Good Dental Habits for a Lifetime of Smiles

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Did You Know: Almost half of children ages 2 to 11 have experienced some form of tooth decay?

The difference between pediatric dentists and general dentists is that pediatric dentists have several years of graduate study experience during which we learn about the care of primary teeth and explore the topics of child psychology, child management, and behavioral modification.

All of the dental professionals at Pediatric Dentistry of Fort Myers have specialized training in children’s oral health care including prevention, restoration, growth and development from birth to age 18. We are able to recognize growth trends early in children, helping to intercede and correct any problems to ensure normal development continues.

We take a team approach to your child’s overall health and will refer you to a physician or other medical professional if a particular need is uncovered during a dental exam. Preventive dentistry under the guidance of a pediatric dentist can be your child’s best opportunity for sound oral and general health, not to mention your peace of mind.

FAQs about Kids and Teeth

When should my child first see a dentist?
Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between six and twelve months of age. This visit will establish a dental home for your child. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.

How can I prevent tooth decay from nursing or using a bottle?
Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or a cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and an age-appropriate sized toothbrush with only a “smear” of toothpaste when they are under 2 years of age. At-will breastfeeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt and other sources of nutrition have been introduced. If feeding “between meals,” remember to clean your child’s gums and teeth after each feeding. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other than water. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time.

When should bottle feeding be stopped?
Children should be weaned from the bottle at twelve to fourteen months of age.

Should I worry about thumb or finger sucking?
Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants; many stop at age two. Prolonged thumb sucking can create crooked teeth or bite problems. If the habit continues beyond age three, a professional evaluation is recommended. Your pediatric dentist will be glad to suggest ways to address a prolonged thumb sucking habit.

Why do children suck on fingers, pacifiers or other objects?
This type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children. It provides security. For young babies, it is a way to make contact with and learn about the world. In fact babies begin to suck on their fingers and thumbs even before they are born.

How will my child feel when breathing nitrous oxide / oxygen?
Your child will smell a faint sweet aroma and experience a sense of well-being and relaxation. Since it may produce a feeling of giddiness or euphoria, it is often called “laughing gas.” Children sometimes report dreaming and a tingly feeling in their arms and legs. It raises the pain threshold and may even make the time appear to pass quickly. If your child is worried by the sights, sounds or sensations of dental treatment, he or she may respond more positively with the use of nitrous oxide / oxygen.

How safe is nitrous oxide/oxygen?
Very safe. Nitrous oxide / oxygen is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry. It is well tolerated. It has rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. Your child remains fully conscious and retains all natural reflexes when breathing nitrous oxide / oxygen. He or she will be capable of responding to a question or request. Nitrous oxide / oxygen may also be used in combination with other sedative agents if needed.

What are sealants?
Sealants protect the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, especially the chewing surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found. Made of clear or shaded plastic, sealants are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity free.

How do sealants work?
Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is difficult – sometimes impossible – to clean the tiny grooves and pits on certain teeth. Food and bacteria build up in these crevices, placing your child in danger of tooth decay. Sealants “seal out” food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.

Why so early? What dental problems could a baby have?
The most important reason is to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is early childhood caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). Once a child’s diet includes anything besides breast milk, erupted teeth are at risk for decay. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily and smile with confidence.When should I worry about a sucking habit?
Your pediatric dentist will carefully watch the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping the sucking habit in mind at all times. Because persistent habits may cause long term problems, intervention may be recommended for children beyond three years of age.How often should a child have dental x-ray films?
Since every child is unique, the need for dental x-ray films varies from child to child. Films are taken only after reviewing your child’s medical and dental histories and performing a clinical examination, and only when they are likely to yield information that a visual examination cannot. In general children need x-rays more often than adults. Their mouths grow and change rapidly. They are more susceptible than adults to tooth decay. For children with a high risk of tooth decay, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends x-rays examinations every six months to detect cavities between the teeth.Why should x-ray films be taken if my child has never had a cavity?
X-ray films detect much more than cavities. For example, x-rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury or plan orthodontic treatment. X-rays allow dentists to diagnose and treat conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination.

What is nitrous oxide / oxygen?
Nitrous oxide / oxygen (N2O-O) is a blend of two gases – oxygen and nitrous oxide. A fitted mask is placed over the nose and as the patient breathes normally, uptake occurs through the lungs. At the end of the treatment, it is eliminated after a short period of breathing oxygen and has no lingering effects.

How long do sealants last?
Research shows that sealants last for many years if properly cared for. Therefore, your child will be protected throughout the most cavity-prone years. If your child has good oral hygiene and avoids biting hard objects sealants will last longer. Your pediatric dentist will check the sealants during routine dental visits and recommend re-applications or repair when necessary.

What is the treatment of sealants like?
The application of a sealant is quick and comfortable. It only takes one visit. The tooth is first cleaned, then conditioned and dried. The sealant is then flowed into the grooves of the tooth and allowed to harden or hardened with a special light. Your child will be able to eat right after the appointment.

How much does it cost?
The treatment is very affordable, especially considering the value that decay protections offer your child. Most dental insurance companies cover the cost of sealants. Some companies, however, have age and tooth limitations. Check with your benefits provider about your child’s coverage and talk to your pediatric dentist about the exact cost of sealants for your child.

Which teeth should be sealed?
The natural flow of saliva usually keeps the smooth surfaces of the teeth clean but does not wash out the grooves and tooth fissures. So the teeth most at risk of decay and therefore most in need of sealants are the six year and twelve year molars. Many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage. Any tooth, however, with grooves or pits may benefit from sealants. Talk to your pediatric dentist as each child’s situation is unique.