Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pediatric dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a dentist who trains an additional two years to specialize in treating infants, children, teenagers, and special needs patients. Just like a pediatrician is best suited to treat the medical needs of your child, a pediatric dentist is trained to provide specialized care for your child’s teeth.

When should my child come in for the first visit?

Earlier than you may think!  The simplest answer is by the time your child is one year old.  A more complicated answer is within 6 months of the first tooth erupting.  Either way, most parents don’t realize how important early involvement with the pediatric dentist can be.

Why visit at such a young age?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends this age so that Dr. Thom can take a brief look in your child’s mouth to make sure things are developing well and to assess your overall oral health.

Additionally, and arguably more importantly, this first visit provides the opportunity for you to talk with Dr. Thom so that we can all be on the same page about how best to care for your child’s teeth.  This is the time for you to ask questions.  This is also the time for Dr. Thom to advise on how to make sure your child will grow up with great dental health.  What we want to avoid is your child going to the dentist for the first time at the age of 4 or 5 only to find that he or she already has cavities.  Developing a relationship with a pediatric dentist at an early age is the best way to make sure your child’s teeth stay healthy.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry stresses the importance of the early establishment of a dental home – a pediatric dentist that will serve as your ready and continuing resource for your child’s oral health – just like your pediatrician.  Starting your child early with a pediatric dentist is the best way to ensure the development of good habits that will benefit him or her for a lifetime.  As your child grows, starts to lose baby teeth, and gets permanent teeth, the care Dr. Thom provides will adapt to your child’s changing needs.

How often should my child go to the dentist?

Regular check ups every 6 months helps to make sure your child’s smile stays healthy and beautiful (just like regular oil changes in your car!)  Regular check ups also mean that if a small problem does occur, it can be caught and fixed early before it develops into something more complicated.

What if my child doesn't want to cooperate?

That’s ok.  We will not push your child.  We want this to be a good experience, and we believe that taking care of your child’s emotions and concerns comes first – taking care of the teeth occurs after your child becomes comfortable and trusts us.  For children who are hesitant, there’s value in just coming in the office, walking around, getting a prize, and leaving happy!  Your child will soon realize that we have an easy, welcoming environment and will be comfortable cooperating for a cleaning and exam.

Why are baby teeth important?

Baby teeth are vital to your child’s ability to eat and develop proper speech.  Also, the baby teeth help guide the permanent teeth into the proper locations when they start coming in.  You may not know that the biggest predictor of future cavities is the presence of existing cavities – so having healthy baby teeth can go a long way toward having healthy adult teeth.  Also, many people don’t realize that many baby teeth don’t normally fall out until the age of 10 or 12, so your child will need those teeth for a long time!

What about Fluoride?

Fluoride really does make teeth stronger and more resistant to cavities.  It works in two ways.  One way is by swallowing Fluoride – that’s why a small amount is often added to city drinking water.  The other way – which is the more important way – is by fluoride touching the teeth without swallowing it.  This is how toothpaste and the fluoride we use at the office work.

It is definitely possible to swallow too much fluoride, so please talk to Dr. Thom about what fluoride use is appropriate for your child.

When should I start using toothpaste?

The recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists is to start using a fluoride toothpaste as soon as your child gets his first tooth.  However, it is very important to use a small amount – a smear about ½ the size of a grain of rice.  Young children aren’t good at spitting out toothpaste and will likely swallow the toothpaste as you are brushing them; but if you use the very small amount recommended then it’s ok of they don’t spit.

Do I need to floss my child’s teeth?

Yes!  Many parents don’t realize the need to floss their child’s teeth, but it is just as important as brushing.  In fact it is quite common for cavities to form in between baby teeth, and the best way to prevent this is flossing.

Does my child need sealants?

That depends on the shape of the grooves and pits in the tooth.  Sealants are great under the right circumstances, but not every child will need them.  That is a decision that can’t be made until Dr. Thom examines each tooth to assess if a sealant would be beneficial.  Sealing a tooth that doesn’t really need it can be asking for trouble down the road.

What about pacifiers and thumb sucking?

Usually this is only a problem if the habit occurs for a long period of time.  Some non-nutritive sucking habits can cause problems with the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth.  Often, however, if the habit is stopped in time, the problems will self correct.

What is laughing gas?

Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) is a very safe way to help your child relax if he or she is a little nervous or anxious.  It’s inhaled through a “bunny nose” that is placed on your child’s nose during a dental procedure.  Laughing gas does not put your child to sleep – it’s just to help relax.  The effects are very short, so your child will feel back to normal before getting out of the dental chair.

What about x-rays?

X-rays (dental radiographs) are integral in providing quality dental care for your child.  It’s important for you to know, however, that Dr. Thom does not recommend x-rays at the same frequency for every child.  The decision to take x-rays is made specifically for each child and takes into account the child’s dental history, the child’s age, the child’s stage of dental and skeletal development, as well as many other factors.  Some children with a history of cavities may need cavity detecting x-rays at 6 month intervals until there are no new cavities detected.  Other children who are older and who don’t have a history of cavities may have X-rays taken every 18 or 24 months.  Again, the decision to take x-rays is made on an individual basis and is customized to each child’s needs.  It’s also important to know that X-rays are an integral part of doing good dentistry.