Common Questions About Pediatric Dental Care 

Children’s dental care can leave parents with many questions. There’s so much more to caring for a child’s teeth than just brushing and flossing! To help us solve our most common toothy conundrums, we asked local pediatric dental specialists to share their wisdom on tooth care.  

Dr. Murray Dock is a pediatric dentist with Montgomery Pediatric Dentistry in Cincinnati. Dr. John Gennantonio, Dr. Sarah Husted and Dr. Katie Stewart are pediatric dentists at Sea of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry in Cincinnati.   

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist? 

Dock: A pediatric dentist has an extra two to three years of specialized training in pediatric dentistry, and is dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teenage years. The very young, pre-teens and teenagers all need different approaches in guiding their dental growth and development. A pediatric dentist is best qualified to meet these needs. 

When should I take my child to the dentist for their first checkup? 

Sea of Smiles: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. Primary teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age. Get it done in year one for a lifetime of healthy smiles! 

When should we begin using toothpaste? How much should we use? 

Dock: Pick a toothpaste that is recommended by the American Dental Association. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use. Use only a smear of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) to brush the teeth of a child less than 3 years of age. For children 3 to 6 years old, use a pea-size amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively on their own.  

My six year old still has all his baby teeth. Is this normal?  

Sea of Smiles: Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are 3 years old. As a child nears 6 years of age, the jaw grows, making room for permanent teeth. Some children start losing their baby teeth as early as  4½ to 5 years old and the permeant teeth erupt. Other children can be much later in this process and start as late as 8 years.  

My four year old still sucks her thumb. Will this harm her teeth? 

Dock: Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. 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. 

My baby nurses and/or bottle feeds to sleep. How can I prevent tooth decay? 

Sea of Smiles: The last thing your child should have in their mouth before bed is water or toothpaste.  Any other substance can make your child at an increased risk for tooth decay.  If you can’t brush your child’s teeth after nursing or bottle feeding, wipe the teeth off with a wet washcloth.

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