What Is A Pediatric Dentist?

The pediatric dentist has an extra two to three years of specialized training after dental school, and is dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teenage years. The very young, pre-teens, and teenagers all need different approaches in dealing with their behavior, guiding their dental growth and development, and helping them avoid future dental problems. The pediatric dentist is best qualified to meet these needs.

When should my child start seeing a dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling your child’s first visit to the dentist for infant oral health exams within 6 months of the first baby tooth — or by 12 months old. Awareness and prevention are the focus of this visit for your child, similar to a well-baby checkup at the pediatrician’s office.

Dr. Erin and her team offer new parents the option of a knee-to-knee exam — where your baby gets their first checkup in the comfort of your lap! While your baby may cry during this experience, the exam is very quick and your baby’s open mouth provides the best view of the entire oral cavity. Within seconds of finishing, the tears will go away and your baby will be back in your arms. Our team’s goals are focused on your baby’s health and helping you to establish good habits early!

Benefits of the 12-month dental visit with Dr. Erin:

  • One plus one equals Zero. One dental visit when there’s one tooth can equal zero cavities.
  • Visiting Sweet Tooth by the time the first baby tooth appears enables your child to begin a lifelong dental care program to minimize tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Pediatric dentists can detect early tooth decay, provide parents with information on proper oral and facial development, determine fluoride needs and more.
  • The 12-month dental visit can actually save money! A study in the journal Pediatrics showed that children who have their first dental visit before age one have 40% lower dental costs in their first five years than children who do not — due to the cost of dental and medical procedures that may result from poor oral health.
Why are baby teeth so important?

It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth, or baby teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13.

Dental Radiographs (X-Rays)

Ultrasonic Dental | Sweet Tooth Pediatric DentistryRadiographs (X-Rays) are a vital and necessary part of your child’s dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.

Radiographs detect much more than cavities. For example, radiographs may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. Dr. Erin evaluates your child’s growth and development, post injury status, and orthodontic readiness as well as tooth decay. Taking films allows Dr. Erin to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends radiographs and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay. On average, most pediatric dentists request radiographs approximately once a year.

Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental

Dr. Erin has set up her practice to minimize your child’s exposure to radiation. The risk is negligible. In fact, dental radiographs represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem.  Lead body aprons and shields will protect your child. Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary x-rays and restricts the x-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film and proper shielding assure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.

What is the best toothpaste for my child?

Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles. They contain harsh abrasives, which can wear away young tooth enamel. When looking for a toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association as shown on the box and tube. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use.

Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. If your child is too young or unable to spit out toothpaste, consider providing them with a fluoride free toothpaste, using no toothpaste, or using only a “pea size” amount of toothpaste.

My child grinds his teeth at night, should I be worried?

Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. can influence a child to grind their teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing, when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure.

The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, then a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged during sleep and it may interfere with growth of the jaws. The positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary dentition.

The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding decreases between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with Dr. Erin, and she will be happy to discuss your child’s individual needs.

My child is a thumb sucker, when should I be concerned?

Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. While it’s not necessarily a cause for worry, it is important to pay attention to your child’s habits, since certain behaviors have the potential to affect your child’s oral health. Most children begin sucking their thumb or finger from a very young age, or may even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant and it serves as a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can be very relaxing, which is why many children suck as they fall asleep.

According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb sucking on their own between 2 and 4 years old by simply outgrowing it. However, some children continue sucking beyond preschool. If your child is still sucking when his permanent teeth start to erupt, you will want to actively work on breaking the habit. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and jaws including the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future. The changes to the facial structure associated with thumb sucking can also lead to airway and breathing issues if left untreated.

How can I help my child quit thumb sucking?

  • Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb sucking, give praise when he doesn’t suck. This will encourage him to stick with it!
  • If your child is ready, you can try “reminders” such as a bandage or tape on the finger or thumb or a sock over the hands during sleep. The most recommended options are using a particular nail polish called “MAVALA STOP”. Let him know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help him remember to avoid sucking.
  • Use a calendar as a reward chart and let him put a sticker up every day that he doesn’t suck his thumb. If he makes it through a week without sucking, he gets to choose a small prize. When he has filled up a whole month, reward him with something great and by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in the treatment will increase his enthusiasm to break the habit.
  • If you notice your child sucking when he’s anxious, work on easing his anxiety rather than focusing on the habit.
  • Take note of the times your child tends to suck, such as watching TV or going on long rides in the car and create diversions during these occasions.
  • Explain clearly and show examples of what might happen to the teeth if your child continues the thumb or finger sucking.

When should my child stop sucking his thumb?

Thumb sucking is natural and a normal reflex utilized by infants to soothe themselves. They generally lose interest once they develop other coping skills. Ideally, children should stop thumb sucking before the age of 4. Up until the age of 3, children are too young to actively try to get them to stop. See if they will stop on their own with positive reinforcement. Focus only on daytime thumb sucking first. Once your child has stopped daytime sucking, then you can work on nighttime.

What about pacifiers?

Pacifiers are not a substitute for thumb sucking. They, too, can affect the teeth in the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, you can control and modify the pacifier easier than the thumb or finger habit.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the habit. If your child is emotionally ready and they just can’t stop, make a visit to discuss thumb habit appliance therapy options with Dr. Erin.

David Decides About Thumbsucking – A Story for Children, a Guide for Parents
by Susan Heitler PHD

 How does thumb sucking affect my child’s teeth?

How hard a child actually sucks on their fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems will result. Some children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, making them less likely to have problems than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.

When is the best time for orthodontic treatment?

Developing malocclusions, or bad bites, can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age. Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Stage I

Early Treatment: This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years. At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss of primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking. Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II

Mixed Dentition: This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6 year molars. Treatment concerns deal with jaw malrelationships and dental realignment problems. This is an excellent stage to start treatment, when indicated, as your child’s hard and soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.

Stage III

Adolescent Dentition: This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.

Dr. Erin will examine your child at each dental visit and guide you on the timing when to bring your child to their first orthodontic consultation.

What is Xylitol and does it reduce cavities?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.

The use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (2-3 times per day) starting 3 months after delivery and until the child was 2 years old, has proven to reduce cavities up to 70% by the time the child was 5 years old.

Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.

Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol.

Studies suggest xylitol intake that consistently produces positive results ranged from 4-20 grams per day, divided into 3-7 consumption periods. Higher results did not result in greater reduction and may lead to diminishing results. Similarly, consumption frequency of less than 3 times per day showed no effect.

To find gum or other products containing xylitol, try visiting your local health food store or search the Internet to find products containing 100% xylitol.

Should I limit Sports Drinks?

Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve even fluoride-rich enamel, which can lead to cavities.

To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during and after sports.  Be sure to talk to your pediatric dentist before using sports drinks.

If sports drinks are consumed:

  • reduce the frequency and contact time
  • swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth
  • neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating sips of water with the drink
  • rinse mouthguards only in water

 seek out dentally friendly sports drinks

How does diet affect teeth? Good Diet = Healthy Teeth

Dietary choices affect oral health as well as general health and well-being. Always choose snacks based upon nutritional value and limit between-meal snacking.

  • Snack foods that are beneficial include vegetables, fruits, yogurt and cheese.
  • Limit the frequent eating of snack foods with high sugar/starch content (cookies, chips, pretzels, cereals)
  • Limit the frequent drinking of fruit juices, sodas and sports/energy drinks.

After 1 year of age, drinking between meals from sippy cups or bottles can be a risk factor since children may drink more frequently and for a longer duration.

Children that require long-term use of medications (often sweetened to improve the taste) are at a higher risk and therefore may benefit from early and more frequent dental exams and preventive treatment.

Our Happy Patients

“Dr Erin is great, she is so patient and takes her time also for my 5 year old was very scary to go into a Dentist office from before and when she arrived and saw Dr. Erin’s office she was in love and excited to be there, she truly loves her until this day talk about hos sweet Dr. Erin is. For me as a mom is extremely important to have someone I can trust. Thank you Dr. Erin for everything.

– Cecibel C.

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