What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a specialist in the field of dentistry that focuses on the oral healthcare of children, from infancy through the teenage years. After completing a four-year dental school curriculum, two to three additional years of rigorous training is required to become a pediatric dentist. This specialized program of study and hands-on experience prepares pediatric dentists to meet the unique needs of your infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.

At what age should I bring my child in for an exam?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), both recommend initial dental visits for children when the first tooth appears and no later than 1 year of age.

Why are baby teeth important?

Baby molars on average are not replaced until age 12. Early tooth loss caused by dental decay can result in difficulty chewing, failure to thrive, impaired speech development and reduced self esteem. Neglect of the baby teeth can result in severe pain and serious infection of the gums and jaws which can in turn seriously affect a child’s general health, as well as damage their developing permanent teeth. Infants as young as 6 months old experience tooth decay. Since most dental problems are preventable, it is important for parents to get an early start on an effective prevention program for their child.

How often should I bring my child in for checkups and cleanings?

For most children, dentists recommend every six months. Some of our patients come in more frequently (every 3 months) for cleanings and check ups. These may be children who are more cavity-prone, have braces, or have a tendency to build up tartar more quickly.

When are sealants recommended?

Although thorough brushing and flossing removes most food particles and bacteria from easy to reach tooth surfaces, they do not reach the deep grooves on chewing surfaces of teeth.  More than 75 percent of dental decay begins in these deep grooves (called pits and fissures). Toothbrush bristles are often too large to clean most of these areas, thus sealants play an important role.

A sealant is a thin plastic coating that covers and protects the chewing surfaces of molars, premolars, and any deep grooves or pits on teeth. Sealant material forms a protective, smooth barrier covering natural depressions and grooves in the teeth, making it much easier to clean and help keep these areas free of decay.

Who may need sealants?

Children and teenagers – As soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16.

Infants – Baby teeth are occasionally sealed if the teeth have deep grooves and the child is cavity prone.

Adults – Tooth surfaces without decay that have deep grooves or depressions that are difficult to clean.

Sealants are easily applied by your dentist or dental hygienist and the process only takes minutes per tooth. After the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution that helps the sealant adhere to the tooth, the sealant material is “painted” onto the tooth surface, where it hardens and bonds to the teeth. Sometimes a special light will be used to help the sealant material harden.

After sealant treatment, it’s important to avoid chewing on ice cubes, hard candy, popcorn kernels, or any hard or sticky foods. Your sealants will be checked for wear and chipping at your regular dental check-up.

Combined with good home care, a proper diet, and regular dental check-ups, sealants are very effective in helping prevent tooth decay.

How do I brush and floss the teeth of my uncooperative child?

Most children between the ages of one to three years old will show some resistance to brushing and flossing. This is normal behavior. In time, your child will get used to it and will eventually allow you to brush and floss. It is important to be consistent and get in the habit of brushing every morning and every evening before bedtime. Try to make it fun and make it a game! Allow children to watch you brush. A child will often want to mimic the parent. For resistant children, it may be helpful to have the child lay down on a flat surface such as a bed or the floor. One parent can hold the child’s arms and the other parent can support the child’s head while brushing. Always use a soft toothbrush and avoid fluoride toothpaste until a child learns to spit out correctly. Keep in mind that even if your child is extremely combative, you are doing what is best for them and helping to prevent dental problems down the road.

Why do you need to take X-rays?

X-ray films detect decay in between teeth that cannot be seen during a routine dental examination. Also, x-rays are used to detect abnormalities such as missing or extra teeth, permanent teeth erupting in poor angles which can damage adjacent teeth and to diagnose bone diseases.

Does your office offer treatment with nitrous oxide or treatment under general anesthesia?

Our office offers both services. Treatment under general anesthesia can be scheduled in our office with the dental anesthesiologist or at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. At your child’s initial visit, the dentist will recommend treatment options with you so you can decide how to proceed with dental treatment.

What is the Kindergarten Oral Health Assessment?

Assembly Bill 1433 was signed into law by the Governor on September 22, 2006, establishing the Oral Health Assessment requirement (Education Code Section 49452.8). This landmark legislation requires that children have a dental check-up by May 31 of their first year in public school at kindergarten or first grade. Dental evaluations that have happened within the 12 months prior to school entry also meet this requirement.