Frequently Asked Questions By Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Patel

Here at Ashburn Pediatric Dental Center, we know how scary it can be to take your child to the dentist. Most parents have a fear of the dentist that they transfer to their children.

To make your visit easier, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to answer some of your questions and address some of your concerns.

When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist?
We recommend you make an appointment to see a pediatric dentist as soon as your child gets his or her first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen within six months of getting their first tooth or by the age of one, whichever comes first.

How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?
In addition to completing dental school, pediatric dentists have completed several years of specialized training in the field of pediatric dentistry. They have gained extensive knowledge and are experienced in treating infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and have additional knowledge related to childhood development and behavior. Additionally, because our office is geared towards younger patients, you’ll find that our staff provides an especially friendly environment and that our office is designed with decorations and activities that make children more comfortable than they would be in a standard office.

What happens during my child’s first visit to the dentist?
On that first visit we focus on getting to know your child and giving you basic information about dental care for a child that age. The dentist will check the health of your child’s teeth and look for potential problems with the gums or jaws. If cleaning is needed, we’ll take care of that too. We’ll answer any questions you have and provide you with informational material that contains helpful tips you can take home with you. The first visit usually takes only a few minutes and is a great way to start ensuring your child has optimum oral health in the years to come.

How can I prepare my child for his or her first dental appointment?
The best thing you can do for your child is maintain a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions. If you make negative comments about the dentist’s office, your child will pick up on that fear and act accordingly. Show your child pictures of our office and staff on our website so that both will be familiar to him or her when you arrive. Let your child know how important it is to keep teeth and gums healthy and how the dentist helps him or her do that. The dentist has specialty training and is prepared to handle fears and anxiety, and the staff excels at putting your child at ease. As a parent, you can rest assured that your child will be in the best hands.

How often should my child visit the dentist?
We recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on your child’s oral health and unique circumstances, we may recommend more frequent visits. We will work with you to devise a plan so your child will have the best oral health possible.

Baby teeth aren’t permanent. Why do they need special care?
Your child’s first teeth play an important role in his or her development. While they’re in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile, and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth too early, the nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in crooked or misplaced permanent teeth. Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, baby teeth affect your child’s oral health, which then affects your child’s general health.

What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s important to practice good hygiene. We recommend that after feeding you clean his or her gums with damp soft washcloth. As soon as the first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. We recommend that you use one that is designed specifically for infants. These are unique because they have a smaller head and softer bristles. Do not use toothpaste without first checking with the dentist.

At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?
Once your child has multiple teeth, you can start using toothpaste. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning. If your child is under the age of two, use toothpaste without fluoride. Fluoride can be very dangerous for young children. Always have your child rinse and spit out after brushing. You’ll want to instill this habit before your child starts using fluoride toothpaste. Children naturally want to swallow after brushing; you’ll have to guide them through it. Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause cause teeth to stain. If your child isn’t ready to take on the responsibility, you should brush your child’s teeth for him or her. Most children are ready to brush independently by the age of 6 or 7, but every child is different. Continue to supervise your child until good habits have been established.

What causes cavities?
Cavities can be a result of genetics or poor oral hygiene. Be sure your child brushes his or her teeth at least twice a day and uses fluoride toothpaste if he or she is old enough. Flossing daily is important because flossing can reach areas between the teeth that brushing cannot. Check with your pediatric dentist about a fluoride supplement, which can help harden tooth enamel and thus make teeth more resistant to decay. Avoid giving your child sugary foods and drinks; limit your child’s snacking; and make sure your child maintains a healthy diet. Also make regular appointments and get professional cleanings for your child so that we can tackle any potential problems early.

Does my child need dental sealants?
Sealants cover the pits and fissures that are difficult to brush and therefore make teeth susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants, especially for the hard to reach molars, to protect your child’s teeth and help them avoid cavities. Sealants are safe and the most preferred preventive measure for protecting your child’s teeth.

My child plays sports. How can I protect his or her teeth?
Even children’s sports involve contact, and so we recommend a mouthguard for children who participate in them. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about getting a custom-fit guard made to protect his or her teeth, lips, cheeks and gums.

What should I do if my child sucks his thumb?
As infants, most children suck their thumbs. Most grow out of it by age four without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If your child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt or sucks aggressively, let us know. We can check to see if the habit will cause any problems.

When should my child have a dental X-ray taken?
We generally recommend taking X-rays when children are around the age of two or three. Your child’s unique situation will determine the appropriate time. The first set of X-rays consists of simple pictures of the upper and lower front teeth. This set will familiarize your child with the process. Once the baby teeth in the back are touching one another, then we recommend regular X-rays. Permanent teeth start coming in around the age of six, and X-rays help us make sure your child’s teeth and jaws are healthy and properly aligned. If your child has a high risk of developing dental problems, we may suggest X-rays at an earlier age.

Remember that each child’s situation is unique. It’s important for children to practice good habits and maintain a positive attitude about brushing, flossing, and the dental office. Our staff is specially trained to provide not only the best care but also the best overall experience for you and your child.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today at (703) 726-4333 today.