Children’s Dentistry: Frequently Asked Questions

All parents want to protect their children’s smiles. However, the things we were taught about oral hygiene when we were kids doesn’t always apply today. Thanks to medical research, we are constantly learning new ways to prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. Many parents are surprised to learn the latest advice from the American Dental Association (ADA) on a range of topics. For example, the ADA now recommends children come in for their first dental visit when they are 12 months old; baby books don’t always tell you this information. Some questions from parents come up again and again, so these FAQs may help you understand your kids’ oral health better.

Do you have questions about family dentistry? Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney wants every parent to be empowered with the knowledge to make good choices. Visit Jack Haney DDS for an oral health check-up for your child. Call us at 865-693-6886 to make an appointment.

Q: How should I clean my baby’s teeth?

Babies should start getting used to daily oral hygiene as soon as they start getting teeth. Since baby teeth are so small, (and babies are babies), you should not use a full-sized toothbrush to clean them. There are some very good baby-sized toothbrushes available today from infant-specialty stores—but you don’t need to brush the teeth to get them clean. Sterile gauze is an excellent tooth for cleaning infant teeth, as its rough surface is perfect for wiping plaque from the teeth and gums. A clean, damp baby washcloth is also an ideal tool for swabbing the teeth and gums each day.

As your baby turns into a toddler, and grows a full mouth of teeth, you may want to introduce a child-sized toothbrush and non-fluoride toothpaste. Only use a small amount, and do most of the brushing yourself to make sure the teeth are getting clean.

Q: Do prematurely lost baby teeth need to be replaced? (They are going to fall out, anyway!)

Children lose a lot of baby teeth, and not always on the schedule nature sets. Whether your child loses a tooth to an accident or tooth decay, there may be a need to replace it with a bridge or other prosthetic. Children need their baby teeth to bite and chew their food properly, but they also need them for speech development. Losing a critical tooth while learning how to speak may result in your child having a problem communicating effectively.

Baby teeth do fall out eventually, but that doesn’t mean they are disposable. They serve as valuable placeholders for the adult teeth growing in your child’s jaw and there is a set schedule for when they should be shed. If your child has lost a tooth too soon, visit our office and we’ll help you understand whether a prosthetic tooth is necessary for good dentition and speech development.

Q: My children have never had a cavity; do I still need to bring them in every six months?

If you’ve already been bringing your children in for routine dental visits, that’s probably the reason why they’ve never developed a cavity! Routine visits are not just for checking the teeth for decay. At every six-month visit, your child also gets a dental cleaning, which is crucial for preventing decay. With proper home-based oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), your children can remove most of the plaque from their teeth, but few people consistently remove 100 percent of it. When plaque sits on the teeth for more than 48 hours, it hardens into a substance called tartar—which attracts bacteria can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist. Six-month cleanings remove tartar to ensure it doesn’t lead to the start of a cavity.

Q: My children brush their teeth twice a day, so why are they getting cavities?

Understanding tooth decay means understanding what causes cavities. Cavities happen when an acidic environment leaches minerals from tooth enamel, until it dissolves essentially. Mouth bacteria create an acidic environment when you leave food residue on the teeth. If a child eats a lot of sugars and starches throughout the day, his or her mouth bacteria will be constantly feasting and excreting tooth-damaging acids.

If your child drinks fruit juice or sports drinks more often than water, this can have the same effect on the teeth as drinking soda. Eating processed flours and crunchy snacks (potato chips, white bread, corn-based snacks) can be as bad for the teeth as eating candy. This doesn’t mean your child needs to brush his teeth after every beverage, meal, or snack—there are other ways to prevent an acidic mouth environment from developing. Giving water as your child’s go-to beverage can help, as can giving fresh fruits and vegetable at every snack or meal time. Fresh fruits and vegetables do not contribute to decay because their texture cleans the teeth as they are chewed.

Q: Can children and teens get gum disease?

Gum disease and its precursor form (gingivitis) may be more common in adults, but anyone can develop gum disease at any age. The most common cause of gum disease in young people is lax oral hygiene. Failure to brush and floss the teeth properly, every day, can quickly lead to symptoms such as bleeding gums, swollen gum tissue, and inflammation. Changing hormones can also affect gum health, as well.

If your child has recently started bleeding when he flosses, the best thing he can do is keep flossing! The gums may continue to bleed for a few days, but after about two weeks they will be stronger. You can also buy your child an antiseptic rinse to use to fight the bacteria that cause gum infection. If you suspect your child has developed gum problems, bring him to Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney and we’ll assess the situation and help you understand the steps you can take to prevent problems in the future.

Do you want to learn more about your children’s oral health? Knoxville family dentist Dr. Jack Haney can help you understand the best ways to protect your family’s smiles. Call us at 865-693-6886 to make an appointment.

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