When should my child’s first visit to the dentist be?

As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his/her 1st birthday. Early dental visits allow children to become comfortable in the dental office and parents to learn the best ways to take care of their kids’ teeth before problems arise. Prevention is always easier than treatment!

What is a pediatric dentist and why does my child need to see one?

Pediatric dentists are dental specialists who have completed at least two years of additional training after the completion of dental school in order to exclusively treat children. General dentists can treat children as well, but specialty training allows a pediatric dentist to have a greater depth of knowledge when it comes to a child’s oral health. Comparing the differences between a pediatrician and a family physician can help you understand the importance of utilizing your local pediatric dentist.

Pediatric dentists are considered experts in areas such as growth-and-development, behavior management, dental trauma, and treatment of patients with special health care needs. They also have the ability to treat children in a hospital setting under general anesthesia.

Pediatric dentists are trained to handle problems particular to children, such as dental developmental difficulties and root canals on adult teeth that have not completely developed. Many children are treated by general dentists who are not specialized in the treatment of children. If you're having trouble deciding on the type of dentist to use for your child, ask your family dentist or your child's pediatrician for suggestions.

Healthy teeth help your child speak more clearly, chew more easily, learn more effectively, do better at school, develop higher confidence, enable proper development of your child's permanent teeth, and in general cultivate better overall health.

How often should my child see the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up at least twice a year for most children. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, our doctors may recommend more frequent visits.

What happens in a typical dental check-up?

At every exam we will review your child’s health history; take any necessary x-rays; clean your child’s teeth (if indicated); conduct a thorough clinical examination of your child’s mouth, palate, gums, tongue and teeth; and teach them about good food choices and how to brush and floss their teeth. Prevention in dentistry is the best treatment we can offer!

After every examination, our doctors will provide you with essential information about your child’s dental health:

An assessment of your child's risk for decay;
An evaluation of your child's soft tissues and gums;
An evaluation of your child's bite and dental growth; and
An assessment of your child's oral health as it pertains to his or her overall health including suggestions about nutrition.

It’s important to know that the parent or legal guardian who accompanies the child for this first visit will be asked to complete medical and health information forms concerning the child. Come prepared with the necessary information

Our goal for each child is that they walk away after their visit more motivated than ever to take responsibility for their oral health!

Do you see children with special needs?

Absolutely! Our doctors have received advanced training in order to offer comprehensive dental care to very special patients at Leap. Our expertise in treating special-needs patients makes it possible for children with developmental, medical and behavioral disabilities to receive preventive and restorative dental care in a child-friendly environment. Together, our doctors and our caring staff create a place where children and their parents feel safe and supported.

When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

We recommend using Spiffies (xylitol enhanced wipe) or a washcloth to rub your child’s gums before teeth come in. Once their first teeth appear, you can use a small, soft toothbrush to brush them. Use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste when brushing, and wipe the teeth with a damp washcloth when you are finished.

Make sure your child does not eat or drink anything besides water after brushing and before going to bed. As your child gets older and has teeth that touch one another, it will be important to start flossing. Keep in mind that most children don’t develop the hand skills to do a great job brushing and flossing until around age 8, so your child will probably need your help until then.

Which type of toothbrush should your child use?

Tooth brushing is the easiest method of cavity prevention.

Whether you choose a manual or powered toothbrush, both assist with keeping your child’s smile cavity-free. When choosing a manual toothbrush, look for round-ended or polished bristles that clean while being gentle on the gums. Be sure to choose a toothbrush designed for children's smaller hands and mouths and brush in small circles. Large handles can help children control the toothbrush.

The AAPD recommends using only soft-bristled toothbrushes. Remember to throw out a toothbrush after 3 months or sooner if the bristles are fraying. Frayed bristles can harm the gums and are not as effective in cleaning teeth. Also, toothbrushes should be replaced after any illness.

We recommend that you brush your preschooler’s teeth and supervise the brushing and flossing of school-age children until they are 7 to 8 years of age.

What if my child has cavities?

If your child has cavities, our doctors will discuss and develop a tailored plan to treat them that is based on their specific needs, age, and behavior. This may include fillings, crowns, laughing gas, or possibly general anesthesia. Our team of caring individuals will do all we can to make sure your child is comfortable, informed, and has the best experience possible.
Parents are always welcome to stay with their children during treatment. This allows your child to feel safe, and also focus on our instructions. At this time, we will discuss the best techniques with you to help your child have a great experience.

What causes cavities?

A cavity is essentially a bacterial infection. This oral bacteria is passed from one person to another, usually parent-to-child. Decay is caused when plaque -- a thin, sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone's teeth - is allowed to stay on the teeth. When sugar is eaten, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. After repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity or hole is formed in the tooth. The process happens especially quickly with sugar in liquid form. The most common culprits are 100% fruit juice, sports drinks, sodas and chocolate milk. Regular milk, water, or Crystal Light are all great alternatives that kids love and that will not cause cavities.

The best way to prevent these bacteria from settling in your child’s mouth is to take care of your own teeth with regular dental visits and maintain proper oral hygiene. This will decrease the chance that you pass the bacteria to your child. Also, make sure he/she does not share cups, spoons, etc. with anyone else. Using xylitol (see below) may also help to eliminate the “bad” bacteria in the mouth. Be sure that your child brushes his 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 our doctors 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.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sugar. Research has shown that if used correctly, xylitol can help to eliminate the bacteria that causes cavities. Xylitol has also been found to prevent ear infections in children.

Look for 100% xylitol-sweetened products such as mints, gums, and rinses. If used consistently several times a day for several months, xylitol may prevent your child from ever developing a cavity!

Why do baby teeth matter?

One of the most common conversations I have with my patients’ parents is about why we restore cavities on baby teeth when we know that they will eventually be lost. Although they don't last as long as permanent teeth, your child's first teeth play an important role in his development. While they're in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile and chew properly. Of course there are times when we may decide to “watch” a cavity based on the expectation that the tooth in question will fall out naturally before a problem develops, but many primary teeth are not lost until age 12 or 13 (on average).

In many cases, we are driven to treat cavities in primary teeth when they increase your child’s risk for pain or infection. Without treatment, these infected teeth often lead to dental abscesses which require extraction of the involved teeth, and in severe situations may lead to facial infection and hospitalization. In some situations, orthodontic problems arise after extractions when neighboring teeth drift into the extraction site and limit the space available for eruption of permanent teeth.

What if my child struggles with dental treatment?

While most children do very well for dental treatment, some children are more anxious than others and can benefit from a more advanced approach. Depending upon your child and his or her unique needs, our doctors will utilize their advanced training and skills to relieve the situation. If there is struggling that is difficult to resolve, our doctors will stop and discuss the treatment with you and will recommend a variety of options to make your child’s experience more pleasant. For very young children or those with extensive needs and/or severe anxiety, general anesthesia may be the best approach. We will discuss the best options with you for your child’s unique situation.

What if my child cries during his/her dental visit?

We understand the fear of going to the dentist. However, it is important to remember the difference between a real fear and an imagined one. When stepping into new environments, it is easy to imagine the worst. When we are logical, we can manage to conquer that fear. At Leap, we want to help each child conquer their anxiety and fears, in order to become comfortable and content in a new environment.

Frustration can be a child’s first step toward this end goal. Frustration typically comes in the form of crying. Our experience tell us that this is a temporary phase, and that it will pass when your child begins to feel in control and confident about being at the dentist.

Some children will cry or become apprehensive, particularly in a new environment. Allow our caring staff to work their magic with your child! Once your child understands that we’re friendly and we keep them comfortable, they’ll become one of our “regulars”, who can’t wait to come back!

What if my child is truly afraid?

The right dental visits don’t create fear, they overcome it. Training, by definition, is a discipline of drills and patterns designed to develop or expand a skill. It makes sense to protect your child from possible hazards. However, exposure to new experiences is essential to growth. Our professional pediatric dentistry team will approach your child's fears with sensitivity and confidence. Soon, fears vanish. Trust blossoms in the bond between our doctors, our caring staff and your child. Happy Visits may be one way that your child can receive the additional time and instruction that they need to train and practice for an up-coming treatment appointment. Together you and our doctors will develop a plan to suit your child's needs. Soon, fears disappear, and trust will form between your child and the Leap team.

What can I do to protect my child's teeth during sporting events?

Mouth guards, also known as sports guards or athletic mouth protectors, are crucial pieces of equipment for any child participating in potentially injurious recreational or sporting activities. Fitting snugly over the upper teeth, mouth guards protect the entire oral region from traumatic injury, preserving both the esthetic appearance and the health of the smile .A custom-fitted mouthguard developed by a pediatric dentist will protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head. In addition, mouth guards are sometimes used to prevent tooth damage in children who grind (brux) their teeth at night.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) in particular, advocates for the use of dental mouth guards during any sporting or recreational activity. Most store-bought mouth guards cost fewer than ten dollars, making them a perfect investment for every parent.

What do I do if my child knocks out a tooth?

If your child knocks out a permanent tooth, find the tooth and pick it up only by the crown, not the root portion. You may rinse the tooth with water but don’t clean or scrape the tooth. Inspect the tooth for fractures. If it is sound, try to reinsert it in the socket. Have your child hold the tooth in place by biting on a cloth. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, place it in a cup of milk as soon as possible. Call our office IMMEDIATELY! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.

For any other type of damage to baby or adult teeth, please call our office as soon as possible.

How should sippy cups be properly used?

A sippy cup is a tool to help train children during the transition from a bottle to a cup. It should not be used over a long period of time, and it is not a replacement for bottle or pacifier.

Unless being used during mealtimes, the sippy cup should only be filled with water. The frequent drinking of other liquids, even if diluted, from a bottle or no-spill training cup should be avoided.

Sippy cups should not be used at naptime or bedtime unless they only contain water.

Should my teenager still visit his/her pediatric dentist?

If your teenager is no longer considered a child, that does not mean he/she should stop seeing their pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have been trained to meet the special needs of teens and adolescents. Growing doesn’t stop at childhood, many teens experience important growth in their faces and jaws. Therefore, we sometimes wait until this time to refer for orthodontic intervention. It is at this time that we will revisit the topic of sports guards and habits, making recommendations accordingly.

The last of a child’s permanent teeth are coming in during the teenage years and teeth that have just come through the gums are vulnerable to decay. As teenagers, they start becoming responsible for their own diet and nutrition choices, and it's important that those choices are come from a solid foundation of dental health.

What is a sealant?

"Sealant" refers to a clear or shaded plastic material placed in the pits and grooves of children’s teeth to prevent decay. The pediatric dentist applies this invisible protector by drying and conditioning the teeth, painting on the sealant and then allowing it to harden.
The AAPD recommends sealants as an effective method for cavity prevention, especially for children with a history of tooth decay.
Sealants are one of the most cost-effective means of preventing cavities, costing less than half of what one filling usually costs.

Are thumbsucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child's teeth?

Generally, children will outgrow these habits before they become harmful. Children vary in the way they carry out their habits. The extent of damage depends on the duration of the habit, the length of time the child sucks the thumb or pacifier, and the severity of the sucking. Some children who continue these habits as their permanent teeth are erupting may benefit from a corrective appliance that allows for a more normal growth pattern. These "habit breakers" are meant as a reminder and not as a punishment. Therefore, the child has to be ready and want to stop the habit on his own in order for the treatment to be successful. If your child uses a pacifier or sucks his finger or thumb, please mention these habits during your child's regular exams so we can properly monitor your child's growth.

How can I prevent decay caused by nursing?

Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child's first birthday.

How safe are dental X-rays?

At Leap, we use the latest in digital X-ray technology to ensure that the amount of exposure to radiation our patients receive is extremely small.

Digital x-rays use up to 80% less radiation than traditional dental x-rays. Instead of being taken with uncomfortable film, digital radio-graphs are taken with a sensor. These sensors are fast acting, resulting in a shorter exposure time and less discomfort than traditional dental x-rays. Once the x-rays are taken, they can be viewed immediately on a computer, making the detection of dental abnormalities more apparent.

With all x-rays (dental and otherwise), protection is required during exposure to prevent unnecessary radiation from reaching other parts of the body, such as the thyroid gland. Before taking radiographs, we will place a lead apron over your child to further limit exposure.