Pediatric dentists care for children of all ages. From first tooth to adolescence, they help your child develop a healthy smile until they’re ready to move on to a general dentist. Pediatric dentists have had 2-3 years of special training to care for young children and adolescents.
Research has shown that mothers with poor oral health may be at a greater risk of passing cavity-causing bacteria to their children, and periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women continue to visit the dentist for checkups during pregnancy.
To decrease the risk of spreading the bacteria, mothers should visit their dentist regularly, brush and floss on a daily basis, and maintain a healthy diet full of natural fiber, reduce sugary foods, and drink plenty of water.
Your child’s first primary (baby) tooth will typically erupt between 7-8 months, although it is common to occur earlier or later. Usually, the two bottom front teeth – the central incisors – erupt first, followed by four upper front teeth – called the central and lateral incisors. Most children will have all 20 of their primary teeth erupted prior to age 3.
Permanent teeth start to appear around age 6, beginning with the first molars and lower central incisors. Most people will lose their last baby tooth around age 12. Most adults have 32 permanent teeth including the third molars (wisdom teeth).
Baby teeth help with proper chewing and eating and aid in speech development. Healthy baby teeth aid in normal development of jawbones and muscles Baby teeth also hold space for permanent teeth and help guide them into place. Decay on baby teeth can lead to pain and infection, which can affect their permanent teeth and overall health.
Primary (baby teeth) have thinner enamel than permanent teeth and actually develop cavities at a higher rate. Preventing cavities on baby teeth starts when children are infants. Letting your child fall asleep drinking milk will place them at a much higher risk of developing dental decay. Keeping their gums and new teeth clean is extremely important. We recommend starting a good oral hygiene routine at a young age (with parents helping). Introducing a healthy diet with a lot of water and fresh foods is the best for primary teeth. Avoiding sweet drinks and snacks between meals, as well as avoiding grazing on carbohydrates, will also help keep teeth strong.
To prevent cavities, we suggest enjoying a mouth-healthy diet, full of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Drink more water, which prevents dry mouth and naturally cleans teeth. Brush for two minutes twice a day and floss daily. Use of Fluoride toothpaste can also aid in keeping your child’s teeth strong. Visit your dentist every six months for routine checkups and preventative care.
An early oral health routine is vital for your child’s health and it is important to start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they erupt. It is even beneficial to wipe off your child’s gums before teeth erupt! It is important to start flossing once your child has any teeth that touch/contact.
Children should eat a variety of foods including grains, fruits, protein, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Raw fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, celery, and bell pepper are excellent snacking alternatives to unhealthy chips and crackers and actually clean your teeth as you eat them. Starchy carbs, like potato chips and crackers, and sticky treats, like fruit snacks, can stick to teeth and help cause cavities. Sweet drinks, like soda, juice, and sports drinks, have a lot of sugar in them and are extremely bad for teeth when consumed on a regular basis. Water is always a great choice for your teeth!
Sealants are a thin white coating that goes onto the biting surface of back teeth. Sealants fill in the “groovy” areas on the biting surfaces of teeth to make these areas smoother and therefore make it more difficult for cavities to form. We typically recommend sealants on permanent molars because the biting surfaces of permanent molars are the most common areas to develop cavities.
Fluoride is a mineral and is naturally found in many water sources. It is also added to most public water supplies, including Denver. Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and make it more difficult for cavities to form.
The America Dental Association recommends using toothpaste containing fluoride to prevent cavities.
We recommend using an appropriate amount of toothpaste for your child’s age (rice size amount for young children and closer to lentil size for older children) and teaching children to spit out their toothpaste to avoid swallowing it.
Our office may recommend Fluoride varnish treatments to prevent decay and, in certain situations, Silver Diamine Fluoride to help arrest decay and prevent cavities from getting larger.
Dental X-rays are valuable aids to help dentists diagnose and properly plan treatment. In primary (baby) teeth, it is very difficult to see cavities between back teeth until they are very large. X-rays help us find these cavities when they are small and easier (and more affordable) to treat. X-rays can also aid in evaluating development and health of bone. At Tennyson Pediatric Dentistry, we have digital x-rays and always use the appropriate shielding measures (like lead aprons) to help reduce radiation exposure.
A frenectomy is the removal of connective tissue (called the frenum or frenulum) from under the tongue (Lingual Frenectomy to treat a “tongue-tie”) or the upper gums (Maxillary Frenectomy to treat a “lip-tie”). If your baby is having trouble with breastfeeding or your older child is experiencing certain speech, eating, or orthodontic problems, we may recommend a frenectomy as an option. Our office will typically use a laser to complete this treatment. For a lingual frenectomy, our office almost always recommends a team approach to help with function before/after procedure. This includes working with lactation consultants, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and/or myofunctional therapists.
Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) can help relax a patient during a dental procedure. It is also an analgesic and can help make something uncomfortable more bearable. It is easy to use (patients just breath it through their nose) and most children are very accepting of it and like how it makes them feel. Use of Nitrous Oxide also has very few side effects. At the end of the appointment, the patient breaths 100% Oxygen for about 5 minutes and leave the office feeling like they did before they came.
If a child requires dental treatment, in most instances we are able to complete the treatment in our office with the use of nitrous oxide if indicated. We also have a TV above the chair to help relax patients. If dental needs are extensive, we also offer treatment with the use of general anesthesia at Children’s Hospital Colorado or in our office (administered by a dental anesthesiologist). We do not offer oral sedation at our office. If this is a good treatment option for your child, we will refer them to an office where they can be evaluated for dental treatment using oral sedation.
We only do white fillings at our office. These filling materials are called composite or glass ionomer.
Thumb sucking, finger sucking, and pacifier use are habits common in many young children. In fact, nearly one third of all children have one of these habits in their first year of life. Thumb sucking, finger sucking, and pacifier use can lead to many oral developmental issues that negatively affect the development of the mouth and can lead to early orthodontic treatment.
We typically recommend children stop using a pacifier by age 2 at the latest. Finger and thumb habits are more difficult to stop and we will have a variety of recommendations to help stop these habits depending on their age and development. In general, the less a child does these habits and the earlier they stop, the better.
Bruxism is more commonly known as teeth-grinding, and is very common in young children. Teeth-grinding usually occurs while children are asleep. Most of the time, no treatment is indicated when patients are younger (even if there is wear on their baby teeth). As children get older, if their grinding continues they may benefit from a night guard or other treatment usually completed by a general dentist. Additionally, if airway issues are suspected as a contributing factor, we will recommend an evaluation with an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT).
While it can be common for children to breathe through their mouths on occasion (when they are congested, have a cold or are involved in strenuous activity) breathing through the mouth all the time, including when you’re sleeping, can lead to problems. Mouth breathing in children can cause bad breath, crooked teeth, jaw alignment issues, and other orthodontic problems. Depending on the reason for the mouth breathing, we may refer to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) or an orthodontist.
If your child has a true dental emergency and our office is closed, there will be an “on-call” dentist to provide you guidance and emergency services when needed.
If you are able to help them gently move it back into the pre-trauma position, it is fine to do this. If you are unable to do this, just leave the area alone and immediately contact us to evaluate the area.
Find the tooth. If it is a baby tooth, do nothing and contact us to evaluate the area. If it is a permanent tooth, gently rinse any debris off the tooth and try to gently place the tooth in the socket. If you are unable to do this, place the tooth in cold milk. Contact us immediately.
Find the tooth fragment if possible and save it. Then, contact us.
If you can see food or debris trapped by a tooth, have your child rinse with water and then try to clean the area using a toothbrush and/or floss. Never place Aspirin on their gums. Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be given for pain. If there is swelling by the tooth, contact us immediately. This may be a sign of dental infection. If the swelling is severe and they are having difficulty opening or the swelling extends towards their eye or neck they will need to go to the Emergency Room.