Children's Dental FAQs
We offer children's dentistry, which means we enjoy treating infants, children, and adolescents. Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for your child's teeth.
When should I schedule my child's first visit to the dentist?
We recommend that you make an appointment to see Dr. Volz as soon as your child gets their first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child is seen by 6 months after his/her first tooth erupts or by 1 year old, whichever is first.
What happens during my child's first visit to the dentist?
The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. Dr. Volz will check your child's teeth for placement and health, and look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. If necessary, we may do a bit of cleaning. We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child's teeth as they develop, and provide you with materials containing helpful tips that you can refer to at home.
How can I prepare my child for their first dental appointment?
The best preparation for your child's first visit to our office is maintaining a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults' apprehensions and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure that your child will fear an unpleasant experience and act accordingly. Show your child the pictures of the office and our staff on this web site. Let your child know that it's important to keep their teeth and gums healthy, and that Dr. Volz will help them do that. Remember that Dr. Volz and his staff are trained to handle fears and anxiety, and excel at putting children at ease during treatment.
How often should my child visit the dentist?
We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child's oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.
Baby teeth aren't permanent; why do they need special care?
Although they don't last as long as permanent teeth, your child's first teeth play an important role in their development. While they're in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth too early due to damage or decay nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in crooked or misplaced permanent teeth. Also, your child's general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
What's the best way to clean my baby's teeth?
Even before your baby's first tooth appears, we recommend you clean their gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as their first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You can most likely find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore.
When should my child have dental x-rays taken?
We recommend taking x-rays around the age of two or three. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which familiarizes your child with the process. Once the baby teeth in back are touching each other, then regular (at least yearly) x-rays are recommended. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and x-rays help us make sure your child's teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned. If your child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having x-rays taken at an earlier age.
At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child's teeth?
Once your child has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under three, as too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing, to begin a lifelong habit he'll need when he graduates to fluoride toothpaste. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain. You should brush your child's teeth for them until they are ready to take on that responsibility themselves, which usually happens by age six or seven.
What causes cavities?
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Be sure that your child brushes their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can't. Check with Dr. Volz about a fluoride supplement which helps tooth enamel be harder and more resistant to decay. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child's teeth and provide professional cleanings.
Does my child need dental sealants?
Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach.
My child plays sports; how can I protect their teeth?
Even children's sports involve contact, and we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect their teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
What should I do if my child sucks their thumb?
The majority of children suck a thumb or a finger from a very young age; most even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.
According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them.
However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower thier chances of continuing to suck their thumb). If your child is still sucking when their permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.
What Should I Watch For if my child sucks their thumb?
First, take note of how your child sucks their thumb. If they suck passively, with their thumb gently resting inside their mouth, they are is less likely to cause damage. If, on the other hand, they are an aggressive thumb-sucker, placing pressure on their mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face and may lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future.
If at any time you suspect your child's thumb-sucking may be affecting their oral health, please give us a call or bring them in for a visit. We can help you assess the situation.
How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?
Should you need to help your child end their habit, follow these guidelines:
- Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb-sucking, give praise when they don't suck.
- Put a band-aid on their thumb or a sock over their hand at night. Let them know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help them remember to avoid sucking.
- Start a progress chart and let them put a sticker up every day that they don't suck their thumb. If they make it through a week without sucking, they get to choose a prize (trip to the zoo, new set of blocks, etc.) When they have filled up a whole month reward them with something great (a ball glove or new video game); by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in their treatment will increase their willingness to break the habit.
- If you notice your child sucking when they are anxious, work on alleviating their anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.
- Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
- Explain clearly what might happen to their teeth if they keep sucking their thumb.
Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.