Q: What is a pediatric dentist?
A: Pediatric dentistry is one of the nine recognized dental specialties of the American Dental Association. Pediatric dentists complete two years of additional specialized training (after the required four years of dental school) to prepare them for treating a wide variety of children’s dental problems.
The two-year pediatric dentistry residency program, started after graduation from dental school, immerses dentists in scientific study and clinical experience. The trainee learns advanced diagnostic and surgical procedures, along with child psychology and clinical management, oral pathology, child-related pharmacology, radiology, child development, management of oral/facial trauma, care for patients with special needs, conscious sedation and general anesthesia. They are also trained and qualified to care for patients with medical, physical or mental disabilities.
Q: Why are Primary Teeth (baby teeth) important?
A: It is very important that primary teeth are kept in place until they are \lost naturally. These teeth serve a number of critical functions. They maintain good nutrition by permitting your child to chew properly, are involved in speech development, and help the permanent teeth by saving space for them.
Q: When should my child first see a dentist?
A: “First visit by first birthday” sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.
Q: Why so early? What dental problems could a baby have?
A: The most important reason is to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is Early Childhood Caries (also know as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). Your child risks severe decay from using a bottle during naps or at night or when they nurse continuously from the breast.
Q: How can I prevent tooth decay from a bottle or nursing?
A: Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle. At-will nighttime breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begins to erupt. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. When juice is offered, it should be in a cup.
Q: When should bottle-feeding be stopped?
A: Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.
Q: When should I start cleaning my baby’s teeth?
A: The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water. Remember that most small children do not have the dexterity to brush their teeth effectively. Unless it is advised by your child’s pediatric dentist, do not use fluoridated toothpaste until age 2-3.
Q: Why do children suck on fingers, pacifiers or other objects?
A: This type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children. It provides security. For young babies, it’s a way to make contact with and learn about the world. In fact, babies begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born.
Q: Are these habits bad for the teeth and jaws?
A: Yes. Some children repeatedly suck on a finger, pacifier or other object over long periods of time, which causes the upper front teeth not come in properly or have an open bite. For most children, we recommend encouraging these habits cease by age three.
Information taken from the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (www.aapd.org)