Common Questions About Pediatric Dental Care 

Children’s dental care can leave parents with many questions. There’s so much more to caring for a child’s teeth than just brushing and flossing! To help us solve our most common toothy conundrums, we asked the pediatric dentists at Centerville Pediatric Dentistry to share their wisdom on tooth care.  




What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

After becoming a general/family dentist, pediatric dentists complete an additional two or more years of post-doctoral training in the recognition and treatment of children’s dental services. Specialty education includes child psychology, behavior guidance, preventative techniques, restorative dentistry and treatment of children with special needs. Pediatric dentists specialize in evaluating children’s growth and development as well as the health of the teeth, mouthand gums.

When should I take my child to the dentist for their first checkup? 

Along with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, we recommend children see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than their first birthday. As soon as babies have teeth, they can get cavities. Your pediatric dentist can help prevent cavities before they start with professional recommendations about your child’s diet, brushing and flossing. In fact, children who wait to have their first dental visit until age 2 or 3 are more likely to require restorative and emergency visits, according the Pediatric Dentistry Journal.

When should we begin using toothpaste? How much should we use? 

With a soft, age-appropriate-sized toothbrush, we recommend using a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste (no bigger than a grain of rice) to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt. Once children are 3 to 6 years old (or when they can spit effectively), increase to a pea-size dollop of fluoride toothpaste. According to the CDC, children who use fluoride toothpaste to brush have fewer cavities. Additionally, fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third of cavities in primary (baby) teeth.

My 6 year old still has all his baby teeth. Is this normal?  

Children typically get their first tooth by about 5½ to 6 months and lose their first tooth by 5½ to 6 years. Don’t be concerned if your child loses them a little later because all children develop at different rates. Make sure to check with your child’s pediatric dentist if you are concerned.

My 4 year old still sucks her thumb. Will this harm her teeth? 

 Most children break thumb sucking habits on their own. If your child is still sucking her thumb or fingers past the age of 3, this issue can lead to misaligned teeth or changes to the roof of mouth. Your pediatric dentist may recommend strategies to help discontinue the habit.

My baby nurses and/or bottle feeds to sleep. How can I prevent tooth decay? 

Studies show that breast milk itself does not cause cavities, but feeding your child other foods and juices plus breast milk greatly increases their chance for decay. Avoid putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle or sippy cup. Proper brushing and flossing will help prevent tooth decay. Regular visits to your child’s pediatric dentist are important for his/her overall oral health.

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