Pediatric Dentistry FAQs

insights to commonly asked questions

What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist receives a minimum of two additional years of specialized training after dental school and is dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through teenage years including those with special health care needs. The very young, pre-teens and teenagers all require unique approaches in dealing with behavior, monitoring growth and development, and helping them avoid future dental problems.

With the additional education, pediatric dentists have the training which allows them to offer the most up-to-date and comprehensive treatment for a wide variety of pediatric dental concerns. These skills are applied to the needs of children throughout their ever-changing stages of development and to treating conditions and diseases which are unique to growing individuals.

Dr. Nicole Stoker, Dr. Melissa McCool and Dr. Whitney Garol have all completed pediatric dental residency programs. All dentists are either board eligible or board certified.

How old should my child be to come to the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends children are seen by a pediatric dentist by their first birthday. This is an ideal time for the pediatric dentist to carefully examine the development of your child’s mouth. Dental problems often start early and can be prevented in most cases; therefore, the earlier the visit the better. We feel an early exam with a strong emphasis on prevention sets the foundation for a lifetime of oral health. Establishing a relationship with a pediatric dentist early also helps expedite treatment in the event of an emergency involving the mouth. Unfortunately, injuries involving the teeth and surrounding areas are common as your infant learns to walk and explore his or her environment.

Why are baby teeth so important?

It is very important to maintain the health of primary teeth (baby teeth). Cavities in primary teeth progress quickly which can lead to discomfort and infection. Infection can also disrupt the development of permanent teeth. Primary teeth allow for clear speech and proper chewing. Baby teeth also reserve space for permanent teeth and assist in guiding them into the correct position. Health and functional baby teeth complement normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.

Why does my child need dental x-rays?

Radiographs (x-rays) are a necessary part of your child’s comprehensive dental care. Without them, certain cavities and oral diseases cannot be detected. Radiographs also assist with the visualization of developing teeth, monitor progress of previous treatment, evaluate the extent of injury after oral trauma and help with the timing or planning of orthodontic treatment. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more conservative.

Which radiographs to take and the frequency in which radiographs are indicated is determined by each child’s individual circumstances.

With contemporary safeguard, the amount of radiation received in a dental x-ray examination is extremely small. In fact, the dental radiographs represent a far smaller risk that an undetected and untreated dental problem. Lead aprons, thyroids collars, along with high speed films minimize the exposure to radiation. Today’s equipment restricts the beam to the area of interest. At The Smile Shop we take radiographs using state of art digital technology.

What are sealants, fillings and crowns?

A sealant is a white plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where most cavities in children form. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth. However, cavities between the teeth are not protected by sealants. Sealants are recommended once the six year permanent molars erupt. In certain circumstances, a sealant maybe recommended on a primary tooth.

If your child has a cavity, a filling is placed after the decay is removed. Most of the time the filling is a tooth colored (white) filling.

In a primary tooth, if a cavity is too large to restore with a filling, a silver crown may be recommended or the tooth may need to be removed. If the cavity is too large and has involved the nerve of the tooth, then the nerve will be removed (pulpotomy) along with the cavity, and a crown will be placed. For front teeth, white crowns are typically used for esthetics. For back teeth, stainless steel crowns are used for their durability and longevity.

All of these procedures are associated with a certain failure rate depending on the severity of disease, cooperation of patient during treatment and individual response to the treatment. All treatment is recommended based on scientific criteria and clinical experience in the best interest of your child. If your child needs any of the above treatments, please talk to our doctors about any questions or concerns that you may have.

What about sedation?

Small procedures in cooperative children can often be done under local anesthesia with or without nitrous oxide. The most common form of sedation we use in our office is nitrous oxide (laughing gas). This is given through a small breathing mask which is placed over the child’s nose. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recognizes this technique as a very safe, effective technique to help relax your anxious child during treatment.

Some children require an extensive amount of dental work. In these circumstances, it is difficult for a small child to cooperate and often the treatment cannot be done properly in an office setting. Under these conditions, we may recommend treating your child in the operating room under general anesthesia. In the operating room, an anesthesiologist puts your child to sleep and closely monitors the child allowing the dentist to focus on your child’s dental needs.

What should be done about a cut or bitten tongue, lip or cheek?

Apply ice to bruised areas. If there is bleeding, apply firm pressure with a clean gauze or cloth. If bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes or cannot be controlled by simple pressure, take your child to the emergency room.

If the child chews their lip, tongue or cheek after completion of dental treatment, additional treatment maybe necessary. Please call The Smile Shop. To avoid lip or cheek biting after anesthesia, monitor your child very closely until the numbness wears off (approximately 2 hours). Avoid eating while numb, and if your child is hungry, a smoothie or yogurt that does not require chewing is a good snack.

What can I do about my child’s toothache?

Clean the area around the sore tooth thoroughly. Rinse the mouth with warm salt water or use dental floss to dislodge impacted food or debris. DO NOT place aspirin on the gum or on the aching tooth. If the face is swollen or the pain still persists, contact our office as soon as possible. Tylenol or Advil can be given at the dose recommended on the bottle based on your child’s age and weight.

My child accidentally knocked out her permanent tooth. What should I do?

Baby teeth which are knocked out are not put back into the socket due to the potential damage to permanent teeth.

If your child knocks out a permanent tooth (or if you are unsure whether the tooth is permanent or not), hold the tooth by the crown and very gently remove any debris on the root with water and immediately place the tooth back into the socket. Have your child bite on gauze to keep it in place while you get to our office. If you are unable to place the tooth back into the socket, place the tooth in a glass of milk and bring it with you into our office.

Contact The Smile Shop as soon as possible. The time a tooth is out of the socket will directly impact the overall prognosis; therefore, treatment is necessary as soon as possible.

Our son has fractured his tooth. What do you suggest?

Rinse debris from injured area with warm water. Place a cold compresses over the face in the area of injury. Locate and save any broken tooth fragments in milk. Contact our office as soon as possible.

What can I do to protect my child’s teeth during contact sports?

Soft, plastic mouth guards can be used to protect your child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports related injuries. They have also been shown to decrease the risk of concussion by distributing the forces of impact. These can be purchased over the counter or custom made to fit at The Smile Shop. Custom made mouth guards are more comfortable to wear and stay in place more securely during an injury. However, over the counter mouth guards are much better than no mouth guard at all.

What do I do if my child has an emergency over the weekend or after hours?

In the event of a dental injury, call our office. Our answering machine will have the name and number of the dentist on call. A dentist is always on call including the holidays.