What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a dentist who specializes only in treating children. It is one of the dental specialties recognized by the ADA, and in order to be called a pediatric dentist the dentist must spend extra years dedicated to their education. After graduating dental school, pediatric dentists specialize in a pediatric dentistry program to gain the further knowledge they need to treat children’s developing smiles.

When should my child have their first dental visit?

We recommend creating a dental home for your child as soon as possible. This helps normalize dental visits and sets your child up for a healthy smile. Your child should have his or her first visit by their first birthday. For older children who are visiting the dentist for the first time, we recommend speaking in a positive way and explaining the importance of healthy smiles. Refrain from using any language that may cause unnecessary apprehension around the visit. Your pediatric dentist will have a welcoming environment and staff members dedicated to providing a safe and fun visit for your child.

The first visit can be used as a way for both parent and child to become acquainted with the office and dental staff. The dentist will focus on assessing the child’s oral health and creating a preventive plan to ensure your child’s mouth remains as healthy as possible. The dentist will discuss tooth decay and how to prevent it, as well as discuss how your child’s mouth is developing.

A few things will happen at the first visit.

During a clinical examination, the dentist will:

  • Take a complete medical and dental history.
  • Perform an exam (this is usually done with parent/guardian and dentist knee-to-knee with the parent holding the child so he or she is most comfortable)
  • Note any dental cavities or soft tissue irregularities
  • Check for any other issues, such as staining, enamel decalcification or white spot lesions

The dentist will also take a decay risk assessment. This includes:

  • Discussion of the method of feeding – bottle or breast, on demand or scheduled, fed during the night, etc.
  • Determine if a bottle is given at bedtime, or if sugary drinks or foods are consumed regularly
  • Check for decalcification and cavities

The dentist and staff will discuss how to best care for the child’s developing smile. Preventive measures, such as no sippy cups or bottles in bed, no juice or milk in sippy cups, avoiding sugary foods and drinks, etc. will be discussed. The dentist will also talk with the parents about the importance of a varied and well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as the importance of the correct level of fluoride.

Proper at-home care of the child’s teeth will also be discussed. Parents should brush or massage the teeth and gums at least two times daily using a small, soft toothbrush and a tiny amount of toothpaste. The dentist will also discuss oral habits, such as thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Why are the primary teeth so important?

Many parents may wonder why they need to invest so much time and energy into primary teeth since they just fall out anyway. Your child’s baby teeth set up their permanent teeth for health. If your child has neglected baby teeth, it can also cause issues with the developing permanent teeth. Your child’s baby teeth also serve several important roles. They:

  • Aid your child in eating and chewing properly
  • Assist your child’s speech
  • Help guide the permanent teeth to their proper locations
  • Permit normal development of the jaw and muscles.

When will my child lose his or her baby teeth?

Baby teeth fall out at different times for each child. The front four teeth are typically the first that a child will lose, between the ages of 6 and 8. The remaining teeth can begin to fall out between the ages of 10 and 13. Every child is different, so every child will lose their teeth at different times. If you have a concern about your child’s teeth, always discuss it with their pediatric dentist.

When will my child get their baby teeth?

Just like losing the baby teeth, getting them in can be different for each child. Your child’s teeth form in the gums before they are even born. Around six months, the first primary teeth can begin to erupt. The lower central incisors will be first, followed by the upper incisors. Typically, all baby teeth will be present by the age of three. The order and pace of tooth eruption varies from child to child.