Ask the Dentist! Our dentist and staff answer your most common questions.
Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Dr. Love Moore and the talented team at Capital City Pediatric Dentistry answer the most frequently asked questions they hear from parents and patients about cavities, toothpaste, and everything in between.
Read on to learn useful oral health tips like whether your toothpaste should have fluoride in it, how to address yellow teeth, and what age your adolescent should get braces.
If you have more questions, we’re here to help! Reach out to us by phone, email, or at your next appointment.
Q: How should I clean my baby’s teeth?
A: Starting at birth and after nursing, meals, or the last bottle of the day, gently wipe the gums and front of the tongue using a clean, damp washcloth, gauze, or finger brush. Once their first tooth appears, you can start brushing using a soft-bristled toothbrush (no more than three rows of bristles) moistened with water and a grain-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste.
Q: Are baby teeth really that important to my child?
A: Absolutely! Baby teeth hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth as they grow under the gums, in addition to helping your child chew, speak, and smile. When a baby tooth is lost too early, it can be difficult for adult teeth to find room when they come in and can make teeth crooked or crowded.
Q: Can thumb sucking or pacifier habits be harmful for my child’s teeth?
A: Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects is a natural reflex for children and makes them feel secure and happy. After permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. Your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.
Q: What kind of toothpaste should we use (fluoride or no fluoride)?
A: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends using cavity-preventing fluoride toothpaste as soon as your baby's first tooth appears, rather than waiting until age 2 as was previously recommended. Use a rice-grain-sized smear of toothpaste for your baby or toddler, graduating to a pea-sized dollop.
Q: Why does my child have yellow teeth?
A: As your child grows, they lose their baby teeth and adult teeth grow in. Sometimes the adult teeth appear yellow. This is because adult teeth contain more dentin, which makes a tooth look slightly yellow under translucent enamel. Once all your child’s adult teeth come in, you may not notice this hue as much. Other reasons for yellow teeth could be plaque, cavities, injury, genetics, supplements, or medical conditions. You can address the yellow with good oral hygiene, brushing the yellow tooth/teeth with lemon and baking soda, dietary changes to include less sugar, over the counter whitening products for older kids, or dentist in-office options.
Q: What can I do if my child has a toothache?
A: A toothache happens when the pulp inside a tooth becomes inflamed and infected. Most commonly a toothache is from a cavity, which is a hole in the tooth. Your child may experience constant, throbbing pain in the tooth that gets worse when touched or comes in contact with hot or cold liquids, a sore jaw, headache, or fever. You can address a toothache with over-the-counter pain medicine or a warm saltwater rinse in the mouth. If the pain lasts more than 24 hours, call the dentist for an appointment.
Q: How often does my child need to see the dentist?
A: After the first tooth comes in and no later than the first birthday. A dental visit at an early age is a "well-baby checkup" for the teeth. Besides checking for cavities and other problems, the dentist can show you how to clean the child's teeth properly and how to handle habits like thumb sucking.
Q: Why should my child see a pediatric dentist vs. a regular dentist?
A: Pediatric dentists, also called pedodontists, specialize in diagnosing and treating dental problems in infants, children, and teenagers. They focus on the unique dental issues that can develop in the gums, teeth, and jaw as the body develops and grows. Pediatric dentists are also specially trained in child psychology and behavior guidance techniques to help ease the fears of, and create a positive experience for, children with a wide range of temperaments and developmental levels.
Q: What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?
A: While losing a permanent tooth can be traumatic, it should be addressed calmly and with empathy to keep your child as comfortable as possible. You’ll also want to try to find the tooth in case it can be reimplanted. To transport the tooth, hold it by the top (avoid the roots), briefly clean it in a bowl of lukewarm tap water (do not rub it or run it under the sink), and attempt to insert the tooth back into the socket by having your child gently bite down on gauze or a moist paper towel. Try to keep the jaw shut and continue biting down until you reach your dentist. If you can't insert the tooth into the socket, store it in your cheek, a small container of saliva, or cold milk. Then get into your dentist as soon as possible for treatment. If they're closed, visit your local emergency room.
Q: When is my child ready for braces?
A: Typically, by the time a child is 10 to 12 years of age they are physically ready for braces. Children begin to lose their baby teeth around age 6 and continue to lose them through age 12 to start making room for their permanent adult teeth. Speak with your dentist about their recommendations for seeing an orthodontist.
Sources: WhattoExpect, Mouth Healthy, Stanford Children, Dental Depot, Healthline, WebMD, Healthy Children, Colgate