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Frequently Asked Questions

April 20th, 2022

1. Why should I bring my child to see a pediatric dentist?

In many ways, taking your child to a pediatric dentist is like taking your child to a pediatrician – both are doctors who focus on the health of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, from birth to age 21.

A pediatric dental specialist has received two to three additional years of training after dental school to specifically treat your child’s oral needs, which are different from those of an adult. Baby teeth are not simply “little teeth”; they are an important part of your child’s growth and development, and they sometimes require different dental techniques or treatment that a general dentist is not equipped to do. 

The biggest difference between seeing a general dentist vs. a pediatric dentist is that our pediatric dental offices are specifically designed to create a kid-friendly environment. Our equipment is child-sized; we use vibrant and fun colors and decor; and our staff are kid-loving moms and dads themselves who are trained to make all children feel safe, relaxed and comfortable during their visit. Taking your child to see a pediatric dentist helps encourage them to learn and practice great oral hygiene habits, because to children, it’s all about play! 

2. When will my baby start getting teeth?

Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, varies from baby to baby.  In general, baby teeth first begin  erupting between the age of six and eight months, and they are usually the lower front teeth. (This is when you see the sweet bunny teeth in your newborn or toddler!)However, some babies don’t see their first teeth erupt until they’re closer to 18 months old. Even if your baby is toothless, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your baby to your local pediatric dentist by age one so you can establish a healthy routine for your baby’s gums and teeth for when they do come in, and to identify any possible developmental concerns. To learn how to avoid baby bottle tooth decay, read our tips here. 

3. At what age should I bring my child for the first visit?

Age 1. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend having your child’s first dental checkup at age one or when your child gets his or her first tooth!  Again, the purpose of this initial visit is to establish a dental home for your child where you can learn how to take care of your child’s teeth and begin a healthy routine for your child’s smile. 

4. How can I prepare my child for visiting the dentist?

The most important thing for you to do is to maintain a positive attitude. We know some adults dread going to the dentist, but your child is smart and can pick up on your own anxiety, apprehension if you personally fear the dentist. Treat it like a routine checkup with the pediatrician where your child gets to show off his growing, strong body! Show pictures of our office, doctors and staff to let your child know what to expect before you arrive. Play fun or calming music in the car over to our office. Bring a lovey or safety blanket, as you would to any new place. 

Remind your child that the dentist is the tooth doctor and is there to help your child keep his teeth and gums strong and healthy! The dentist is a superhero who helps your child fight the sugar bugs away, makes toothaches go away, and always, always, always wants to see your child smile. Plus, there’s usually a prize at the end of the visit for being brave and cooperative. Don’t be afraid to mention the playhouse, console games, and movie watching during the dental visit, if you’re comfortable allowing your child participate in these fun activities at our office. 

Lastly, have your child join or at least watch you brush and floss twice daily at home. You’re the perfect role model to teach your child healthy habits! For younger children, play mimicking games with your child to “open wide.” Use a washcloth to wipe your child’s teeth after each feeding. 

Just remember to relax and have fun meeting your child’s dentist! Usually if your child is crying, it’s because s/he doesn’t want to leave the playhouse! 5. Why are baby teeth important for my child?

Primary or “baby” teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew food, baby teeth hold space for permanent teeth when they are ready to come in, which helps avoid crowding of teeth and the need for orthodontics like braces. It is also very, very important to start introducing your child to good oral hygiene habits and regular dental check-ups when they are young, to insure a long life with good oral health. Every child is born with one set of permanent teeth that should last a lifetime! 

6. What are dental caries or dental decay?

Dental caries (dental decay) is the process that causes cavities. Cavities are holes in the teeth, and they occur when acids in the mouth wear down, dissolve, or erode teeth. Acids usually come from bacteria in the mouth (the “sugar bugs”) that eat sugary foods and drinks (such as fruit, candy, crackers, ships, soft drinks, sports drinks, juice and milk). Brushing and flossing twice a day helps remove these acids on your child’s teeth so your child isn’t as likely to get a cavity. This is also why we encourage a diet low in sugar for our patient families! 

7. When should my child begin using toothpaste and how much should we use?

Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced when a child is two years of age. Prior to that, parents should clean the child’s teeth with water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. When toothpaste is used after age two, the child should be supervised to make sure he or she uses a ‘smear’ of toothpaste, just enough to create foam on the toothbrush. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. After age three, a pea-sized amount should be used.

10. How often should I brush my child’s teeth?

After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down and place the child’s head in your lap. Children and adults should have their teeth brushed at least two times every day.

11. Why do you recommend fluoride?

Fluoride helps your child’s teeth remain strong and healthy. Getting an adequate amount of fluoride until the age of 16 is necessary to allow proper enamel development.

12. Are dental X-rays necessary for treating my child?

X-rays (radiographs) are an important part of your child’s dental diagnostic process. Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed. X-rays detect much more than cavities. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed.

At Carolina Pediatric Dentistry, we decrease radiation exposure by using a protective lead apron and the latest digital X-ray sensors, which require even less radiation than previous generation digital X-ray systems.

13. Can I stay with my child during the visit?

We invite you to accompany your child during his or her checkup dental appointments. As the little one gains confidence, we request that you allow your child to come back with our dental staff for future dental appointments. For the safety and privacy of all patients, other children who are not being treated should remain in the reception room with a supervising adult.  We would be happy to talk to you about our policy for treatment and sedation appointments.

14. How important is a balanced diet in preventing dental decay?

Very important. A daily diet should include all the major food groups of meat/fish/eggs, vegetable/fruit, bread/cereal, as well as milk and other dairy products. Snacking should also be limited. Read about healthy snack ideas on our blog. 

15. What are dental sealants?

A sealant refers to a plastic material that bonds into the grooves of the chewing surface of a tooth to prevent the formation of dental decay.

16. Are athletic mouthguards really necessary for sports activities?

A mouthguard protects the teeth from possible sports injuries. In addition, it also protects the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw bone. Most injuries occur to the mouth and head area when a child is not wearing a mouthguard. Custom mouthguards provide the most comfort and best fit for your child’s mouth. Ask one of the Doctors if a mouthguard will be beneficial for your child’s sports needs.

17. How often should I bring my child in for routine dental checkups?

Every six months. By seeing your child every six months, we can clean the teeth so they are free of plaque and tartar before serious problems develop. Children grow and change very quickly, so with regular check-ups, Dr. Morris or Dr. Johnson will not only check for dental decay, but also observe any irregularities in the teeth spacing, bite, tooth mobility, and facial structure.

If any problems have developed since the last visit, Dr. Morris or Dr. Johnson can apply appropriate and effective treatment. In addition, regular dental checkups at an early age will help your child accept good dental care as part of the normal routine.

To schedule your child's next dentist appointment, give us a call at (919) 570-0180 today! You can also request an appointment online through our website and we'll reach out to you as soon as possible.

18. Where can I find more information about oral health care for my child?

Here are some helpful resources:

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

February 21st, 2022

Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as early childhood caries, refers to tooth decay in infants and toddlers. Your child needs strong, healthy primary teeth to properly chew food, to learn to speak, and to hold space until permanent teeth come in. That’s why preventing baby bottle tooth decay is very important.

The Causes of Tooth Decay in Children

There are a few risk factors when it comes to children’s tooth decay. A common cause is the frequent and prolonged exposure of your child’s teeth to sugary drinks, including milk, formula, and fruit juice. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugar and produce acids that attack the teeth. Giving you child a sugary drink at nap or nighttime can be especially harmful, because the flow of saliva decreases during sleep.

Tooth decay can also be caused by bacteria passed from you to your baby through saliva by sharing spoons, testing foods before feeding them to your baby, and cleaning off a pacifier in your mouth instead of with water. These germs can start the process that causes cavities even before your baby’s primary teeth emerge. This is even more reason to take care of your teeth too!

While less common, tooth decay can happen if your infant or toddler does not get enough fluoride in their diet, such as when you only drink bottled water or don’t have access to municipal or city water that is fluoridated for everyone. Your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements to help prevent tooth decay.

Tooth Decay Prevention                              

The good news about baby bottle tooth decay is that it’s preventable!

  • After each feeding, wipe your infant's gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth, which helps clean and establish a routine for good oral hygiene
  • When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and a smear (or grain of rice-size amount) of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Place only formula, milk, or breast milk in bottles. Do not fill the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, chocolate milk, juice, tea, or soft drinks.
  • Make sure infants finish their bedtime or nap time bottles before putting them to bed.
  • If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by his/her first birthday.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits.

Nourish Your Body, Not the Sugar Bugs!

February 8th, 2022

When we are feeding our kids, teeth are often the least of our worries. But hear us out – generally what is good for their bodies is also good for their teeth. The cavity-causing culprit is sugar, and sugar is added to nearly 70% of all foods sold in the grocery store. While it tastes great, whenever we enjoy any food or drink with sugar, the bacteria in our mouths also enjoy the snack. These bacteria – we like to call them sugar bugs – make themselves at home on your teeth, gums, and tongue, building making themselves at home in the form of plaque. After eating the sugar, bacteria make acid, which pulls minerals out of our teeth causing cavities. 

If you don’t brush and floss the sugar bugs away each day, the bacteria continue to weaken teeth, eventually causing cavities. Once cavities get large or deep enough, they can cause pain and infection.

Even with good brushing and flossing, constant exposure to sugar, even just a little bit, will do a number on your teeth. The best oral health practice for all children – and adults – is to eliminate as much sugar as possible when you eat and drink. 

Our number one suggestion - don’t bring food and drinks high in sugar in the house. Easier said than done, but eliminating the option entirely for both parents and kids will lead to infinitely better health and happiness! 

Snacks That Keep Teeth Clean & Healthy

The good news is that you can control how much sugar you bring into the house, and there are plenty of snack and lunch options that are good to your teeth! 

Crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, can help remove bacteria that live on the surface of teeth. Celery, pears, and cucumbers that have high water content also help clean teeth and promote overall health.

Lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, and white fish are a good source of protein, which helps strengthen tooth enamel. 

Dairy products such as sugar-free yogurts and milks are excellent sources of calcium, which is crucial for building strong teeth. 

Cheese is also an excellent snack and can actually help prevent cavities!

Additional Tips:

Drink Water, Not Juice. If there’s one change you can make, it’s to stop buying juices, sports drinks, and soft drinks for your family. Make it a habit to drink water instead of juice or sugary drinks. Don’t even bring juice into your home! Instead, use the money towards a different reward such as a family outing or activity.

Limit Snacking. This is a hard one! But establishing a routine that eliminates snacking throughout the day can limit the growth of bacteria. Remember, the more exposure to sugar, the greater the risk of cavities. 

Together, a healthy diet paired with regular brushing will help create healthy habits for your child.

What To Know About Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF)

November 26th, 2021

SDF has been used extensively around the world for decades, although it only received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014. The FDA actually approved SDF for use in the treatment of tooth sensitivity. Interestingly though, further studies demonstrated that SDF is highly effective at stopping cavities when combined with improvements in their diet (cut out the sugar!) and oral hygiene (brush and floss daily!). 

How Does SDF Work?

SDF’s ability to slow down or stop dental decay comes from its two main ingredients. Silver’s antibacterial properties have been known for centuries, and safety profile makes it ideal for use in humans. Fluoride significantly increases the rate at which tooth enamel can be repaired by saliva, and at the same time increases the enamel’s resistance to future decay due to acids. Fluoride has antimicrobial properties as well.

The uses of silver fluoride include stopping tooth decay from progressing and keeping the affected teeth stable until a dentist determines if further action is necessary to preserve the health of the teeth. SDF helps harden the tooth structure softened by decay.

When and Why Do Dentists Recommend SDF?

There are several situations in which SDF treatment is a good option. First and foremost, it is effective at stopping and preventing tooth decay when patients commit to making lifestyle changes. The bonus is that compared to other treatment options such as filling a cavity,  SDF can be a more affordable option depending on budget, insurance coverage, and access to care. (Side note: while we always consider the specific risks and benefits specific to each treatment plan that we design in prioritizing the well-being of the child’s well-being, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that finances can be a factor when choosing the best path forward for many of our patient families.) 

The biggest drawback to SDF we see in our office is that it stains the treated teeth black, which for some people, is not aesthetically pleasing. For children who still have their primary or baby teeth though, the aesthetic issue of staining is outweighed by the benefits of treating and preventing toothaches in the future. This form of treatment is growing in popularity as a pediatric dental treatment.

Talk With Your Pediatric Dentist About SDF

The only way to determine whether silver diamine fluoride treatment is right for your child is to ask your pediatric dentist about it. Not every dental practice offers this form of treatment, and it’s important to choose a dental team that’s trained and knowledgeable about this relatively new solution.

We invite you to learn more about what sets Carolina Pediatric Dentistry apart by requesting an appointment. We are happy to answer any and all questions you have about silver diamine fluoride and other pediatric dental treatments. 


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