Dental Topics and FAQs
We will cover dental topics and frequently asked questions relevant to pediatric dentistry services that Mt Airy Children’s Dental Associates provides to the public in Mt. Airy, Maryland.
Why are the Primary Teeth Important?
It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems that affect the development of permanent teeth. Primary teeth or baby teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.
Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13.
Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth
Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. Around 6 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption vary.
Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21.
Adults have 28 permanent teeth or up to 32, including the third molars (or wisdom teeth). Please click on the timeline below to see the teeth erupt and to learn more.
How Safe are Dental X-Rays
Radiographs (X-Rays) are a vital and necessary part of your child’s dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.
Radiographs detect much more than cavities. For example, radiographs may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. Radiographs allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends radiographs and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay. On average, most pediatric dentists request radiographs approximately once a year. Approximately every 3 years, it is a good idea to obtain a complete set of radiographs, either a panoramic and bitewings or periapical and bitewings.
Our pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation. With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small. Since we use only digital radiography, which reduces radiation levels, the risk is negligible.
In fact, dental radiographs represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Lead body aprons and shields will protect your child. Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary x-rays and restricts the x-ray beam to the area of interest. High-speed film and proper shielding ensure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.
What’s the Best Toothpaste for My Child?
Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many kinds of toothpaste and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles. They contain harsh abrasives, which can wear away young tooth enamel. When looking for toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association, as shown on the box and tube. These kinds of toothpaste have undergone testing to ensure they are safe to use.
Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. If your child is too young or unable to spit out toothpaste, consider providing them with fluoride-free toothpaste, using no toothpaste, or using only a “pea size” amount of toothpaste.
Does Your Child Grind His Teeth at Night? (Bruxism)
Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component.
Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school, etc., can influence a child to grind their teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing, when people are chewing gum, etc., to equalize pressure), the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure.
The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, then a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged during sleep, and it may interfere with the growth of the jaws. The positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary dentition.
The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding decreases between the ages of 6-9, and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
Can Thumb Sucking be Harmful to My Child’s Teeth?
Sucking is a natural reflex, and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy or provide a sense of security during difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.
Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.
Children should cease thumb-sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop. Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb-sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs.
However, the use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or the use of a pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.
Here are a few suggestions to help your child get through thumb-sucking:
- Instead of scolding children for thumb-sucking, praise them when they are not.
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety instead of thumb-sucking.
- Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide comfort.
- Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
- Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.
- If these approaches don’t work, remind the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.
What is Pulp Therapy?
The pulp of a tooth is the inner, central core of the tooth. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and reparative cells. The purpose of pulp therapy in Pediatric Dentistry is to maintain the vitality of the affected tooth (so the tooth is not lost).
Dental caries (cavities) and traumatic injury are the main reasons for a tooth to require pulp therapy. Pulp therapy is often referred to as a “nerve treatment”, “children’s root canal”, “pulpectomy”, or “pulpotomy”. The two common forms of pulp therapy in children’s teeth are pulpotomy and pulpectomy.
A pulpotomy removes the diseased pulp tissue within the crown portion of the tooth. Next, an agent is placed to prevent bacterial growth and calm the remaining nerve tissue. This is followed by a final restoration (usually a stainless steel crown).
A pulpectomy is required when the entire pulp is involved (into the root canal(s) of the tooth). During this treatment, the diseased pulp tissue is completely removed from both the crown and root. The canals are cleansed, disinfected, and, in the case of primary teeth, filled with a resorbable material. Then, a final restoration is placed. A permanent tooth would be filled with a non-resorbing material.
What is the Best Time for Orthodontic Treatment?
Developing malocclusions, or bad bites, can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age. Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.
Stage I – Early Treatment: This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years. At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss of primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking. Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.
Stage II – Mixed Dentition: This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6-year molars. Treatment concerns deal with jaw mal-relationships and dental realignment problems. This is an excellent stage to start treatment when indicated, as your child’s hard and soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.
Stage III – Adolescent Dentition: This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.
Why Does My Child Have Adult Teeth Coming in Behind Baby Teeth?
This is a very common occurrence with children, usually the result of a lower, primary (baby) tooth not falling out when the permanent tooth is coming in. In most cases, if the child starts wiggling the baby tooth, it will usually fall out on its own within two months. If it doesn’t, then contact your pediatric dentist, who can easily remove the tooth. The permanent tooth should then slide into the proper place.