Pediatric FAQs

Baby Tooth Care

Healthy teeth are important to your baby's overall health. Teeth help your baby chew food and form words and sounds when speaking. They also affect the way your baby's jaw grows.

Every baby is different. Generally, the 2 front teeth start to appear between 4 and 7 months of age. Teething is usually painless, but it can make some babies uncomfortable and fussy. Giving your baby a cold teething ring or a cold washcloth to chew or suck on may help. Teething does not cause a fever. If your baby has a fever, you should talk to your doctor.

Start cleaning your baby's teeth twice a day as soon as the first tooth appears. Until your child is 1 year old, you can use a wet wash cloth or gauze to clean your baby's teeth and gums. At about 1 year to 18 months of age, you should start using a soft baby toothbrush and a small dab of toothpaste that does not have fluoride in it. This type of toothpaste is safe for your baby to swallow.

Be sure to take your baby to a dentist by his or her first birthday, especially if there is a high risk for cavities or any other problems with his or her teeth. It is better for your child to meet the dentist and see the office before he or she has a tooth problem.

Baby biting on toothbrush

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay or syndrome is a form of tooth decay that can destroy the teeth of an infant. This decay may even enter the underlying bone structure, which can hamper development of the permanent teeth. The teeth most likely to be damaged are the upper teeth.

Baby bottle decay is caused by frequent and long exposure of a child's teeth to liquids containing sugar such as milk, formula, fruit juices, pop and other sweetened liquids. These liquids fuel the bacteria in a child's mouth, which produces acids that attack enamel.

Baby drinking a bottle

Thumb Sucking

It is completely normal and healthy for your baby or young child to suck on a thumb, finger, or pacifier. Children usually give up sucking habits on their own by the time they are 4 to 5 years old. If they stop the habit at this age, the shape of the jaw is usually not affected and the teeth grow in normally. Children who continue sucking on a pacifier, finger, or thumb when their permanent adult teeth start to come in are more likely to have bite problems.

Sucking can cause:

  • The top front teeth to slant out
  • The bottom front teeth to tilt in
  • The upper and lower jaws to be misaligned
  • The roof of the mouth to be narrowed
  • The need for braces

Treatment:
Your doctor may decide to construct an appliance to discourage thumb sucking.

Thumb Sucking

Children's Tooth Development

Children continually get new teeth from age 3 months to the age 6 years. Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are 3 years old. As a child nears the age 6, the jaw grows making room for the permanent teeth. At the same time, the roots of the baby teeth begin to be resorbed by the tissues around them and the permanent teeth under them begin to erupt.

Primary teeth are just as important as permanent teeth for chewing, speaking and appearance. They also serve as placement holders for the permanent teeth. Primary teeth also provide structure to help shape the child's face.

How Much Fluoride Is Too Much?

Fluoride is perfectly safe when used as directed by our dental office however there are some issues that can arise from using too much fluoride. Toxic levels of fluoride depend on person-to-person so it is important that you speak with us first before considering using a questionable amount of fluoride or if you have a child whose teeth are currently developing.

Fluorosis is a condition where exposure to too much fluoride causes defects in the tooth's enamel layer that often look like white patches or streaks across a tooth. In severe fluorosis cases, these patches or streaks can be brown in color making them a severe cosmetic concern and are often embarrassing for many people who have this condition. Fluorosis is most common in children with developing permanent teeth where fluoride levels are not properly applied and/or monitored but can become a problem to virtually anyone at any age.

If you think you have or have been told you have a mild to severe case of fluorosis, we want you to know that we can help lighten or remove the stains to teeth caused by excessive fluoride exposure. Request an appointment or call our office directly at (714) 974-8668 to come in and have us take a look at your condition. In just one appointment we can significantly reduce the cosmetic blemishes of fluorosis.

Enamel Fluorosis

What is general anesthesia and how safe is it?

The use of general anesthesia for dental work in children is sometimes necessary in order to provide safe, efficient, and predictable care.

The general anesthetic is given to your child by a specialist (anesthesiologist) and ONLY after the child has been thoroughly screened by a physician.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the need for general anesthesia in certain situations where challenges relating to the child's age, behavior, medical conditions, developmental disabilities, intellectual limitations, or special treatment needs may warrant it.

Pediatric dentists are, by virtue of training and experience, qualified to recognize the indications for such an approach and to render such care. Your pediatric dentist and his staff will discuss all the necessary steps that must be taken in order to promptly and safely complete your child's dental treatment after this treatment option has been chosen.

Like any procedure in which a child's conscious state is altered, there are some risks involved. The main risks (serious complications) associated with an oral sedation include, but are not limited to: Allergic reaction, respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, and death.

Statistically, the chances of a serious complication are similar to those of being involved in a life-threatening motor vehicle accident.

Please make sure you fully understand as a parent or legal guardian all the risks involved with this procedure. Also review the instructions that you must follow the day before the procedure.

Child with gas mask on

Will you need to give my child a shot to do the dental work?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions that we get from our patient's parents. We try to minimize the discomfort of the injection by placing a gel that works as a local anesthetic to numb the tissue were the injection will be administered.

Profound local anesthesia is usually obtained five to ten minutes after the injection, depending on the area of the mouth where the anesthetic was placed. We always check to confirm that the area is numb before we begin to work. In cases of localized infection or trauma (like broken teeth), it is very difficult to obtain profound anesthesia. However, we do have other means of supplementing the anesthetic (like conjoined use of nitrous-oxide gas, medications, or conscious sedation).

Younger children, particularly pre-schoolers, may interpret the feeling of numbness as pain, and therefore cry. Please follow the post-operative instructions that we give you, in order to minimize complications such as lip biting.

Sunshine and needle

My child has crooked teeth; will he or she need braces?

Crooked or crowded teeth are very common in the growing patient. Even patients that get braces may develop a minor degree of crooked (crowded) teeth, particularly in the front teeth of the jaws, as they grow old.

The first step in determining the need for treatment is what we call an orthodontic consult. During this appointment, we may obtain special records and special x-rays of your child's jaw. This information will allow us to make a decision based on predicted growth patterns that your child may show later. In orthodontic terms, we refer to this as Early Treatment.

Early Treatment refers to ANY orthodontic (braces) or orthopedic appliances (like Headgear) treatment that begins when the child is in primary dentition or in early mixed dentition (when the first permanent teeth begin to erupt).

Early Treatment has been proven to be effective despite objections by some people in the orthodontic community.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes that early diagnosis and successful treatment of developing malocclusions can have both short-term and long-term benefits, while achieving the goal of occlusal harmony, function, and facial aesthetics.

Crooked teeth

My child is getting shark teeth; what can I do?

One of our most common consults occurs when children around the age of seven begin to lose their lower front teeth. Many of our parents become overly worried about this phenomenon. It is VERY NORMAL for permanent lower incisors (front teeth) to erupt behind their predecessors (baby teeth); however, if a baby tooth is not loose by the time half of the permanent incisor has erupted, it may be necessary to pull it.

Child with shark teeth

My child's teeth have stains on them; are these cavities?

When a baby tooth changes color, it can mean many things. Baby teeth can and do normally change in color, particularly close to the time that they become loose; however, this change is minimal and should not be confused with a carious lesion (cavity).

The best way to determine if your child has a stain or a true cavity is to take him or her to a pediatric dentist.

Caries is an infectious disease; it progresses if left untreated, and usually is associated with pain (especially when the cavities are large). Teeth with cavities typically assume a darker (brown) discoloration; and depending on the extent, may exhibit loss of tooth structure.

Teeth that have been previously "bumped" may also change in color. Traumatized baby teeth can assume a yellow or a dark discoloration, which may or may not be associated with pain.

Other less common causes of changes in color may be: fluorosis, food staining (particularly tea or colas), systemic disease (hepatitis), etc.

Anatomy of a tooth

There are gaps between my child's teeth, is this normal?

It is normal and even "ideal" for baby teeth to have spacing between each other.

Keep in mind that when permanent teeth erupt, their size will be considerably larger than that of baby teeth. As the baby teeth are lost, the erupting permanent tooth will quickly take advantage of this excess space.

Children who do not have spacing in their primary dentition can have a higher incidence of crowding (crooked teeth) in the permanent dentition.

Gaps between childs teeth

Early Childhood Caries

Childhood cavities, also now known as "Early Childhood Caries" is an aggressive form of caries that occurs in infants and very young children. It is typically associated with prolonged consumption of liquids containing sugar and affects initially the top front teeth, later spreading to other "baby teeth." Because of the aggressive nature of this disease, early intervention is necessary.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that ALL children should see a dentist before age one.

Missing Permanent Teeth

Hypodontia (the common dental term) describes a situation when fewer than 6 permanent teeth are missing, the term Oligodontia is used when more than 6 permanent teeth are missing (they were never formed). The most common missing teeth are the third molars (otherwise known as the Wisdom Teeth), followed by the premolars and the lateral incisors. Although it is not uncommon to have one missing tooth, patients with multiple missing teeth generally have a strong genetic component and it has been linked to conditions such as Ectodermal Dysplasia and several syndromes. Because early recognition aids in proper treatment, your dentist will refer you to specialists (orthodontist, oral surgeons, etc) that will determine which options suit you best to replace the missing teeth.

X-ray of missing teeth