Frequently asked questions
1. What is a Pediatric Dentist?
The pediatric dentist is the specialist who has the privilege and responsibility of enhancing the oral and dental health of infants, children, adolescents, and patients with emotional, physical, or mental handicaps. A pediatric dentist is a dental specialist that has not only completed 4 years of dental school, but has also completed an additional 2 to 3 years of specialty training to treat children only.
2. What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.
3. Are baby teeth really that important to my child?
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.
4. What should I do if my child has a toothache?
First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Give the child acetaminophen for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.
5. How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?
A check-up every six months is recommended in order prevent cavities and other dental problems. However, your pediatric dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their personal oral health.
6. Toothpaste: when should we begin using it and how much should we use?
The sooner the better! With the eruption of the first teeth, clean your child's gum with a soft infant toothbrush. For children under 2 years old, use only a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. For children over 2, a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used. Remember that most children under 7 years of age do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth effectively, so work with your child to teach good brushing habits.
7. How safe are dental X-rays?
There is very little risk in dental X-rays. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. Lead aprons and high-speed film are used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation.
8. How can parents help prevent tooth decay?
Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. Then, the dentist can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their children. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.
9. Why visit the dentist twice a year when my child has never had a cavity?
Regular dental visits help your child stay cavity-free. Teeth cleanings remove debris that build up on the teeth, irritate the gums and cause decay. Fluoride treatments renew the fluoride content in the enamel, strengthening teeth and preventing cavities. Hygiene instructions improve your child's brushing and flossing, leading to cleaner teeth and healthier gums.
10. What about a severe blow to the head or jaw fracture?
You need immediate medical attention. A severe head injury can be life threatening. Keep in mind that an emergency medical team might be able to reach you faster than you can get to the hospital.
For more information on oral health care needs, please visit the website for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.