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Pediatric Dental FAQs

Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for children’s teeth.

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

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen by six months after their first tooth erupts, or at one year of age, whichever comes first.

How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?

All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) complete additional training in their specialty field after completion of dental school. Pediatric dentists gain extensive knowledge and experience in the dental treatment of infants, children, adolescents, and patients with special health care needs. Pediatric dentists have expertise in childhood development and behavior, can coordinate care with other medical and dental professionals, and have training and privileges to perform dental treatment in the hospital setting. 

Because our dental office is geared toward young visitors, you'll find that our staff, as well as our office design and activities, all work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.

What happens during my child’s first visit to the dentist?

The first visit is usually short and simple.  In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. The dental team may clean your child's teeth, take x-rays if indicated, look at the teeth to evaluate their health and identify any potential concerns, and present to you findings and any options.  We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child’s teeth as they develop, and provide you with materials containing helpful tips that you can refer to at home.

How can I prepare my child for his first dental appointment?

The best preparation for your child’s first visit to our office is to maintain a positive attitude!  Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, and if they hear negative comments about a trip to the dental office, then they can become anxious for fear of an unpleasant experience.  If your child is curious about our office, you may show them pictures of the office and staff from our website.  Remind them that it's important to keep teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor and team will help to do that.  Remember that we are specially trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

We generally recommend scheduling checkups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.

Baby teeth aren’t permanent. Why do they need special care?

Although they don’t last as long as permanent teeth, your child’s first teeth play an important role in his or her development. Baby teeth help your little one to speak, smile, and chew properly. They also hold space in the mouth and jaw for permanent teeth to eventually come in.  If a child has a toothache, it can impact their mood, appetite, growth, speech, or overall health.  If a child loses a tooth too early (due to damage or decay), it can negatively impact how the permanent teeth will eventually align.

What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?

Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean his gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as his first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You most likely can find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore.

At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child’s teeth?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends using a smear or rice-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste for children younger than three years old.  A pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste can be used for children older than three and who can consistently spit out excess toothpaste after brushing.  We encourage parents to take an active role to help children brush their teeth.  

What causes cavities?

Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?

Any type of sweetened liquids can increase the risk for getting cavities, so we encourage parents and families to limit or avoid beverages such as flavored drinks, juice, or soda. Provide healthy snack alternatives to sugar and candy.

Establish good toothbrushing routines that will hopefully instill habits to last a lifetime!  Children should be assisted or supervised with toothbrushing twice per day using an appropriate amount of fluoridated toothpaste.  If toothbrushing is going well, then a child is never to young to begin flossing - this helps to clean areas between teeth that otherwise can't be reached by the toothbrush bristles.

Finally, maintain regular dental checkups so that we can check the health of your child's teeth.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Dental sealants are placed in the pits and fissures of teeth to act as a barrier to prevent plaque and acids from resting on these surfaces.  They have been well documented to aid in the prevention of cavities on the chewing surfaces of teeth. They are a safe and simple way to protect teeth and can usually be placed during one appointment.

My child plays sports. How can I protect his teeth?

Injuries to teeth can occur in any sport.  Some leagues require children to wear a mouthguard.  If your child plays football, hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, or any other sport or activity that could result in being bumped in the mouth, we recommend that he or she wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth.  We are happy to discuss the different types of mouthguards available if you are unsure of which would be best for your child.

What should I do if my child sucks his thumb?

Many children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, though most will stop doing so as they get slightly older.  For various reasons, some children may continue with this habit.  Sucking on thumbs or fingers may start to cause changes to the teeth and jaws.  During your child's dental exam, we will check to see whether problems may be arising from the habit.

When should my child have dental X-rays taken?

Dental X-rays are often necessary to check for cavities on surfaces between teeth that cannot be seen during a visual exam. They are also helpful when evaluating growth and development of the teeth and jaws.  Our doctors will talk with you about the appropriate time to take X-rays. There are different types of X-rays that can be taken  depending on age, development, or symptoms. If your child is at high risk for cavities or other dental problems, we can discuss with you whether he or she may benefit from more frequent X-rays.

310 NW 18th Street
Ankeny, IA 50023
(515) 963-9600