As part of our commitment to you and your child, we have provided additional information about oral health and dental treatments on this page. We encourage you to contact Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry if you have questions to speak with a member of our team. We will be happy to provide you with additional information and help you make an appointment for your child.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is a type of tooth decay that can develop in young children. It is caused by sugar substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby’s mouth. If untreated, it can cause decay of the primary teeth and hamper the proper formation of permanent teeth. You can avoid baby bottle tooth decay by not letting your baby keep a bottle with them in bed. If your baby needs a bottle, make sure it is filled with only water. Encouraging your toddler to drink from a cup as early as possible will also help prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
Braces are one of the most common orthodontic treatments available, and they work to correct issues such as misaligned teeth, crooked and crowded teeth, and bad bites. Braces are a system of metal brackets and wires that are bonded to the surfaces of the teeth. This system then gently moves the teeth into their proper positions. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 are the most common candidates for braces because their facial structures are still developing and their teeth and jaws can be more easily moved into their proper positions.
We, along with the American Association of Orthodontists®, recommend that children receive an initial orthodontic screening by age 7 to determine if braces or other orthodontic treatment is necessary.
Brushing your child’s teeth is one of the most effective methods for keeping their teeth clean and removing harmful plaque from their teeth and gums. We strongly recommend that your child brush a minimum of two times each day, including brushing before going to sleep at night. Ideally, your child should brush after each meal using fluoridated toothpaste. We recommend using an ADA®-approved soft-bristled toothbrush, and you should switch out your child’s toothbrush every three months.
Dental crowns, or caps, are a type of dental restoration recommended when a tooth has sustained damage. A crown is designed to cover the entire visible portion of the tooth to restore its shape, appearance and strength and protect it from further damage. A crown may also be recommended for a tooth that has received a root canal.
If your child experiences a dental emergency, contact Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry as soon as possible. Our pediatric dentists and team will provide you with instructions on what to do and make arrangements for you to bring your child in for treatment. Before you arrive at our office, quick thinking and staying calm are the best ways to approach common dental emergencies and prevent additional damage and the need for more extensive treatment. This includes taking measures such as applying cold packs to reduce swelling and calling our office immediately.
Dental fillings are a type of restorative treatment that work by literally “filling in” the damaged areas of your child’s teeth. Fillings are typically recommended when teeth are damaged by cavities or minor cracking, and they can be placed in a single visit to a dentist. Fillings may be made of a silver amalgam material or tooth-colored composite material.
Dental sealants are a type of liquid coating that work to protect your child’s teeth from cavities and other problems. Sealants are applied to the surfaces of teeth and then hardened to form a protective layer over the teeth. They are most frequently provided for children after their permanent molars come in but may also be recommended to adults. Sealants usually need to be reapplied every five to 10 years.
Dental X-rays are used to examine your child’s teeth and supporting structures. As each patient is different, the frequency of needed X-rays may vary depending on an individual’s health needs. Children may need X-rays more frequently than adults do as their teeth and jaws are still developing and they may be at greater risk of tooth decay. Dental X-rays are typically provided as part of your child’s regular dental exams.
Flossing is an oral hygiene practice that works to clean between your child’s teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a key part of keeping your child’s smile healthy, as it removes bacteria, plaque and food debris from between teeth to help prevent cavities, gum disease and other dental problems. It also increases blood circulation in the gums. Your child should floss daily as part of their regular dental hygiene routine at home.
Fluoride Treatment & Fluorosis
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that works to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride works through a process called “remineralization,” which involves fluoride being absorbed into structures such as the bones and teeth to make them stronger and more resistant to fractures and decay. Many public water sources have fluoride added to them, and dentists can provide fluoride treatment in their offices as well.
Fluorosis is a condition in which your child’s body has been exposed to too much fluoride, typically through swallowing fluoridated toothpastes or rinses. While fluorosis is generally harmless to your child’s oral health, it can cause stains or dark spots on their teeth and create concerns for the appearance of their smile.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a dental condition caused by bacteria that infects and inflames the gum tissues. In the early stages, it is known as gingivitis, and it can often be brought under control with thorough dental cleaning and an improved oral hygiene routine at home. If untreated, it can progress to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, and it may eventually lead to gum recession, tooth loss and bone loss. The best way to avoid gum disease is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine and keep your child’s mouth clean and free from harmful bacteria and plaque. If gum disease is diagnosed, our pediatric dentists will work with you to create an effective treatment plan.
Invisalign® Clear Aligners
Invisalign® clear aligners are a type of orthodontic treatment. Unlike traditional braces, they straighten teeth using custom-made plastic aligners, giving a treatment that is nearly invisible as well as comfortable. A patient will wear each set of aligners for about two weeks, only removing them to eat, drink, brush and floss. As the patient switches to a new set of aligners, the teeth will gradually move into their ideal positions.
Managing Discomfort or Pain
Pain and discomfort can occur in any number of places in the mouth — the teeth, gums, tooth roots, palate, tongue or jaw. Cavities are a common source of tooth pain, and if left untreated, they can impact nerves and lead to infections. Impacted and abscessed teeth and TMJ issues (improper bite relationships) may also cause discomfort. There are several options for alleviating discomfort and restoring oral health depending on the cause of the problem. Solutions may involve anything from a restorative treatment to a special splint or orthodontic treatment. Some solutions for managing discomfort that you can try on your own include applying ice packs over the affected area, avoiding hard candy or ice, and avoiding sleeping on your stomach. Our pediatric dentists and team also offer sedation dentistry to help relieve discomfort and minimize anxiety while your child is in our office.
Some dental procedures may involve prescribed medications before or after the procedure to fight infection or relieve pain and discomfort. It is extremely important that you share your child’s entire medical history, including any medications your child is currently taking, so that we can ensure the medication prescribed will not be detrimental to them. Please also share any allergic reactions your child may have to certain medications. If your child is prescribed a medication by our office, follow the dosage instructions exactly, and if instructed, please have your child finish the entire prescription even if they are no longer in any discomfort.
Anyone who participates in an athletic activity should wear a sports mouth guard. This oral appliance is often required equipment in high-contact sports, such as basketball, baseball, football, hockey, gymnastics and volleyball. Mouth guards are effective in moving soft tissues in the mouth away from the teeth, preventing laceration and bruising, especially in those who wear orthodontic appliances such as braces. Mouth guards also cushion blows to the face and minimize the risk of broken teeth and injuries to soft oral tissues. There are three main types of athletic mouth guards:
- Stock mouth guards — These are inexpensive and come preformed. They often do not fit well, and they can be bulky and make breathing and speaking difficult.
- Boil and bite guards — These can be bought at many sporting goods stores and may offer a better fit than stock mouth guards. They are softened in water and then inserted and molded to the shape of the mouth.
- Custom mouth guards — This type of mouth guard is created specifically for a patient by a dentist. They are more expensive but offer a better fit and better protection than stock or boil and bite guards do.
Nutrition & Your Child’s Teeth
Good nutrition and a well-balanced diet are among the best defenses for your child’s oral health. Good eating habits that begin in childhood can go a long way to ensuring a lifetime of good oral health. We recommend that children eat foods rich in calcium and other minerals as well as a healthy balance of the essential food groups: vegetables, fruits, dairy, poultry and meat. Avoid allowing your child to eat excessive amount of junk foods and foods high in starches and sugars. These types of foods place them at greater risk for serious health problems, including obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. The sugars and carbohydrates found in these types of foods also feed harmful bacteria in the mouth, which in turn creates the acids that erode tooth enamel and cause cavities and other dental problems.
Oral Health Products
There is a broad variety of oral health products available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Many of these products are high-quality and very helpful in maintaining good oral hygiene, but there are also many low-quality items that are less effective or which may even harm teeth and gums. When considering any oral health product, check to ensure that it has the American Dental Association®’s seal of acceptance. This seal means that it is a good-quality item and is approved by dental professionals for use.
Oral piercings have become a popular trend in recent years. However, oral piercings can have serious consequences for teeth and oral health, and they have been known to lead to cracked or chipped teeth, swelling, problems with swallowing and tasting, scars, and the risk of choking. One of the more serious long-term health problems that may occur as a result of oral piercings is damage to the soft tissues, including the cheeks, gums and palate, and infections. Tongue piercings have also been known to cause blocked airways. We strongly encourage you to exercise caution with regard to oral piercings, and if possible, discourage your child from getting any kind of oral piercing.
The Preventive Program
Preventive care is key to keeping your child’s mouth and smile healthy. Both natural teeth and teeth that have received restorative treatment are healthiest in an oral environment that is clean and where the intake of harmful foods is controlled. Preventive programs are designed to help preserve teeth, prevent problems like cavities and gum disease, and keep the mouth healthy. Here are a few guidelines for preventive care:
- Brush teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss daily.
- Avoid smoking or using tobacco products.
- Avoid sticky, sugary foods.
- Maintain a balanced diet.
- Use antiseptic and fluoride rinses as directed.
- Have sealants placed on permanent teeth.
The best way to establish a lifetime of oral health is by teaching good oral habits and preventive care as early as possible. A child should see the dentist for the first time no later than their first birthday. A pediatric dentist will be able to help with your child’s oral growth and development, including diagnosing and treating baby bottle tooth decay, providing diet and nutrition guidance, halting or minimizing poor oral habits like thumb-sucking, and providing preventive treatments such as dental sealants and fluoride.
Root Canal Therapy
Root canals are tiny passageways that branch off from beneath the top of the tooth and work to help keep the tooth alive and healthy. If these canals or the dental pulp (nerve tissue) of the tooth become infected or are injured, it can cause increased sensitivity as well as pain and may lead to the need for a tooth extraction if not treated. Root canal therapy is a type of endodontic treatment that works to remove the damaged tooth tissue so that a patient can save the tooth and regain their oral health. When provided for children, this procedure is known as a pulpotomy or a baby tooth root canal.
Sterilization & Infection Control
Here at Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we take your and your child’s health and safety very seriously. Our team meets all guidelines and standards for sterilization and infection control recommended by the ADA®, CDC and OSHA. This includes wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), sterilizing and disinfecting all equipment and instruments after use, and frequent washing of hands. We are committed to making our office a safe and sanitary environment for you and your child. Please feel free to contact us for more information about our sterilization and infection control policies.
Smoking and using other tobacco products has a significant negative impact on oral and overall health. In fact, recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue damage, bone loss and smoking. Individuals who use tobacco products are at greater risk for tooth loss, periodontal disease and oral cancer, as well as dental implant failure. We encourage you to help your child understand the risks and dangers of smoking and discourage them from using any kind of tobacco product. Please feel free to contact our office — our team will be happy to provide you with additional information and help you teach your child about the importance of good oral health.
Simple toothaches can often be relieved by flossing and rinsing the mouth to clear it of debris. Do not place aspirin between a tooth and gum tissue to relieve pain, as aspirin can cause damage to the gum tissue.
Some tooth pain may be caused by a broken, fractured or displaced tooth. This type of injury is not a cause for alarm as long as you take action immediately. If the tooth is injured in this way, contact a dentist as soon as possible.
If the tooth has been knocked out:
- Rinse the mouth to remove blood or debris and place a cold cloth or compress over the cheek to keep down swelling.
- Try to place the tooth back in its socket while waiting to receive treatment.
- If you cannot place the tooth back in its socket, hold it by the crown (not the root!) and place it in a container of warm milk, saline solution or the patient’s own saliva until you arrive at your dentist’s office.
For a fractured tooth, rinse with water and apply a cold pack or compress. You may use ibuprofen to help keep down swelling.
If a child’s primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or emerging permanent tooth, have the child gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel. In some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gums and come out.
In some cases, a tooth extraction may be needed. Tooth extractions are recommended when:
- The tooth is severely damaged and cannot be restored.
- There is significant overcrowding of the teeth.
- The tooth needs to be removed in preparation for orthodontic treatment or another type of treatment.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a dental condition caused by plaque and harmful bacteria. Plaque is a colorless, sticky film that blankets the teeth and creates an environment where bacteria can attack and erode tooth enamel and cause irritation and infection to the gums and dental pulp. Some foods encourage the presence of plaque in the mouth, including foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, which makes maintaining a healthy diet very important to oral health. The best ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine (brushing daily, flossing and rinsing), maintaining a healthy diet and continuing to visit the dentist regularly for preventive care.
Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars to erupt in the back of the mouth. Unfortunately, the mouth rarely has enough space for these molars to erupt properly, which leads to problems such as misaligned teeth, crowding, improper bites, impacted teeth and infection. For this reason, wisdom teeth usually need to be removed. Please speak with our pediatric dentists for more details about wisdom teeth removal.
Women & Dental Care
Women have special oral health needs due to frequent physical changes caused by menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, breastfeeding and menopause. These physical events include changes in hormone levels, which can have a negative impact on the teeth and gums. Women are often at increased risk for developing gum disease during pregnancy, and gum disease can also increase the risk of a premature birth. We encourage women to visit the dentist regularly, especially during pregnancy, to help maintain their oral and overall health.
Your Child’s First Dental Visit
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child visit the dentist for the first time within six months of their first tooth erupting, or at about one year of age. These initial dental visits are designed to help children develop positive associations with visiting the dentist and establish a “dental home” where they will feel comfortable receiving care. Please prepare for your child’s first appointment by:
- Making a list of questions to ask so that we can make sure to address all your concerns
- Bringing your insurance card with you to the appointment if you have dental insurance
Your Rights & Responsibilities as a Patient
Your rights as a patient:
- You have the right to choose your own dentist and schedule appointments in a timely manner.
- You have the right to know the education and training of your dentist and dental care team.
- You have the right to arrange to see the dentist every time you receive treatment, subject to state law exceptions.
- You have the right to adequate time to ask questions and receive answers regarding your oral health and treatment plans.
- You have the right to know what the dental team feels the best treatment plan is, as well as alternative treatment options.
- You have the right to an explanation of the purposes, results, alternatives and risks involved before consenting to a treatment plan.
- You have the right to be informed of continuing healthcare needs.
- You have the right to know your expected cost of treatment in advance.
- You have the right to accept, defer or decline any part of recommended treatments.
- You have the right to reasonable arrangements for dental care and emergency treatment.
- You have the right to receive considerate, respectful and confidential treatment by your dentist and dental team.
- You have the right to expect your dental team to use appropriate infection and sterilization controls.
- You have the right to inquire about availability of processes to mediate disputes about your treatment.
(Adopted by the American Dental Association® in 2009)
Your responsibilities as a patient:
- You have the responsibility to provide accurate, honest and complete information to the best of your ability regarding your medical history and current health status.
- You have the responsibility to report changes in your medical status and provide feedback about your needs and expectations.
- You have the responsibility to participate in your healthcare decisions and ask questions if you are uncertain about your dental treatment or plan.
- You have the responsibility to inquire about treatment options and acknowledge benefits and limitations of any treatment you choose to receive.
- You have the responsibility for any consequences from declining treatment or not following an agreed-upon treatment plan.
- You have the responsibility to keep scheduled appointments.
- You have the responsibility to be available for treatment upon reasonable notice.
- You have the responsibility to adhere to regular home oral healthcare recommendations.
- You have the responsibility to assure that financial obligations for healthcare received are fulfilled.
(Adopted by the American Dental Association in 2009)