FAQ

What is a board certified pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist that is board certified, or Diplomat, has gone through a rigorous testing process with the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. A board certified pediatric dentist is a specialist that demonstrates an exceptional knowledge and expertise at a standard not possessed by other dentists. The board certification process provides rigorous training that results in higher quality care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special needs.

What is a Pediatric Dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a dentist who is specialized in the oral health care needs of children, from infancy through young adulthood. A pediatric dentist completes an additional two to three years of advanced pediatric dentistry specialty training after four years of dental school.

Pediatric dentists have additional training in behavior guidance, providing additional options or approaches to examine and treat children in ways that make them comfortable, care of the medically and developmentally compromised patient, supervision of facial skeletal growth and development, cavity prevention, and sedations. We have a page dedicated to explaining what a pediatric dentist, you can find it here.

Expectant mothers and the importance of good oral health

A pregnant woman’s oral health CAN impact their child’s future oral health. Oral bacteria can be transmitted from moms to babies. It is strongly recommended for mothers to seek periodontal care during pregnancy because it is safe and effective and reducing periodontal disease and pathogens from being passed.

Though it can be difficult, it is still extremely important for mothers to maintain good oral habits. This include brushing, flossing and eating foods that help promote your teeth’s health.

If you are an expectant mother and you would like to make sure your properly maintaining the health of you and your child’s teeth, here are some tips on maintaining good oral health during pregnancy.

At what age should I bring my child to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends for a child’s first visit to the dentist be when their first tooth erupts or by the time they reach age of 1. This is the perfect time to provide counseling about brushing, diet and nutrition, teething, growth and development and any digit or pacifier habits.

At Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry, our goal is to make your child’s first visit as pleasant as it could be! If desired, before your child’s first appointment, we welcome all parents along with their children to tour our office and meet our team to help you and your child build trust in our team and make your child’s first appointment as comfortable as possible! Our dental office in Alpharetta is equipped with plenty of games, movies, and toys for young children. For a longer discussion, read our guide on when to visit a pediatric dentist.

At what age will my child’s first teeth erupt?

Your child’s first primary (baby) tooth usually erupts around 6 – 10 months, but can erupt as early as 4 months. The first teeth to erupt are the lower central incisors. Permanent teeth will begin erupting around age 6.

At what age will my child lose their first tooth?

Children usually lose their first tooth around 6 or 7 years old. Sometimes a child may lose a baby tooth prematurely due to any previous history of dental trauma.

Unless your child’s tooth is decayed or causing overcrowding, they should be able to lose or baby teeth naturally. Our pediatric dentist is able to make the procedure quick, safe, and easy.

How do I brush my child’s teeth and which toothpaste should I use?

It is recommended to start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. A wet washcloth or gauze can be used to wipe plaque off your infant’s teeth and gum twice a day or after every meal. Once your child has several baby teeth, a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head is recommended. It is advised for parents to brush their child’s teeth until they reach the age of 7 or 8.

To do this, you can have your child first brush their own teeth and then tell them that you would like to brush their teeth again to check if they missed any spots. It is also important to floss between teeth to clean the areas the toothbrush could not reach.

For children under 2 years of age, a smear of infant toothpaste is recommended to brush their teeth and a pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste is appropriate for children between 2-5 years of age. If your child is unable to spit out toothpaste after brushing, consider using fluoride-free toothpaste or wipe the toothpaste off using a wet washcloth or gauze after cleaning the top teeth and again after cleaning the bottom teeth.

Ask your pediatric dentist when you can start incorporating fluoride into your child’s toothpaste because it has many dental benefits if used correctly.

Why are baby or primary teeth important?

Having a healthy set of baby teeth will help your child learn to speak properly without any problems forming words and vowels. Also, their baby teeth will be the first set of tools that will help them eat and chew food. Repeated issues with their teeth can cause setbacks in eating and speaking, so it’s important to ensure that the primary teeth are all healthy and strong.

In addition, primary teeth can dictate future need for orthodontic treatment.

What foods are good for my child’s teeth? What are foods that are bad for my child’s teeth?

Foods that are commonly known to be healthy are not always the best for teeth. Foods that are good for children to be eating include:

  • Apples, Celery, Carrots
  • Nuts
  • Leafy greens
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Foods that are bad for your child’s teeth include:

  • Sports drinks
  • Soda
  • Lemons
  • Chewy Candy
  • Chips, Bread and Pasta

We’ve written many posts about foods that are great for your child’s dental health in addition to local Alpharetta and Johns Creek school foods that your child should be choosing.

Are sports drinks really that bad for teeth?

Yes! It’s important to know and understand the drawbacks to sports drinks. When used properly during rigorous exercise, sports drinks can provide proper hydration and the electrolytes the body needs to perform and recover. They can be beneficial in extremely hot or humid weather. However, they should not be a regular part of a child’s diet and should not be consumed as a replacement for soda or juice.

Sports drinks can lead to hypersensitivity, staining and excessive wear of teeth. Acid attacks the enamel of your teeth, weakening it. This leads to cavities. Many sports drinks contain citric acid, which can demineralize the teeth.

Instead, encourage your children to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

For more information, we have a couple posts we wrote specifically on the topic of sports drinks.

What is fluoride and how does it help?

Fluoride benefits oral health by fortifying the tooth’s protective enamel layer and promoting remineralization, a process where nutrients are returned to the teeth through saliva. Healthy teeth with a strong enamel are less likely to experience tooth decay. All topical fluorides provide these advantages, but professional treatments use an exceptionally high concentration of fluoride not available over the counter. This amount delivers unparalleled protection against cavities.

If your reading this from our local cities of Alpharetta, Johns Creek or Roswell, your in luck. Fulton County publishes a water report and as of 2018, the fluoride levels in the water ranges around the 0.7 ppm. This falls right in line with the United States Public Health Service’s recommended levels. Therefore, the water is quite honestly the best beverage your child can be drinking. There’s no sugar and there is supplementary fluoride for their teeth.

More information on Fluoride can be found here.

What is a cavity?

Cavities or tooth decay is when acid producing bacteria destroy tooth enamel and a pit, decay or quite simply a hole is formed as a result.

This happens when particles from sugary foods like soda, raisins, candy or even milk are left on the teeth. Bacteria thrive on these foods and produce acid over time these acids can break down tooth enamel and you’re left with a cavity.

To learn more about how cavities are formed, we have a full guide on understanding cavities and how to prevent them.

How did my child get cavities?

Diets that are high in sugar, such as juice, soda, and sweets, along with improper oral hygiene techniques increase a child’s risk for developing cavities. Bacteria in our mouth comes in contact with the sugar on the teeth and the bacteria produces an acid that causes the enamel in the teeth to become weak which can turn into little holes in the tooth called cavities.

How can I reduce my child’s risk for developing cavities?

It is important for parents to help brush and floss their children’s teeth until 7 or 8 years of age. Limit the amount of sugar in your child’s diet. Encourage your child to drink more water instead of juice and limit frequent snacking between meals. It is also recommended to visit your child’s pediatric dentist every 6 months.

Why can’t we leave decay behind on baby teeth?

Enamel of primary teeth is thinner than permanent teeth and when decay is left behind, it greatly increases the child’s risk for the cavity becoming larger and possibly developing into a dental infection and abscess and potentially causing pain for your child, which could lead to your child needing a possible extraction. It is important to try to retain the baby teeth as long as we can and allow them to fall out on their own as the permanent teeth are erupting. Primary teeth help keep the proper amount of space to help guide the permanent teeth forming underneath them. To read more about the importance of primary teeth, you can read more here.

What are dental sealants?

Sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of children’s molars. The pits and fissures in children’s molars tend to be deep, which makes it easier for food particles to collect and lead to decay. Children sometimes have difficulty properly brushing these areas. Sealants provide a protective barrier for healthy teeth.

In 2016, the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reviewed and updated clinical practice guidelines regarding dental sealants. They found that “children with sealants are up to 80 percent less prone to cavities compared to those without them.”

For more information on dental sealants you can read our dental sealants guide and their benefits.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural carbohydrate that looks and tastes like sugar. While Xylitol is a sweetener, it actually works to help protect your teeth.

It doesn’t break down the sugars from the foods we eat, and can actually help your mouth maintain a natural pH level. Additionally, it prevents the bacteria from sticking to the teeth, which can prevent tooth decay. In fact, Xylitol can help reduce acid-producing bacteria by as much as 90 percent.

Studies have shown that using between one and 20 grams of Xylitol per day can reduce the rate of cavity formation in both children and adults.

For more information on Xylitol and how to incorporate it into your child’s diet we have a guide here.

When will my child be ready for braces?

American Association of Orthodontics recommends for children to be evaluated by an orthodontist around age of 7 to evaluate the growth and development of their jaws and the eruption pattern of the developing permanent teeth. Treatment can be broken down into two phases; Phase I or early treatment and Phase II or adolescent treatment. Phase I treatment covers children between the ages of 6-12. Phase II treatment deals with permanent teeth and bite relationship.

Are x-rays safe?

Dental x-rays are very safe. Dental x-rays provide a very low dose of radiation. A lead apron and lead thyroid collar are used to minimize exposure to the abdomen and thyroid. At Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry we utilize the most advanced digital x-ray to further reduce the already low dosage of radiation. We have more information on the importance of x-rays and the industry standards on our x-rays page.

My child is sucking their thumb, how does that affect their teeth? 

Before the permanent teeth erupt, thumbsucking isn’t an issue. Once your child gets permanent teeth, you should help them kick this habit. Sucking the thumb can cause issues with the ideal tooth alignment and growth. The thumb can also change the roof of your child’s mouth, which can lead to speech problems. Pacifiers also cause issues, but most kids lose interest in pacifiers long before their permanent teeth erupt. According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumbsucking on their own between the ages of two and four. So if you have a young thumbsucker, try not to worry. It’s likely your child will stop on her own.

Tips for helping your child stop thumb sucking and identifying if your child is sucking their thumb.

What is the problem with bottle feeding?

Babies often can drift off to sleep while bottle feeding. This can cause major tooth decay because of sugars that can fester in the mouth and cause cavities and oral problems. It is important to not allow your child to fall asleep with the bottle. Rather, wipe your child’s mouth after every feeding. This is important to do every time, even in the middle of the night, and for nursing moms as well as bottle feeding parents. About 15 minutes after the feeding, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the gums. This can remove any sugars left from the formula or breastmilk that could lead to cavities.
By leaving the the bottle in your child’s mouth, the sugars will cause serious damage and tooth decay, especially to young baby teeth that are still developing and growing. Here are some tips for dealing with baby bottles and some more information about baby bottles.

Why do pediatric dentists say to be careful with sippy cups?

Prolonged sipping of sugary beverages can cause cavities in your little one’s mouth. Check the labels on your juices and milk; notice where there’s added sugar. That sugar isn’t good for your little one’s teeth (or your teeth, for that matter!). Even juice that is diluted with water should be avoided in the sippy cup, with the exception of mealtime. It’s okay to use a healthy juice or milk during mealtime, just don’t run around town with juice in the cup!

Unless it’s mealtime, sippy cups should only hold water. When you’re out and about, keep water in the sippy cup. Water is the best beverage for oral health.
For more information on sippy cups, here is a guide on best practice with sippy cups.

Should I be concerned about my child grinding their teeth? 

There are several reasons why children grind their teeth or clench their jaws during sleep, but it isn’t always possible to determine the root cause in every case. Sometimes children may grind because the teeth in the upper and lower jaws don’t align properly. An earache or an erupting tooth may cause children to grind in their sleep as a response to pain and a method of easing the discomfort, sort of like rubbing a tight muscle to make it feel better.

If you hear your child grinding their teeth, it is not an immediate cause for concern as many will grow out of this habit. If the grinding becomes a problem, a mouth guard worn at night provides proper protection from the grinding. When visiting for your child’s dental appointment, Dr. Nanna or whoever is your pediatric dentist can help determine if there is a problem

When should my child wear a mouth guard?

Occasionally a mouthguard will be prescribed to your child if they are excessively grinding their teeth. In addition, if your child participates in sports, they should also be wearing a mouthguard especially if they play a contact sports. For those that don’t play contact sports, it does not exempt them from needing a mouth guard as well.

With mouth guards there isn’t a one rule fits all. Some athletes play more risky positions, leaving them more exposed to collisions. Other times there are just freak accidents that occur.

It’s always good to do your homework and talk to professionals in the sport in addition to our dental team to evaluate whether or not your child needs a mouth guard.