Parent FAQs

Kid’s dentists, should provide dental care and dental awareness. Here are some frequently asked questions to support the needs of children’s oral health.

At what age should my child visit the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s first visit to the dentist should occur by 12 months of age. This visit will enable Dr. Kao to evaluate your child and introduce you to proper oral hygiene. Diet, fluoride, finger and pacifier habits and tooth eruption will be discussed to insure optimal dental health.

Why are “baby teeth” important?
Primary teeth have been labeled “baby teeth.” However, the first tooth is usually lost around age 6 and some primary molars must remain in place until 12 or 13 years of age. Primary teeth are necessary for proper chewing, speech, development of the jaws and esthetics. Care of the primary teeth is important not only for proper function, but also to avoid a number of unpleasant conditions, such as pain, that result from their neglect.

What guidelines will help children remain cavity free?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends:

  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day
  • Floss once a day
  • Visit your pediatric or general dentist regularly
  • Get enough fluoride through drinking water, fluoride products and fluoride supplements, if necessary
  • Have sealants applied to the chewing surfaces of permanent back teeth or molars
  • Snack moderately- no more than twice a day.

How important is a child’s diet in the prevention of cavities?
Although a well-balanced diet is important in preventing cavities and to ensure good general health, cavities are not only the result of what children eat but also the frequency of meals. Frequent snacking without brushing leaves food on the teeth longer and increases the likelihood of a cavity developing. Additionally, frequent “sipping” on sugar-drinks (including juice and soda) in a baby bottle, “sippy” cup, or re-sealable bottle can cause widespread dental cavities.

Are thumb, finger and pacifier habits bad for the teeth and jaws?
The majority of children stop sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects on their own between two and three years of age without any harm being done to their teeth or jaws. However, children that repeatedly suck on a finger, pacifier or other object over long periods of time may cause the upper front teeth to tip toward the lip or not come in properly. Dr. Kao will carefully monitor the way your child’s teeth come in and jaws develop. For most children there is no reason to worry about a sucking habit until the permanent front teeth are ready to come in, but it should be discouraged by the age of four.

What can I do to stop my child’s habit?
The majority of children stop sucking habits on their own. Some children may need the help of their parents. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, Dr. Kao can encourage your child to stop and talk about what happens to the teeth if your child doesn’t stop. Typically, this advice along with the support from parents, helps most children quit.

What are dental sealants and who can benefit from them?
The chewing surface of children’s teeth are the most susceptible to cavities and least benefited from fluorides. Sealants are adhesive coatings that are applied to the tops of teeth and can be very effective in preventing tooth decay. Current research has shown that 4 out of 5 cavities in children under age 15 develop on the biting surface of back molars. Molars are the most decayed teeth because plaque accumulates in the tiny grooves of the chewing surfaces. Sealants prevent the cavities that fluoride cannot effectively reach.

What are composites (white fillings)?
Composites are used to restore fractured teeth and areas of decay. The shade of the restoration material is matched as closely as possible to the color of the natural tooth.

What are Stainless Steel Crowns?
Stainless steel crowns are silver colored “caps” used to restore teeth that are too badly decayed to hold fillings, need a nerve treatment, or when durability is a concern.

What is a Pulpotomy?
This procedure is a nerve treatment in which the sick portion of the tooth nerve is removed and medicine is placed in order to avoid extracting the tooth.

What is Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen?
Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) is breathed by your child with oxygen during the restorative appointment. It can be used to relax a mildly anxious child who is still cooperative.

What are Space Maintainers?
A space maintainer is used to hold space for a permanent tooth when a baby tooth has been prematurely lost. If space is not maintained, teeth on either side of the missing tooth can drift into the space and prevent the permanent tooth from erupting.

What is enamel fluorosis?
If a child is exposed to too much fluoride during the years of tooth development they may face the condition called enamel fluorosis. Too much fluoride can result in defects in tooth enamel resulting in white, yellow or brown splotches, streaks or lines, usually on the front teeth.

Should I avoid fluorides all together for my child?
Definitely NO! Fluoride prevents tooth decay. It is an important part of helping your child keep a healthy smile for a lifetime. Dr. Kao can help determine the right amount of fluoride for your child.

Do special children have special dental needs?
Yes. Some children with disabilities are more susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease or oral trauma. They may require medication, special diets, or possess oral habits detrimental to dental health.

What are athletic mouth protectors?
Athletic mouth protectors are soft plastic mouth guards made specifically for your child’s teeth. They protect the teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue. They can help protect children from such serious head and neck injuries as concussions and jaw fractures. Any mouthguard works better than no mouthguard therefore select one that is comfortable to wear. You can buy mouthguards in sports stores that are pre-formed or “boil-and-bite.” Alternatively, Dr. Kao can make customized mouth guards. While they may cost a little more, they are more comfortable and more effective in preventing injuries.

Why is oral health important when you are pregnant?
Now that you are pregnant, it is more important than ever to take better care of your teeth and gums. During pregnancy you will experience significant changes, including changes in your oral health. “Pregnancy gingivitis” is a condition that commonly occurs in the second or third month of pregnancy and can become more severe through the eighth month. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy may cause a greater reaction to dental plaque, resulting in an increased amount of swelling, bleeding and redness of the gums.

What can you do?
Since your oral health has implications that directly affect your pregnancy, it is extremely important to pay close attention to the signs of gum disease. Dental professionals recommend having more frequent dental cleanings. It is very important to maintain a proper daily oral care routine, including brushing and flossing. If tenderness, bleeding or gum swelling occur at any time during your pregnancy, see your general dentist or dental hygienist immediately.