Frequently Asked Questions

How is a Pediatric Dentist different from my family dentist?
Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has 2-3 years of specialty training following dental school. They have special training in areas such as growth and development, cavity prevention, care of medically and developmentally compromised children, sedation dentistry and behaviour management.

When should my child initially see a dentist?
Your child should have an initial examination no later than their first birthday.

When will my child’s teeth erupt?

Generally, your child’s first teeth will erupt at around 6 months of age. You may notice a slight redness of puffiness on the front gums, and drooling. Do not expect fever, swelling or diarrhea. Chewing on a safe blunt firm teething ring may provide relief.

Are baby teeth really that important?
Yes, Yes, Yes!! Not only do baby teeth allow your child to eat, drink and speak, they also aid in forming a pathway for the adult teeth to grow in.

Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits bad?
Very young children have the need to suckle. Most children give up this habit on their own. If, however, the thumb sucking habit continues after 4 years of age, a mouth appliance may be recommended. Pacifier habits should stop as soon as possible to avoid a bad bite from developing.

How should I clean my baby’s teeth?

As soon as teeth erupt, you should clean your baby’s teeth thoroughly once a day. Use water on a soft bristled brush. Introduce a pea-sized amount of fluoridated paste at 2-3 years of age, ensuring your child spits out excess paste after brushing.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?

Baby bottle tooth decay is also known as ‘nursing bottle caries’, ‘baby bottle syndrome’ or ‘early childhood tooth decay’ (ECTD). ECTD is a specific pattern of dental cavities that present in the very young child. Fortunately, it is entirely preventable by early introduction of good oral hygiene practices and attention to proper feeding habits. ECTD can affect and damage the teeth as early as they are erupting into the mouth. It is known from past research studies that ECTD is caused by the combination of two main factors:

1) Cavity-producing bacteria that colonize the mouth in infancy (usually transmitted from the mother)
2) Frequently exposing the teeth to sugar-containing liquids that are fed through bottles and sippy cups which may include infant formulas, sweetened cow’s milk, natural fruit juices and other commercially available beverages.


How can I prevent my baby from getting ECTD?
Of course, it is important to understand that all babies need nourishment to grow. However, here are some important preventive steps that can reduce the risk of ECTD:

1) Establish regular feeding and snacking times for your infant and young child
2) Consider weaning at 12 to 14 months of age
3) Don’t use sugar-containing beverages in the baby bottle or sippy cup just to quiet your child especially at naptime or bedtime – this can increase the frequency of exposure of the teeth to sugar-containing beverages.
4) Encourage your child to have plain water if they ‘need’ to have a bottle or sippy cup between normal meal and snack times – it’s good for them (and better for their teeth)!
5) Brush those precious baby teeth thoroughly at least once a day, with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

What does ECTD look like?
After you have cleaned your baby’s teeth and gums it is a good habit to inspect the teeth carefully. Tooth decay in its early stages can appear as a white crescent-shaped line that is close to the gum-line area. This pattern most commonly appears initially on the upper front teeth because they are usually the first teeth to grow in and are least protected by the action of the tongue and saliva. A dental professional should assess any suspect ‘white’ areas, as it is sometimes possible to arrest or slow down the decay process with preventive intervention. However, if the decay is allowed to progress, the white areas may quickly become pitted, soft, and stained. At that point, it may become necessary to assess the teeth for ‘fillings’.

My child’s new permanent teeth look dark compared to her baby teeth. Does this mean something is wrong?
Not always. In general, the underlying dentin layer below the enamel coating on the tooth is significantly more yellow in the permanent tooth. It tends to shine through the translucent enamel, making the overall shade darker in contrast to the adjacent baby teeth. Permanent teeth naturally should have a slight ivory colour – not white. In most cases, tooth colour appears more uniform once all of the permanent teeth are present.

My kids constantly want to snack. What are some snacks that won’t harm their teeth?
Some ‘dentally acceptable’ snacks and beverages include: popcorn, nuts, cheese strings, cut-up fruit or veggies and dip, vegetable juice and milk. Avoid frequent snacking on fruit leathers, raisins, candy bars, cookies and flavoured chips because the sugary content and sticky consistency may put the teeth at increased risk for cavities. It’s also advisable to limit your child’s daily intake of soft drinks, which have both high acidity and high sugar content – a doubly hazardous combination for teeth!

When should I expect my child to be able to floss his/her own teeth?
Learning how to floss properly can be quite an accomplishment. Although there can be wide variability in motor development, most children usually do not have the manual dexterity to floss effectively until about 9 or 10 years of age. Starting too soon may just frustrate your child, so you should continue to floss for him/her until they are able to master this skill. Like anything else, practice makes perfect! Of course, remember to set a good example for your child by incorporating flossing into your daily routine.

My child’s new permanent teeth have irregular white flecks and marks on them. What causes this?
Spots and marks on permanent teeth can be caused by many factors during tooth formation in the first years of life including: high fevers and illnesses in infancy, baby tooth injury or infection, ingestion of certain medications, rare hereditary conditions or fluorosis. Fluorosis commonly appears as smooth white spots or flecks on the permanent teeth. It can usually be attributed to excessive ingestion of fluoride toothpaste in early childhood or from living in communities with excessively high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the drinking water supply. Your dentist, using a technique called “enamel micro abrasion”, can eliminate certain superficial types of fluorosis. The painless procedure removes a small amount of the surface enamel containing the white spot by using special polishing agents.

How do sealants work?
Sealants work by filling in the crevices on the chewing surfaces of teeth where bacterial plaque and food gets stuck and can cause cavities. Their application is fast and easy and provides protection for years.

What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?
First remain calm. Then find the tooth. If you can hold the tooth by the crown (not the root) try to reinsert it in the socket. Research tells us that teeth that are re-inserted immediately have better outcomes. If that isn’t possible, put the tooth in a cup of cold milk and take your child immediately to the dentist if there are no other more serious injuries.

How can I protect my child’s teeth during sport activities?
Soft plastic mouthguards help protect a child’s teeth, lips and gums from injury, and may even provide protection from severe head injuries. There are many standard types available in retail stores. Many children however find these bulky and uncomfortable. A custom fitted guard from your dentist provides the best protection.

Is my child getting enough fluoride?
You may have the fluoride level of your drinking water tested at your local Health Unit. If your child is not getting enough, fluoride supplements may be prescribed by your dentist.

How safe are dental x-rays?
X-rays provide information to the pediatric dentist that may be essential to the provision of the best care. There is very little risk. The pediatric dentist is careful to limit the amount of radiation exposure by the use of lead aprons and high speed films.