Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric dentistry (formerly Pedodontics/Paedodontics) primarily focuses on children from birth through adolescence. The American Dental Association (ADA), recognizes pediatric dentistry as a specialty, and therefore requires dentists to undertake two or three years of additional training after completing a general dentistry degree.  Dental phobias beginning in childhood often continue into adulthood, so it is of paramount importance that children have positive experiences and find their “dental home” as early as possible.

What Does a Pediatric Dentist Do?

Pediatric dentists fulfill many important functions pertaining to the child’s overall oral health and hygiene. They place particular emphasis on the proper maintenance and care of deciduous (baby) teeth, which are instrumental in facilitating good chewing habits, proper speech production, and also hold space for permanent teeth.

Prevention - Helping parents and children establish sound eating and oral care habits reduces the chances of later tooth decay. In addition to providing check ups and dental cleanings, pediatric dentists are also able to apply dental sealants and topical fluoride to young teeth, advise parents on thumb-sucking/pacifier/smoking cessation and provide good demonstrations of brushing and flossing.

How to Prevent Cavities

Childhood Cavities, also known as childhood tooth decay and childhood caries, are common in children all over the world. There are two main causes of cavities: poor dental hygiene and sugary diets.

Cavities can be incredibly painful and often lead to tooth decay and childhood periodontitis if left untreated. Ensuring that children eat a balanced diet, embarking on a sound home oral care routine, and visiting the pediatric dentist biannually are all crucial factors for both cavity prevention and excellent oral health.

What causes cavities?

Cavities form when children's teeth are exposed to sugary foods on a regular basis. Sugars and carbohydrates (like the ones found in white bread) collect on and around the teeth after eating. A sticky film (plaque) then forms on the tooth enamel. The oral bacteria within the plaque continually ingest sugar particles and emit acid. Initially, the acid attacks the tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to tooth decay. If conditions are allowed to worsen, the acid begins to penetrate the tooth enamel and erodes the inner workings of the tooth.

Although primary (baby) teeth are eventually lost, they fulfill several important functions and should be protected. It is essential that children brush and floss twice per day (ideally more), and visit the dentist for bi-annual cleanings. Sometimes the pediatric dentist coats teeth with a sealant and provides fluoride supplements to further bolster the mouth’s defenses.

How will I know if my child has a cavity?

Large cavities can be excruciatingly painful, whereas tiny cavities may not be felt at all. Making matters even trickier, cavities sometimes form between the teeth, making them invisible to the naked eye. Dental X-rays and the dentist’s trained eyes help pinpoint even the tiniest of cavities so they can be treated before they worsen.

Some of the major symptoms of cavities include:

  • Heightened sensitivity to cool or warm foods

  • Nighttime waking and crying

  • Pain

  • Sensitivity to spicy foods

  • Toothache

  • If a child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to visit the pediatric dentist. Failure to do so will make the problem worse, leave the child in pain, and possibly jeopardize a tooth that could have been treated.

How can I prevent cavities at home?

Biannual visits with the pediatric dentist are only part of the battle against cavities. Here are some helpful guidelines for cavity prevention:

  • Analyze the diet – Too many sugary or starchy snacks can expedite cavity formation. Replace sugary snacks like candy with natural foods where possible, and similarly, replace soda with water.

  • Cut the snacks – Snacking too frequently can unnecessarily expose teeth to sugars. Save the sugar and starch for mealtimes, when the child is producing more saliva, and drinking water. Make sure they consume enough water to cleanse the teeth.

  • Lose the sippy cup – Sippy cups are thought to cause “baby bottle tooth decay” when they are used beyond the intended age (approximately twelve months). The small amount of liquid emitted with each sip causes sugary liquid to continually swirl around the teeth.

  • Avoid stickiness – Sticky foods (like coffee) form plaque quickly and are extremely difficult to pry off the teeth. Avoid them when possible.

  • Rinse the pacifier – Oral bacteria can be transmitted from mother or father to baby. Rinse a dirty pacifier with running water as opposed to sucking on it to avoid contaminating the baby’s mouth.

  • Drinks at bedtime – Sending a child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup is bad news. The milk, formula, juice, or sweetened water basically sits on the teeth all night – attacking enamel and maximizing the risk of cavities. Ensure the child has a last drink before bedtime, and then brush the teeth.

  • Don’t sweeten the pacifier – Parents sometimes dip pacifiers in honey to calm a cranky child. Do not be tempted to do this. Use a blanket, toy, or hug to calm the child instead.

  • Brush and floss – Parents should brush and floss their child’s teeth twice each day until the child reaches the age of seven years old. Before this time, children struggle to brush every area of the mouth effectively.

  • Check on fluoride –When used correctly, fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel and help stave off cavities. Too much or too little fluoride can actually harm the teeth, so ask the pediatric dentist for a fluoride assessment.

  • Keep to appointments – The child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his or her first birthday, as per the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines. Keep to a regular appointment schedule to create healthy smiles!

If you have questions or concerns about cavity prevention, please contact our office.

Sealants

Tooth decay has become increasingly prevalent in preschoolers. Not only is tooth decay unpleasant and painful, it can also lead to more serious problems like premature tooth loss and childhood periodontal disease.

Dental sealants are an important tool in preventing childhood caries (cavities) and tooth decay. Especially when used in combination with other preventative measures, like biannual checkups and an excellent daily home care routine, sealants can bolster the mouth’s natural defenses, and keep smiles healthy.

How do sealants protect children’s teeth?

In general, dental sealants are used to protect molars from oral bacteria and harmful oral acids. These larger, flatter teeth reside toward the back of the mouth and can be difficult to clean. Molars mark the site of four out of five instances of tooth decay. Decay-causing bacteria often inhabit the nooks and crannies (pits and fissures) found on the chewing surfaces of the molars. These areas are extremely difficult to access with a regular toothbrush.

If the pediatric dentist evaluates a child to be an at high risk for tooth decay, he or she may choose to coat additional teeth (for example, bicuspid teeth). The sealant acts as a barrier, ensuring that food particles and oral bacteria cannot access vulnerable tooth enamel.

Dental sealants do not enhance the health of the teeth directly, and should not be used as a substitute for fluoride supplements (if the dentist has recommended them) or general oral care. In general, however, sealants are less costly, less uncomfortable, and more aesthetically pleasing than dental fillings.

How are sealants applied?

Though there are many different types of dental sealant, most are comprised of liquid plastic. Initially, the pediatric dentist must thoroughly clean and prepare the molars, before painting sealant on the targeted teeth. Some sealants are bright pink when wet and clear when dry. This bright pink coloring enables the dentist to see that all pits and fissures have been thoroughly coated.

When every targeted tooth is coated to the dentist’s satisfaction, the sealant is either left to self-harden or exposed to blue spectrum natural light for several seconds (depending on the chemical composition of the specific brand). This specialized light works to harden the sealant and cure the plastic. The final result is a clear (or whitish) layer of thin, hard, durable sealant.

It should be noted that the “sealing” procedure is easily completed in one office visit, and is entirely painless.

When should sealants be applied?




    • Sealants are usually applied when the primary (baby) molars first emerge. Depending on the oral habits of the child, the sealants may last for the life of the primary tooth or need replacing several times. Essentially, sealant durability depends on the oral habits of the individual child.


    • Pediatric dentists recommend that permanent molars be sealed as soon as they emerge. In some cases, the sealant can be applied before the permanent molar is full grown.


    • The health of the sealant must be monitored at biannual appointments. If the seal begins to lift off, food particles may become trapped against the tooth enamel, actually causing tooth decay.



If you have questions or concerns about dental sealants, please contact your pediatric dentist.

Xylitol – Reducing Cavities

Tooth decay is a common, yet preventable childhood problem. Left untreated, cavities in primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth become painful and negatively impact the esthetics and functionality of the teeth.

Some children are particularly susceptible to tooth decay, even after receiving regular dental examinations and oral care at home. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) has recently recognized the benefits of a substance called Xylitol for reducing childhood tooth decay.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural substance that can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Some of the most common Xylitol- rich foods include: berries, mushrooms, corns, and lettuces. Study results indicate that 4-20 grams of Xylitol each day, divided into three or more helpings, can reduce tooth decay and cavities by as much as 70%. As a point of reference, a singe cup of berries contains a little less than one gram of Xylitol.

It can be difficult to encourage children (especially toddlers) to consistently eat four or more cups of fruit or vegetables each day. For this reason, Xylitol is also available as a sugar substitute, a gum, and as a concentrate in numerous health foods. No other sugar substitute has been shown to benefit young teeth in the same way.

It should be noted thatexcessive Xylitol consumption does not provide “more” tooth protection. Sticking to the recommended daily amount is enough to enhance other cavity-reduction efforts, and the effects will last well into the future.

How does Xylitol work?

The combination of many factors increases susceptibility to childhood tooth decay and cavities. These factors include: oral care habits, diet, carbohydrate consumption, sucrose consumption, salivary flow rate, and tooth resistance to plaque.

More specifically, harmfuloral bacteria feed on sugars and carbohydrates, producing acids. When sugary foods are consumed, these acids attack and destroy vulnerable tooth enamel. Xylitol works to neutralize the acids, reducing enamel destruction, and minimizing the threat of cavities in the process. Xylitol also stimulates saliva production, meaning that food particles, plaqueand bacteria are continually removed from the teeth. When used in combination with fluoride, Xylitol works to remineralize teeth, protecting tooth enamel and minimizing new cavity formation.

When should my child startusing Xylitol?

Although Xylitol gum is not suitable for very young children, infants actually benefit from maternal chewing! Mothers of children between three months and two years old who used Xylitol gum several times each day, protected their child from tooth decay until the age of five years old. In this case, Xylitol reduced the amount of microorganisms transmitted from mother to child.

Once the child reaches toddlerhood, Xylitol can be consumed as a sugar substitute, or as a natural byproduct of eating fruit and vegetables. Older children can reduce the threat of new cavities by chewing Xylitol gum.
If you have questions or concernsabout Xylitol or tooth decay, please contact our practice.