What Is a Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric dentistry is our specialty, and we love it. A pediatric dentist is a specialized dental health professional who focuses on taking care of the oral health care needs of children, all the way from infancy through young adulthood. In order to secure their title as a specialized dentist, a general dentist will have to complete an additional program of two to three years in length of advanced pediatric dentistry specialized training after their four years of dental school.

The specialized training that pediatric dentists receive includes important lessons in behavior guidance to help children feel understood and safe with their dentist. Such training provides the dentist with additional options and approaches to examine and treat children in ways that make them feel truly comfortable and cared for during any examination. These specialists can also help supervise young patients’ facial skeletal growth and proper dental development. Among some of the important treatments, you can get for your kid with a pediatric dentist are cavity prevention and sedation dentistry. We have a page dedicated to explaining what a pediatric dentist is; you can find it here.

What Is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist?

Board certification is important. A board-certified pediatric dentist is someone who has completed a rigorous testing process with the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry to ensure they provide the highest-level possible of care to any patient who comes to their office. A board-certified pediatric dentist is also a specialist who demonstrates exceptional knowledge and expertise at a standard that other dentists simply cannot replicate as much as they try. Similarly, the entire process of obtaining board certification hones the dentist’s skills to deliver higher quality care for infants and children all the way through adolescence, including those with special needs.

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 includes brushing, flossing, and eating foods that help promote your teeth’ health.

If you are an expectant mother and you would like to make sure you 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 a child’s first visit to the dentist be when their first tooth erupts or by the time they reach the 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 pediatric dentist 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 in Roswell.

At What Age Will My Child’s First Teeth Erupt?

Parents should expect their kids’ teeth to erupt when they’re 6-10 months old. These primary teeth will begin to show, usually around that age, but could erupt as early as 4 months. The first teeth to erupt, at least usually, are the lower central incisors, which are the front teeth. Your child’s pediatric dentist can help them guide their dental development to ensure all goes well.

At What Age Will My Child Lose Their First Tooth?

We can expect children to lose their first tooth around age 6 or 7. During this time, they enter a period known as mixed dentition, where they will have primary teeth and permanent ones. Sometimes, a child might lose a baby tooth prematurely due to tooth decay, periodontal disease, trauma, or other factors. We strongly encourage you to visit a qualified pediatric dentist and orthodontist if it’s the case with your kid.

Unless there’s noticeable tooth decay, a case of hyperdontia, or the beginning stages of an orthodontic problem, your child should keep their primary teeth until those ages and lose them naturally. Our pediatric dentist can help guide this development and extract any teeth whenever required.

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 of 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 of 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 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 you reading this from our local cities of Alpharetta, Johns Creek, or Roswell, you are in luck. Fulton County publishes a water report and as of 2018, the fluoride levels in the water ranges around 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?

Dreaded cavities are the result of extreme tooth decay when acid-producing and harmful bacteria have enough time to erode your kids’ tooth enamel and create a pit or hole that leads to the inner tissues.

Please pay close attention to leftover food particles in your kid’s mouth, especially after mealtimes and whenever they drink sugary beverages, as these particles help the bacteria grow. Watch out for soda, raisins, candy, and even milk. Bacteria in your child’s mouth thrive on these foods and continue to produce the acids that melt away the protective layers of enamel until your child has dangerous cavities.

To learn more about the causes of cavities and what you can do, 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 come 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?

There are two main factors that will help you reduce your kid’s risk of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and cavities. First of all, you’ll have to take care of proper oral hygiene, especially up until ages 7 or 8, while they still have primary teeth. Primary teeth are not as durable as permanent ones, so hygiene is critical at that time. Second, you should keep an eye on your kids’ dietary habits and choices. Limit how much sugar your child includes in their diet, and encourage them to drink more water instead of processed juices or sodas. Reduce the frequency of snacks and sugary treats, and visit their dentist frequently for deep cleanings.

Why Can’t We Ignore Decay On Baby Teeth?

Enamel is crucial to your child’s dental health; however, you should know that the enamel layer on primary teeth is not as resilient as it can be in permanent teeth. When we leave tooth decay in kids’ teeth unattended, the teeth erode at a much faster pace, increasing the risk of developing cavities greatly and possibly leading to dangerous dental infections or life-threatening abscesses, not to mention all the pain that comes with that. Another side effect includes premature tooth loss and potential orthodontic problems.

Baby teeth are important, and we have to try to keep them in for as long as possible before they naturally fall off as permanent ones erupt. Primary teeth help keep proper space between teeth as permanent ones erupt. To read more about the importance of primary teeth, you can click right 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?

The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends children first visit an orthodontist by age 7 when they’ve probably already lost a couple of baby teeth and have a mixed dentition. The orthodontist will help evaluate proper dental and orofacial skeletal growth and development. If your kid requires treatment, it will require two phases. Initially, Phase I is more about monitoring and ensuring incoming teeth have the space they require to erupt. Then, Phase II will take place during the adolescent years, and that’s when the patient usually gets an appliance, such as braces. To realign teeth and jaws.

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 thumb-sucking 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 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 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 Pediatric Dentist in Johns Creek team to evaluate whether or not your child needs a mouthguard.