What is a Pediatric Dentist?

A Pediatric Dentist, like Dr. Sarah, is a specialist dedicated to the oral health of children and the monitoring of their facial growth and development. Sycamore Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry is focused on treating kids from infancy through adolescence, as well as patients with special needs.

Why Choose a Pediatric Dentist over a Family Dentist or a General Dentist?

Children not only have different dentition than adults, but they also have specific dental, developmental, and behavioral needs that are better addressed with a specialist. As a Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Sarah has two years of additional training in treating infants, children, adolescence, and patients with special needs. From the very first visit from infancy and throughout adolescence, your child is in the best hands when receiving dental care from a Pediatric Dentist in order to better serve their specific needs.

When should I make my child’s First Dental Visit?

It is a common misconception that kids should start seeing the dentist by 2 or 3 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children should see the dentist by their first birthday. In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a Pediatric Dentist in order to establish their Dental Home no later than one years old.

How often should my child see a Pediatric Dentist?

It is recommended that your child receives a cleaning and has a dental exam every 6 months to prevent future decay and other dental problems. If your child is higher risk for developing cavities, Dr. Sarah may recommend your child be seen every 3 months so we may closely monitor your child’s oral health. This is in accordance to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s guidelines, which help to establish best practice recommendations.

Why are Baby Teeth so important?

It is very important to maintain your child’s oral health and to take care of the baby teeth before they fall out naturally on their own. Neglected cavities that are hanging around until they fall out can and frequently do lead to detrimental effects to the developing permanent teeth. While the four front teeth fall out around 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (canines and molars) aren’t replaced until your child reaches 10-13 years old!

Primary teeth, or “baby teeth,” are important for:


Promoting good nutrition through proper chewing and eating


Providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position


Encouraging normal development of jaw bones and muscles


Assisting in development of speech


Building self-esteem by providing a beautiful smile


Enabling your child to pay attention and learn in school without the distraction of dental pain

When do Baby Teeth start coming in?

Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. The two front lower teeth usually come in around six months old. This can vary from babies that are born with teeth to those who do not get their first tooth until they are a year old. At three years of age, most little ones have all 20 teeth present.

How should I care for my infant’s or toddler’s mouth?

As an infant, the gums can be cleaned with a soft wet gauze or washcloth. This should be done after feedings and before bedtime, whether breast or bottle fed. Once the first tooth appears, start brushing those teeth! And yes, you should be using toothpaste with fluoride even at young age when that very first tooth does appear. There are soft infant toothbrushes that should be used twice a day with a small smear of fluoridated toothpaste, no larger than a grain of rice. As soon as two adjacent teeth appear in the mouth, cavities can form in between the teeth, especially if they are touching. When teeth start to touch, it is important to start flossing at nighttime.

When should I start brushing and flossing my child’s teeth?

As soon as you see their first tooth, start brushing twice a day!

Help your child to brush until they are at least 6 years old and then supervise brushing until they can consistently do a great job and clean all areas properly. Here are some oral hygiene tips to use at home:


  • Brushing your teeth helps prevent cavities by removing plaque. It also stimulates the gums which helps to prevent gum disease
  • Brush twice a day, once in the morning and once at night
  • Replace the toothbrush once the bristles start to wear down or fray (usually between 3-4 months)
  • Start caring for your baby’s gums right away. Gently wash them with a damp washcloth after feedings and before bedtime
  • Once your child’s teeth erupt, use a small head, soft bristled brush with fluoridated toothpaste in the amount of a grain of rice
  • Ages 3 and over, you can use a pea-size amount of toothpaste with fluoride
  • Brush your child’s teeth until they are able to do a thorough job

Flossing Tips:

  • Flossing helps remove the dental plaque and food particles in between your teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach
  • This should be done at least once a day, and most importantly, before bedtime
  • Once your child’s teeth touch, it is time to start flossing. Your child will need your help until they are capable of doing this on their own
  • Floss your children’s teeth until they are able to do a thorough job

Toothpaste — When should we begin using it and how much should we use?

Use toothpaste with fluoride as soon as the first tooth erupts. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a rice grain, to brush baby teeth twice daily. Use a soft bristled, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.

Why is Fluoride important for my child’s oral health?

Fluoride is effective at preventing cavities by coating teeth and strengthening their surface, which acts like a coat of armor to fight off harmful bacteria and tooth decay. It can even re-mineralize early cavities, which is usually detected at regular dental checkups. If this happens, Dr. Sarah may recommend a special fluoride regimen to help fend off those sugar bugs and protect your child’s teeth. Fluoride in our water, toothpastes as well as fluoride treatments will give your child an edge on maintaining their bright smile!

Are Dental X-rays safe?

Dental X-rays are considered to be very low risk. Pediatric dentists are especially careful when prescribing dental X-rays to prevent excess radiation when it is not needed.

The latest dental X-ray tools and techniques are designed to limit your child’s exposure to radiation and every precaution is always taken to safeguard your child. If you’re worried about radiation exposure, just know that our digital X-rays give off a very small amount of radiation. For example, two dental bitewings is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure when traveling on an airplane for 4 hours or a day of background exposure (natural radiation from the sun, soil, rocks, buildings, air and water).

How do Sealants work?

Sealants are an easy and affordable way to prevent future tooth decay in a child’s first and second adult molars. They are sometimes placed on baby teeth if a child is considered to be “High Risk” for developing tooth decay. Sealants work by filling in the grooves on the biting surfaces of molars and blocking pieces of food and debris from getting stuck. Without a sealant in place, it’s very difficult to remove plaque and food in these areas with a toothbrush, which can eventually cause a cavity.

Is thumbsucking bad for my child’s teeth? What about the pacifier?

Thumbsucking and pacifier use will generally only become a problem if they go on for a prolonged period of time, especially after the age of 3. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still using the pacifier or sucking their thumbs or fingers past 3 years old, we ask that you let us know so we can help address these oral habits.

How does my child’s diet affect his or her oral health?

A well-balanced, healthy diet is good for your child’s body and their smile! Fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and dairy are all good for your child’s oral and overall health. Snacks are okay, but remember that sugary and starchy foods, or food and drinks that are high in acid can be harmful to your child’s teeth. The frequency of snacking should also be considered. The more frequent your child snacks, the higher risk they are for developing tooth decay. Crunchy fruits and vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheese are great snack choices for children’s teeth.

How can I limit my child’s sugar intake?

Here are some tips for you to take home:

  • Offer plain yogurt instead of yogurt with flavor, these are often sweetened with a lot of sugar. Add berries for something sweet and added nutrition
  • Save sweets for special occasions
  • Hydrate with plain water. Avoid juice, soda, and sports drinks as much as possible
  • Limit processed snacks such as crackers, cookies, and pretzels. Chewing processed foods is especially damaging to teeth because of the high sugar content and it ability to stick to teeth so easily!
  • Check nutrition labels and keep tabs on the amount of sugar your child is consuming on a daily basis

When should my child stop using a bottle or sippy cup?

It is recommended that the child is done using a bottle or sippy cup by age 1. Sippy cups should only have water in them.

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

Parents should take their children to the Pediatric Dentist every six months, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. Then, Dr. Sarah can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their little ones. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Give our office a call and come see us as soon as possible.

What should I do if my child falls and knocks out a permanent tooth?

The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Then find the tooth. Hold it by the crown rather than the root and try to reinsert it in the socket. If that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the glass immediately to a Pediatric Dentist.

What if my child has two teeth growing in the same spot? “Shark Teeth”

Sometimes, an adult tooth comes in before your child’s baby tooth falls out. It may come in behind or in front of the baby tooth. Don’t be alarmed – this is a very common occurrence with kids. Encourage your child to “wiggle out” the baby tooth on their own. If the adult tooth is halfway in or if the baby tooth is not wiggly at all, contact our office so we can do an exam to determine if your child needs help getting the tooth out.

Why is it important to get a space maintainer?

A space maintainer is used to keep the space needed for a permanent tooth when a baby tooth (usually a molar) is lost early due to decay or injury. Once a baby tooth is lost, the teeth around it can begin to shift and move into the open space. If a space maintainer is not placed, the newly erupting permanent tooth could grow in the wrong place leading to increased orthodontic treatment, periodontal problems or increased risk of cavities.

It is important to keep the appliance clean and to avoid sticky foods such as gum, taffy or gummy bears. If the space maintainer comes off accidentally, save it and call us for an appointment. Make sure to bring the spacer with you. When the permanent tooth starts to come in, bring your child in for an evaluation and we can determine if it’s time for the spacer to be removed.

Do you see patients with special needs?

Yes, absolutely! The team at Sycamore Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry is trained to take care of children with special needs. We provide dental care for children with a range of developmental, medical and behavioral challenges, including, but not limited to, anxiety, sensory issues, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and developmental and speech/language delays.

When should my child see an orthodontist?

According to the American Orthodontic Society, a child should have an orthodontic screening by the age of 7. This screening can identify potential orthodontic issues early, and is key in preventing them, or creating a treatment plan. Often early orthodontic intervention can help guide proper jaw development and allow proper room for normal eruption of the permanent teeth. Consider it a necessary checkup for your child’s oral health. This screening can save your family money, and may help avoid more extensive treatment in the future, such as removing permanent teeth if severe crowding is present.

What should I do as an expectant mother?

Just as you would visit potential Pediatricians to find that perfect fit to care for your newborn, Pediatric Dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. Dr. Sarah is happy to consult with you prior to the arrival of your newborn and offer you advice on planning for dental care.