banner image sub dentistry

Hygiene & Care of Teeth FAQs

At what age should my child have his/her first dental visit?

"First visit by first birthday" is the general rule. To prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, usually between 6 and 12 months of age and certainly no later than his/her first birthday.

When do first teeth start to erupt?

First teeth start to erupt at about 6 months. The two lower front teeth (central incisors) will usually erupt first, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appear during the next 18 to 24 months but not necessarily in an orderly sequence from front to back. At 2 to 3 years, all of your child's 20 primary teeth should be present.

How should I clean my baby's teeth?

A toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head, especially one designed for infants, is the best choice for infants. Brushing at least once a day, at bedtime, will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay.

What is baby bottle tooth decay and how can I prevent it?

Baby bottle tooth decay is a pattern of rapid decay associated with prolonged nursing. It happens when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding or bottle-feeding. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday. He/she should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.

When should my child start using toothpaste?

Children may start using fluoride toothpaste at around 24 months of age, but only under direct supervision by a parent. Use only a very small amount of toothpaste (about half the size of a pea) and wipe off the tooth and gums with a washcloth afterwards. If your child likes to brush on their own, let them use fluoride-free toothpaste until they can reliably spit out the toothpaste, usually between ages 3 and 4.

How can I help my child through the teething stage?

When your child's primary teeth begin to erupt, it's normal for them to have sore gums. The discomfort can be eased for some children by using a teething biscuit, a piece of toast, or a frozen teething ring. Your pharmacy should also have mediations that can be rubbed on the gums to reduce your child's discomfort.

What happens at the first dental appointment?

The first visit is usually very simple. We are focused on getting to know your child and give you basic information about dental care. If possible, we will clean your child’s teeth. The pediatric dentist will examine their teeth and gums and determine if there are any problems or concerns.

My child is anxious! Can I go back to the treatment area with my child?

We invite you to stay with your child during the first visit. This promotes comfort for you and your child. For future visits we suggest you allow our supportive staff to accompany your child through their dental appointment and you may relax in the reception area with a hot cup of coffee. Our goal is to help children develop independence and to enhance communication with the doctors and staff. Over years we have noticed some parents choose to remain with their children in the treatment area; however, most parents find it more comfortable to wait in the reception area or our parent waiting rooms.

How safe are dental x-rays?

We take digital x-rays which significantly decreases the amount of radiation so there is very little risk. A lead apron is placed on each child for added protection. Each child’s health and safety is our goal.

What causes cavities?

We all have bacteria that live in our mouths. The bacteria come in contact with the sugary foods in our diets and an acid is produced. The acid attacks the enamel layer of our teeth and causes the little holes in the teeth, called cavities.

How can I help my child prevent cavities?

Make sure your child is brushing at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste. Your child may need your help brushing until he/she is around 7-8 years of age. Flossing is also important because it cleans the area between the teeth that the toothbrush can’t reach. Avoid sugary drinks and foods, limit frequent snacking between meals, and maintain a healthy diet. Make sure to keep regular appointments with your pediatric dentist.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces (pits and fissures) of the molar teeth. This is the most common site for cavities to form. The sealants help to seal the hard to clean areas of the back teeth off to avoid plaque, bacteria, and food from trapping there. The application is fast and comfortable and can protect the teeth for many years.

I have a special needs child. Does their visit differ?

Special needs patients include children with medical conditions which restrict them from practicing healthy dental habits at home, and also make it difficult for them to visit a dental office. At APDA, our doctors and staff have been specifically trained to attend to the special needs of patients with physical, developmental or mental disabilities. We dedicate extra attention and understanding, and it is our goal to provide them with safe and compassionate care.We work hard to ensure your child’s special needs are met and are committed to making sure that every child has the chance for a healthy smile, including those with special needs. Dental diseases can be prevented for any child, regardless of their individual condition, as long as oral hygiene habits are started early and maintained.
As you plan your child’s visit, please inform us of any questions or concerns you may have. Rest assured that the doctors will perform a careful and gentle examination, and then use those observations to create a plan of preventative care. This plan is always designed personally to suit the special needs of your child, and is aimed to teach them how to care for their teeth, so that they may reduce their risk of preventable dental diseases.

What if more extensive work is needed than can be performed in the office?

While most procedures can be performed in our office, cases that require more extensive work are scheduled as outpatient hospital cases. It is sometimes necessary to complete dental treatment on children using general anesthesia. This is especially true when the child is very young and has a large amount of treatment. We also use general anesthesia for older patients who have a hard time cooperating in the normal dental setting. We do not do this on a whim. Often, treatment is first attempted in an office setting with or without sedative medications. However, if there is a lot of work to be done, the hospital is often the best way to safely accomplish treatment. All of our doctors are on staff at Huntsville Hospital and are extensively trained to work on a patient that is under general anesthesia.

My child plays sports. Do they need a mouth guard?

When a child begins to participate in organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard is important in helping protect your child’s teeth and smile and should be used when engaging any activity where there could be a trauma to the face or mouth. Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it. Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.