necessary?

Yes. The back teeth (molars and bicuspids) normally develop deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces. These irregularities can't be cleaned even by diligent brushing because a single toothbrush bristle is far too large to get into these grooves. Plaque is then allowed to form out of reach of daily cleaning. Sealants fill these grooves with an acrylic-like material which hardens and prevents food and plaque from embedding in these grooves, thereby decreasing the risk of decay.

8. What should I do if my child's permanent tooth is knocked out?

Find the tooth and rinse it gently in cool water. (Do not scrub it or clean it with soap or other abrasive materials) If possible, replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with a clean gauze or wash cloth. If you can't put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with milk, saliva, or water. Get to your dentist's office immediately. Call the emergency number if it is after hours. The faster you act the better your chances of saving the tooth.

9. Is water fluoridaton safe?

Water fluoridation would not seriously be advocated if it caused or promoted disease elsewhere in the human body. Numerous studies have been carried out to search for possible effects on general health. Detailed medical investigations and research studies show that people who use optimally fluoridated water throughout their lives have no greater susceptibility to cancer, kidney disorders, hardening of the arteries, heart disease, arthritis, rheumatism, bone fractures, allergies, mongolism, goiter, etc., than do those living in low or non-fluoridated communities. Bonified research and studies have concluded that the maintenance of fluoride level in drinking water at approximately 1 mg/L (1 part per million) is the most efficient and effective procedure to decrease the incidence of dental caries (tooth decay), and poses no health risks.

10. How long should my child take fluoride tablets?

Children living in a community that does not fluoridate the water should begin taking a fluoride supplement (drops) starting at age 6 months. Children should continue to take supplements (as long as they live in a non-fluoridated community) until the age of 12.

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