Frequently Asked Questions

About the Dentist

 

What is a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through teenage years. A pediatric dentist is a dental specialist who has completed at least 2 years of specialized, intensive education and training after completing four years of dental school. During the years of specialized training, your dentist treats infants, children, teenagers, and children with special needs to expand his knowledge about and experience with children at all stages of childhood.

What is a board certified pediatric dentist?

A dentist who graduates from an accredited pediatric specialty program is eligible to become a board certified pediatric dentist through the voluntary examination process of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. This rigorous certification process involves a written Qualifying Examination and an Oral Clinical Examination covering all areas of information on which a pediatric dentist should be knowledgeable. After passing the examinations, a pediatric dentist is awarded the title of Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. Certification is renewed annually. Benjamin Sun is board-certified.

Why should I choose a pediatric dentist for my child?

Because pediatric dentists and dental offices are dedicated to the care of children, your child may feel most comfortable in an environment geared towards them and being treated by a provider familiar with treating children, both in regards to oral health needs and behavioral needs. Pediatric dental offices are colorful, fun, and inviting. Pediatric dentists enjoy interacting with children and their families. Oral health is a lifelong journey, and beginning with comfort and confidence will set a strong foundation for continued oral health and proper maintenance.

Visiting the Dentist

When should I schedule my child’s first visit to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen by a dentist by six months of age, or no later than one year of age, whichever comes first. Our office recommends a visit as soon as the first tooth erupts to ensure that your child’s oral health is progressing normally and that we may answer any questions you may have.

Is fluoride dangerous, and should I avoid it?

Fluoride is an effective way to prevent tooth decay, and has been shown to strengthen teeth and even reverse the early signs of tooth decay. Many, but not all, communities have fluoride in their drinking water. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with your community’s drinking water. However, be aware that bottled water does not contain fluoride like tap water does. The American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends using toothpaste with fluoride, but just a smear in the early years of development, and to spit out toothpaste after brushing. Treating cavities is important, but preventing cavities is even better!

How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?

Generally, it is recommended that a child visits the dentist once every six months for a dental check-up, cleaning, and fluoride application. However, your pediatric dentist will advise you when and how often your child should visit based on your child’s oral health and needs.

Baby and Toddler Tooth Care

When do I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

The earlier the better. Even before your child’s first tooth erupts, you can help your child get used to brushing teeth by taking a soft washcloth and rubbing the inside of his/her mouth. It is important to brush daily after the first tooth appears.

What should I use to clean my baby's teeth?

A soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, should be used at least twice a day. It is recommended to brush before bedtime and following meals. Caregivers may also use a moist washcloth on a finger to gently wipe the teeth to remove plaque and food debris in the early stages of tooth eruption.

Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

Primary, or "baby," teeth are extremely important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that the permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Premature loss of baby teeth may lead to dental problems in the future, such as crowding. Decay (cavities) in baby teeth may also lead to infections and significant health problems if left untreated. Not only may it affect your child’s eating habits, but the infection may spread beyond the tooth and become life-threatening. It is important to prevent tooth decay and treat dental infection before it spreads.

How can I prevent decay caused by nursing or bottle-feeding?

Avoid allowing children to fall asleep while nursing or while drinking a bottle without brushing their teeth after feeding. Also, learn the proper methods to brush and floss your child's teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child's first birthday.

Are thumbsucking and pacifier habits harmful to my child’s teeth?

Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of three, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.

Toothpaste: When should I begin using toothpaste, and how much should I use?

Toothpaste can be used as soon as your child’s first teeth erupt, but in very small amounts (especially if it contains fluoride.) However, in the beginning stages of tooth development, a soft-bristled brush or towel is sufficient in cleaning teeth as long as all surfaces are accessible. It is preferable that children do not swallow any toothpaste because excessive fluoride can be harmful to young children, and excessive ingestion may stain teeth. Please have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing.

When can my child start brushing on his/her own?

We recommend that parents brush and floss their children’s teeth until they are able to take on that responsibility themselves, which we believe usually happens when a child can write his/her own name in cursive (or around 6-8 years of age.) It is important to begin the habit of brushing at an early age, even if the child is resistant, because it should become a lifelong habit.

Nutrition

What consists of a healthy diet for my children?

Make sure your child is eating a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish, and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay.
Caregivers should also limit the frequency of snacking because it may increase a child’s risk of developing cavities. It is also recommended for children to consume water rather than juice.

Dental Treatment and My Child

Are dental x-rays safe?

There is very little risk in dental X-rays. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. Lead aprons, thyroid collars, and high-speed film are used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation. Digital x-rays emit even less radiation than the traditional dental x-ray machine by one-third. Dr. Sun uses a fully digital x-ray system in his office.

What are sealants?

A sealant creates a highly-effective barrier against decay by filling in the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth that cause cavities. Sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of a child's permanent back teeth. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years. Applying a sealant is not painful and can be performed in one dental visit.

If baby teeth will eventually fall out, why do they need special care?

It is true that baby teeth do not last as long as permanent teeth, but they are critical to your child’s development. Baby teeth are important to your child’s speech development, nutrition, and smiles. They also maintain proper spacing for the future permanent teeth to erupt. If a baby tooth falls out prematurely, the surrounding teeth may shift in position, potentially creating problems for the permanent teeth eruption. Cavities in baby teeth can lead to infection (tooth abscess), which can threaten your child’s overall health as well.

Dental Emergencies

What should I do if my child knocks out a baby tooth?

Contact your pediatric dentist as soon as possible. The baby tooth should not be replanted because of the potential for subsequent damage to the developing permanent tooth.

What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?

Find the tooth and rinse it gently in cool water. (Do not scrub or clean it with soap -- use only water!) If possible, replace the tooth in the socket immediately and hold it there with clean gauze or a wash cloth. If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with cold milk, saliva or water. Get to the pediatric dental office immediately. (Call the emergency number if it’s after hours.) The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.

What if a tooth is chipped or fractured?

Contact your pediatric dentist immediately. Quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling if the lip also was injured. If you can find the broken tooth fragment, place it in cold milk or water and bring it with you to the dental office.

What if my child has a toothache?

Call your pediatric dentist and visit the office promptly. To comfort your child, rinse the mouth with water. Over-the-counter children’s pain medication, dosed according to your child’s weight and age, might ease the symptoms. You may apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a cloth to the face in the area of the pain, but do not put heat or aspirin on the sore area.

What can I do to protect my child's teeth during sporting events?

Soft plastic mouthguards can be used to protect a child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. A custom-fitted mouthguard developed by a pediatric dentist will protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head.

Helpful Dental Links

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry - www.aapd.org
American Board of Pediatric Dentistry - www.abpd.org
American Academy of Pediatrics - www.aap.org