Kids’ Dental FAQ
- When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?
Your child should see a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth appearing, or no later than his or her first birthday. While this may seem early, dental exams are important to identify any potential problems as soon as possible. Issues may include cavities as well as a variety of other oral health disorders in the teeth, mouth or gums. Catching these problems early will help prevent them from becoming worse and more difficult to treat in the future.
- What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
Pediatric dentists, also called pedodontists, are the pediatricians of dentistry. As such, they specialize in diagnosing and treating the unique oral health concerns of infants, children and adolescents. In addition to their special treatment knowledge, pediatric dentists are skilled in making dental visits comfortable for patients who find it difficult to sit still or cooperate.
Pediatric dentists receive two to three years of specialty training after completing their dental degree. Once they complete their training and certification, they serve as primary and specialty oral care providers for young patients, including those with special health needs.
- Are baby teeth really that important to my child?
Primary or "baby" teeth are essential for your child's development for a variety of reasons. Baby teeth help your child eat solid foods and learn healthy chewing habits, which also affect the development of their jaw and facial muscles. Teeth also have a big impact on the way we speak, so primary teeth help children learn to speak properly.
Another reason baby teeth are important is that they help form a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. If your child loses a primary tooth earlier than normal, whether through damage or disease, it’s important to maintain the space that it would have occupied so that the permanent tooth below it will have room to emerge. In such a case, your pediatric dentist may recommend using a space maintainer to prevent overcrowded or crooked permanent teeth.
- When should I start brushing my baby's teeth?
Before your baby has teeth, you can clean his or her gums by using a soft cloth or your finger to gently wipe away any bacteria. This will help keep your baby's gums healthy and clean.
Once your baby starts getting teeth, it is important to start maintaining them immediately to prevent tooth decay and other potential oral health issues. Use a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles to gently brush your baby's teeth. You can do this once or twice a day, especially after the last meal to avoid food remaining in your child's mouth overnight. If you use toothpaste, only use a tiny amount, about the size of a grain of rice, and try to angle your child's head downward so that the toothpaste can dribble out into a sink or washcloth.
- Are thumb sucking and pacifiers bad for teeth?
Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long time. Active and persistent sucking can create pressure on the teeth, jaw and roof of the mouth, but most children stop these habits on their own before their permanent teeth come in.
However, if your child continues to suck his or her thumbs or fingers past the age of three, the pressure can affect the alignment of permanent teeth and the shape of the jaw, causing bite problems. In such a case, your pediatric dentist may recommend a mouth appliance to prevent problems from developing later on.
- How can I prevent teeth decay caused by nursing?
Once your baby's teeth have begun to come in, they become at risk of cavities. Unswallowed milk that remains in a baby's mouth for long periods of time can do damage to the teeth. To avoid tooth decay, avoid situations where your child falls asleep with milk in his or her mouth. Remove your child from the breast before they fall asleep and only fill bedtime bottles with water. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his or her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child's first birthday.
- How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?
Early detection and treatment are critical for preventing cavities and other dental problems from developing and becoming worse. You should take your child in for a check-up every six months, starting at least by the age of 1. However, every baby's needs are different. Your dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on his or her personal oral health.
- How can parents help prevent tooth decay?
Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or no later than the age of 1. Pediatric dentists can identify any new or potential oral health issues during each visit. They can also provide a variety of treatments to help prevent future tooth decay, such as fluoride treatment and sealant.
Then, the dentist can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other activities for parents to supervise and teach to their children. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, can help prevent potential problems from developing and give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.
- How much does orthodontic treatment cost?
The fee for an individual’s treatment is determined by a variety of factors, including the severity of the problem to be corrected, the anticipated length of treatment, and the type of orthodontic treatment used. Please talk with your orthodontist about the types of treatment that you are interested in so that together you can decide what is appropriate and will fit your family’s budget.
- Will the orthodontist take my insurance? How much does insurance cover?
If you have dental insurance that includes orthodontic benefits, check with the insurance company or your employer’s HR department to learn about the details of the coverage available to you.
Coverage may be for a percentage of the fee or be capped at a specific dollar amount, called a "lifetime cap." Make sure to check who your policy covers, as it may be for you, or you and your spouse, or you and your spouse and your children, etc. Some insurance coverage has an age limit, so make sure your child has not aged out of coverage from your plan. Some types of insurance require you to choose from the insurance company's preferred providers.
- Do I have to have insurance to have orthodontic treatment?
No. Insurance is not required to have orthodontic treatment. Smile Generation-trusted offices have alternative payment options to help you take care of your family’s oral health, including a discount dental plan and flexible financing. See the Payment Options page for more information.
- What’s the ideal age to start braces? Is there one?
There is no ideal age for when to start braces or other orthodontic treatment. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age, so some orthodontic treatments can begin while your child still has his or her primary (baby) teeth. This treatment is called interceptive or preventative treatment. Your child can also begin orthodontic treatment when most of his or her permanent teeth have grown in. It is generally a good idea to take your child in for an initial orthodontic exam by the age of 7. Once you have established your child's orthodontic needs, you can talk to your orthodontist about which treatments will work best.
- How long does orthodontic treatment last?
The average length of orthodontic treatment is 22 months, according to a 2014 survey among members of the American Association of Orthodontists. Every mouth is different, however. Your child's treatment may vary based on the severity of their condition, the type of orthodontic treatment used, and a number of other factors.
- Can my child get braces with missing teeth?
It may be possible to have successful orthodontic treatment if some teeth are missing, depending on your child's circumstances and treatment goals. Orthodontic treatment may be able to close the space of a missing tooth or be able to create or save sufficient space for a replacement tooth. Consult your orthodontist to discuss what is right for your child.