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Pediatric Dentistry

Why Straighten My Child’s Teeth? 10 Reasons to Get Braces for Your Child

Braces improve the health and appearance of your child’s smile.

As your child gets older, their pedodontist may recommend that you look into whether they’ll need conventional braces or interceptive orthodontic appliances to straighten their teeth. Braces are an incredibly effective and popular orthodontic treatment, but you may find yourself reluctant to sign off on them even after you’ve received an orthodontic consultation. While you want your child to be happy and healthy, braces involve a huge commitment of both time and money; if you’re on a tight budget, it’s natural and smart to want to make sure that every expense is actually necessary.

Although braces are often talked about in the context of improving the aesthetics of a smile, they also work to improve your child’s oral health and daily life in several vital ways. Here are 10 reasons you should seriously consider investing in braces for your child.  

1. Straight teeth lower your child’s chances of getting periodontitis and cavities.

Unfortunately, crooked and uneven teeth are simply harder to clean than straight, even teeth. There are more nooks and crannies for bacteria and plaque to collect in, which even adults can struggle to clean properly. These areas increase your child’s chances of getting cavities and periodontitis, which can both seriously jeopardize the health of their teeth. Since straight teeth are more uniform and easier to clean, they help your child better protect their oral health and reduce their chances of getting cavities or periodontitis for their entire lives.

2. Crooked teeth can lead to chronic jaw pain.

An uneven bite or crooked teeth can cause your child to have an improper jaw alignment, where the entire jaw doesn’t sit exactly as it should. This can result in temporomandibular disorder  (TMD), a condition that includes symptoms such as chronic jaw pain, frequent or severe headaches, popping or grinding sounds when moving the joint, and lockjaw, which makes it difficult to open or close the mouth. TMD symptoms like this can make simple tasks, such as eating or speaking, difficult and painful. Thankfully, straightening your child’s teeth can prevent them from experiencing this down the road.

3. Straight teeth lower your child’s chances of injuring their teeth.

If your child has crooked teeth, you may notice that several of their teeth protrude a little ahead of the rest. Even slight protrusions like this make teeth more vulnerable to injuries such as chipping, cracking, or getting knocked out. This is because a tooth that sticks forward, even a little, takes the brunt of hard impacts and presents a target for objects to catch on when they hit at an angle. In contrast, straight teeth come together to form a strong wall, distributing the impact of hits to the face across a larger surface area and sitting evenly so that an angled hit is much less likely to catch an individual tooth on the side. This helps prevent your child from suffering a serious dental injury.

4. Straight teeth may make eating easier.

Misaligned bites can make eating more difficult for some children for a few different reasons, making chewing feel stiff, awkward, or even slightly painful. Not all kids experience this problem, as plenty of kids who need braces never mention feeling uncomfortable when they eat, but it can worsen over time as your child ages.

5. Crooked teeth can wear unevenly.

When teeth are crooked or uneven, some teeth take on the brunt of the impact when your child chews or bites into food. Over time, this results in uneven wear on your child’s teeth, further impacting the appearance of their smile, causing tooth sensitivity in their worn teeth, and potentially worsening any existing problems with their uneven bite, such as headaches, jaw pain, or difficulty eating. Straight teeth, however, prevent this from happening by distributing the workload evenly.

6. Straight teeth can ease frequent headaches.

Even if your child lacks symptoms of full-blown TMD pain, an uneven bite might be the culprit if your child has frequent headaches. These headaches can be mild or severe and can vary in frequency, but straightening your child’s teeth can often greatly reduce or even stop these headaches.

7. Crooked teeth may cause your child to grind their teeth.

Children with an uneven bite or crooked teeth may begin grinding their teeth together in their sleep. This unintentional habit can cause your child to wake up with headaches, jaw pain or stiffness, or sensitive teeth and gums. Your child’s teeth are also in danger of chipping, breaking, or cracking from the forces exerted on them, leading to an emergency trip to the dentist that may require your child to get dental bonding or a crown. Even if your child avoids an immediate injury to their teeth, grinding their teeth against each other will wear their teeth down over time. Correcting your child’s bite can also stop this behavior, protecting your child’s teeth from future damage.

8. Straight teeth save you money over time.

There’s no denying it—braces can come with a hefty up-front cost. However, since straightening your child’s teeth can prevent so many dental issues down the road, from cavities and gum disease to worn or injured teeth, braces will likely end up paying for themselves and saving you a lot of money in the long run.

9. Straight teeth help your child build confidence.

Although it might be less practical than the many ways braces work to improve your oral health, the impact that braces have on the appearance of your child’s smile is certainly worth mentioning. Unfortunately, uneven or crooked teeth can make your child self-conscious of their smile, sometimes even to the extent that they go to the effort of avoiding smiling in public. Gaining a straight, even smile helps your child create a positive self-image and build self-confidence, both traits that will help them be happier.

10. Straight teeth impact others’ first impressions of your child.

Whether we intend to or not, we’re always forming first impressions of people based—at least in part—on their appearance. This includes someone’s smile, which is one of the first features people notice and remember about someone new. One survey-based study found that 45% of Americans believe that someone with a straight smile is more likely to get a job than someone with crooked teeth but equal education and job experience. The study also reported that, when participants judged their interest in dating individuals based on pictures alone, people with straight smiles were 57% more likely to get a date. As a result, having a straight smile can help your child make a good impression in professional environments and personal relationships.

While braces can be expensive, they’re often necessary—and they’re a long-term investment in your child’s oral health and self-confidence. We know that the expense of braces for your child is still a big concern for many parents, so you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Shea at our Rochester family dentistry practice to discuss your child’s treatment options and to receive an estimate of the cost as well as how much your insurance is likely to cover.

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Pediatric Dentistry

10 Top Books for Kids About Going to the Dentist

Teaching Your Children About Dental Care

When your children are young, it can be hard to get them to fully understand why they need to brush their teeth, let alone get them excited about it, and taking them to their pediatric dentist can seem like a Herculean task. Thankfully, books about going to the dentist can offer a solution by teaching your kids about these topics in a fun way, mixing facts with entertaining stories that may even involve characters your children already love.

These books aim to get your kids excited about oral hygiene, teach them about its importance, and show them that the dentist really isn’t so scary after all. There are so many books addressing dentistry for children that it can be daunting to sift through them and find ones that match your children’s needs, so we’re sharing 10 books you can read to your kids before going to the dentist.

1. Brush, Brush, Brush! by Alicia Padron

If you’re struggling to convince your young children to brush their teeth, this book might help. It’s very short and simple, so it’s best for children between the ages of 1 and 3 years old. The book’s rhymes are meant to be sung, creating a fun tune for your little one that teaches them how to brush their teeth. It doesn’t tell a story or include sensory stimulation for younger kids, though, so a different book might be a better choice if that’s what keeps your small children interested.

2. Sugar Bugs by Erica Weisz and Sam Weisz

Robbie’s unhealthy habits attract a family of sugar bugs to his mouth; although they seem nice at first, Robbie soon learns that they aren’t. He visits the dentist, who shows him the neat tools he uses to get rid of the sugar bugs and shares three rules Robbie can follow to keep them away. The book uses kid-friendly language and explanations, making it a great introduction for your children about why oral hygiene and a healthy diet are so important.

3. Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist by Christine Ricci

Dora the Explorer is a popular TV show famous for its ability to engage children by asking them direct questions that allow them to interact with the characters, and this book uses the same strategy to keep your children engaged. It encourages your kids to find images hidden in the background and even includes a matching game. The engaging style and simple language enable the book to entertain kids between the ages of 3 and 7, teaching them all about what happens at dental appointments. Dora brings up a range of important topics such as dental cleanings and X-rays, explains what a cavity is, and describes the dental tools kids’ dentists use to treat them.

4. The Teeth That Looked for a New Mouth by Jill Jones

In this colorful book, Luke doesn’t care for his teeth like he should, so his teeth go looking for a better mouth. This cute story uses a catchy rhyming scheme as it follows the teeth on their journey, during which they talk to different animals who want them. Their journey is interesting and enjoyable, but it also carries a solid message that young children can easily understand about the importance of taking care of their teeth.

5. Jacob Learns to Brush His Teeth by Anthony Heath

Like Luke in The Teeth That Looked for a New Mouth, Jacob doesn’t like brushing his teeth—no matter what his parents or pedodontist say. One night, Jacob finally decides to try brushing his teeth after watching his parents complete their usual oral hygiene routine, and he decides he likes the way it makes his teeth look and feel. This book doesn’t go into a lot of detail, so while your little one will learn it’s important to brush their teeth, they won’t learn how. Still, this book’s beautiful illustrations, cute rhymes, and worthwhile message make it an entertaining supplementary read for your child.

6. Daniel Goes to the Dentist by Alexandra Cassel Schwartz

Daniel Tiger has a dental appointment, so his mom encourages him to brush his teeth before they leave and sings a song to help him remember how to do it well. This is a detail that you can add to your child’s oral hygiene routine, especially if they love Daniel. He’s a little nervous when he arrives, so Daniel’s dentist explains the entire process to him as she cleans, examines, and polishes his teeth. In addition to giving your child a basic idea of what to expect from a dental visit, it’s a cute, colorful story with a relatable character who’s honest about being a little nervous—but who overcomes it and realizes his dentist is really nice!

7. The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Edward Miller

Ideal for curious children between the ages of 5 and 8, The Tooth Book includes a ton of information about teeth, how to care for them, and what happens when you don’t. It also prepares your child for their appointment with the pediatric dentist by helping them learn what to expect. The book also teaches them emergency dental care for kids; this helps your children get the best kids’ emergency dental care if something happens. In addition to this practical information, it teaches your kids about the anatomy, history, and lore of teeth. This is one of the rare dentist books for kids that is absolutely packed with information. It’s especially great for kids who love science and learning.

8. The Magic School Bus and the Missing Tooth by Jeanette Lane

When the kids find a lost tooth in their classroom, they go on a mission to find out whose tooth it is. Along the way, they learn about different types of teeth in humans and animals, their jobs, how they develop, and why our baby teeth are eventually replaced by adult teeth. It’s a colorful and entertaining read for first and second graders who are beginning to lose teeth, and it will teach them a lot of genuinely useful and interesting information along the way!

9. Chirpy Charlie’s Teeth by Marta Zafrilla

Charlie is a bird who watches his owner, Julie, brush her teeth every morning to avoid getting a cavity and filling. He decides he needs to look after his teeth, too—but since he’s a bird, he doesn’t know how! After Charlie tries a lot of different creative methods without success, Julie points out that he doesn’t have any teeth—just a beak! The story and art are adorable and entertaining for your children, but it doesn’t provide very many hard facts; its message about the importance of oral hygiene is still clear, however, so it makes a great supplementary read for your little ones.

10. Going to the Dentist by Anne Civardi

This book follows Jake and Jessie when they visit the dentist; although there isn’t much of a plot, it provides a step-by-step explanation of a dental appointment. It also goes into a little detail about removing a cavity, describing the numbing shot and dental drill. This can be very useful if your child needs a filling, but it’s easy to skip over if you’re worried the details will scare your little one. Generally, however, these explanations remove the unknown elements of their visit, which helps relieve dental anxiety.

Whether you’re trying to prepare your children for their first appointment with their pediatric dentist, reduce their dental anxiety, or teach them about oral hygiene, books are a fun and engaging way to make the lesson stick. Accomplishing these goals will make your life easier and will benefit your children for the rest of their lives!

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Oral Health Uncategorized

Is Your Kid’s Tooth Pain a Dental Emergency?

What to Do If Your Child Has a Tooth Pain

If your child is currently experiencing a dental emergency in Rochester, NY, contact our office for prompt assistance. If you are calling after-hours, our answering service is available to take your call and relay your message to Dr. Shea, who will contact you as soon as possible.

Pain is a complex experience. While some pain directly results from tissue damage (like a scraped knee), pain can also be triggered indirectly (the way chocolate may trigger a migraine in certain individuals). So what does it mean if your child is experiencing tooth pain?

When teeth are healthy and structurally sound, they’re generally without feeling, thanks to the non-living tooth enamel that coats them. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, making it the perfect substance to withstand the forces of chewing and protect the sensitive living tissue (known as pulp) that’s at the center of each tooth. If tooth enamel is compromised by injury or decay, pulp can become irritated and inflamed, sending strong signals to the pain centers in your child’s brain that something is not okay.

When to See the Pediatric Dentist

While some conditions can cause referred tooth pain (like a sinus infection), most toothaches are the result of tooth damage, injury, or decay. So does your child’s toothache warrant an emergency trip to the pediatric dentist?

In most cases, the answer is yes, as healthy teeth don’t cause toothaches and tooth pain is a distressing experience for your child. While not all dental emergencies will require an after-hours visit, your child will experience less pain and stress if dental issues are handled with urgency.

Here’s how you can respond to the most common kids’ dental issues and injuries and help your child enjoy a smile that’s beautiful, healthy, and pain-free.

1. Toothache

Toothaches can cause a dull throb or sharp pain, which is unpleasant at best and severe at worst. Most toothaches are caused by tooth decay, gum disease, or infection, though they can also originate from other dental issues, such as teeth grinding or clenching (known as bruxism).

No matter the cause and even if you can’t see signs of damage, tooth pain is a sign that your child needs to see their pediatric dentist ASAP. In the meantime, you can help your child find temporary relief by swishing their mouth with salt water, applying a few drops of clove oil with a cotton swab, or administering over-the-counter pain medications per their instructions.

2. Pain or Swelling

If your child is experiencing facial swelling, red gums, or tooth pain or sensitivity while chewing, they may have an abscessed tooth. Caused by a bacterial infection, an abscessed tooth has a pocket of pus that’s trapped within the gums or at the tip of a tooth’s root. An abscessed tooth can cause pain in the tooth itself, in addition to radiating pain in the ear, neck, or jaw.

As an abscessed tooth can cause excruciating pain and serious health risks, it’s vital to seek prompt emergency care from your child’s pediatric dentist. If your child has intense or throbbing tooth pain that’s accompanied by fever, facial swelling, a rapid heart rate, confusion, or difficulty breathing or swallowing, take your child to the nearest emergency room. These symptoms may mean that the infection has spread into your child’s jaw or surrounding tissues, which requires swift medical treatment to prevent a life-threatening condition known as sepsis.

3. Chips or Breaks

Though they may or may not cause pain, chips and breaks should be evaluated and treated as soon as possible to avoid unpleasant complications, such as pain, further damage, a tooth abscess, or tooth loss.

Contact your pediatric dentist ASAP if your child has a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth. While you wait to be seen, you can help your child temporarily ease pain with a warm, salt-water gargle or by applying a wrapped ice pack to your child’s check for up to 20 minutes once an hour. If you recovered any tooth fragments, you can preserve the pieces in cold milk or an emergency tooth preservation product approved by the ADA.

4. Knocked Out Tooth

Apart from when our baby teeth fall out naturally, our teeth aren’t meant to move—let alone get knocked out or loose. That said, having a tooth knocked in any way out of place is a traumatic dental injury that requires immediate emergency care from your child’s pediatric dentist to try to save the tooth and prevent future complications.

If your child has traumatically lost or loosened a tooth, use sterile gauze pads to control any bleeding and then work to quickly locate the tooth. Avoid touching the tooth roots when you pick up the tooth, then gently rinse it under slow-running water. Next, place the tooth in a small container of cold milk or an ADA-approved emergency tooth preservation product. Alternately, if your child is old enough and able, have your child hold the tooth between their cheek and gums to prevent the tooth from drying out on the way to the pediatric dentist office.

5. Cuts on Inner Cheeks, Lips, or Tongue

As your child engages in the world around them through sports, climbing, and play, they may get minor cuts every now and again inside their mouths. Many of these superficial oral injuries can be safely and effectively treated with first aid at home. For instance, you can rinse the area with cold water for several minutes or give your child an ice cube to suck on to reduce bleeding and swelling if they’re old enough to do so safely. If needed, you can also apply direct pressure to the injury with a clean cloth or bandage to stop the bleeding.

If your child has an injury to the tissue inside of their mouth that won’t stop bleeding or otherwise seems severe, seek immediate treatment at your nearest emergency room. If your child also damaged or knocked out a tooth, priority will be given to stopping the bleeding, and can be followed by an emergency dentist visit to help save or restore a knocked out or damaged tooth.

6. Bleeding Gums

If your child’s gums are red, swollen, or bleed easily, they may have gingivitis. The earliest form of periodontal (gum) disease, gingivitis is often caused by excessive plaque buildup along the gumline. Unless plaque is disrupted by daily oral hygiene habits and routine dental visits, plaque will irritate your child’s gum tissue and cause the gums to bleed easily and become red and swollen.

Gingivitis is not an urgent dental emergency, though your child should see their pediatric dentist right away to prevent more serious dental issues with a deep cleaning. Along with getting your child’s oral health back on track, seeing your child’s pediatric dentist ASAP can spare your child from undesirable and uncomfortable oral health complications, including tooth loss and tissue damage.

From preventative dental visits to emergency care, Dr. Shea is here to support your child’s oral health and comfort at every age. Increase your peace of mind by adding our office number to your contact list in case of a dental emergency and by scheduling your child’s next preventative dental appointment.

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Oral Health Pediatric Dentistry

Ways to Prevent Serious Dental Issues Commonly Seen in Children

Protect baby teeth for optimal oral health.

While children are susceptible to the same serious dental issues as adults, there are simple steps parents can take to prevent problems and support better oral health. First and foremost, it is important to understand that baby teeth play a vital role in a child’s development. Just because baby teeth will eventually fall out, doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be cared for properly. Protecting baby teeth will ensure that your children can enjoy optimal oral health that will set them up for a lifetime of smiles. Keep reading to learn more about the most common dental issues in children and how you can prevent them.

1. Tooth Decay

The most common dental issue that affects children is dental decay. As bacteria collects in the mouth, it turns into plaque, which begins to cover the teeth and eat away at the enamel. While small cavities and minor tooth decay may not cause any noticeable symptoms, advanced decay can result in tooth sensitivity, pain, swelling, and visible signs of decay such as black, brown, or white spots. 

Causes of Tooth Decay and Preventative Steps You Can Take

Perhaps the biggest cause of tooth decay is poor oral hygiene habits. Regular brushing and flossing are essential to controlling bacteria and removing plaque. Children should brush at least twice a day and see the dentist twice a year for a professional evaluation and cleaning. A dentist will be able to detect any early signs of decay and help take preventative measures to avoid more serious problems. It is also important for you to encourage proper dental hygiene and monitor your child’s habits to make sure they are thoroughly cleaning their teeth.

Poor nutrition can also contribute to tooth decay. Diets that are high in sugar and carbohydrates feed bacteria and create more acid in the mouth. This will break down the enamel over time and cause serious problems.

Treating Tooth Decay

For children who are in the more advanced stages of tooth decay a filling, crown and even an implant may be necessary. If the cavity is superficial and hasn’t attacked the center of the tooth or caused an infection in the root, a filling will be able to address the problem. However, more severe decay will require a kid’s dental crown. 

While baby teeth will naturally fall out on their own, this transition to adult teeth follows an important developmental pattern. If decayed baby teeth fall out too early, it can affect how permanent teeth come in and lead to further problems. In addition, you don’t want your child to suffer from the pain and discomfort of decaying and infected teeth. That is why children’s dental crowns are a common and effective treatment for advanced decay.

2. Gum Disease

Gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, is an infection that attacks the gums and structures that support teeth, including the jaw bone. You have probably heard of and been warned about gingivitis. This is considered the first sign of gum disease. If gingivitis is allowed to progress, the gums will pull away from the teeth, which forms pockets where bacteria will accumulate, grow, and cause infections. Children with full-fledged gum disease will experience damaged tissue and tooth loss. 

Causes of Gum Disease

While genetics, illnesses, and certain medications can cause or contribute to gum disease, most cases can be attributed to poor oral hygiene habits. This is especially true when it comes to young patients.

Preventing Gum Disease in Children

It all comes down to regular brushing and flossing and bi-annual visits to the dentist. Children may still be developing the motor skills they need to brush thoroughly. They also may be resistant to making oral hygiene a part of their daily routine. That is why it is important for parents to help with brushing when necessary and try to make it a fun activity that kids don’t dread. This can help establish healthy patterns that carry on into adulthood. 

3. Crooked Teeth

Having crooked teeth is more than just an aesthetic concern. Misaligned teeth can cause jaw pain, an irregular bite, speech difficulties, periodontal disease, and overcrowding in the mouth. While crooked teeth can be corrected using traditional orthodontic methods and more modern clear aligners, these treatments can be expensive. It is better to take steps early in childhood in order to support proper development and prevent crooked teeth than have to fix them later in life. 

Causes of Crooked Teeth

Kids may be genetically prone to crooked teeth, but poor nutrition and dental care can also add to the problem. If children aren’t seeing a family dentist for regular evaluations, then some of the issues that can lead to crooked teeth will go untreated. In addition, a dentist can monitor tooth movement to make sure other major problems don’t arise.

Preventing Crooked Teeth in Children

The best way to prevent children from growing crooked adult teeth is to make sure that their baby teeth are healthy and don’t fall out prematurely. From there, you will also want to work with your family dentist to make sure that adult teeth are coming in properly. Taking corrective measures at the first sign of a problem can help your kids avoid having to undergo more extensive orthodontic treatments. 

Ultimately, the same rules apply to both children and adults. Good oral hygiene is at the heart of preventing serious dental issues, including tooth decay, gum disease, and crooked teeth. Whether you want to get your child off on the right track or you need help addressing oral health problems that have already emerged, Dr. Judith Shea and her team can help. They are experts in pediatric dentistry and understand the challenges both parents and children face. Patients enjoy the best in compassionate care and the latest tools and techniques. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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Pediatric Dentistry

10 Questions About Kids’ Cavities

Answers for Parents from a Kids Dentist   

Though they’ll eventually fall out, baby teeth are essential to your child’s immediate and long-term health, development, and self-esteem and should ideally be preserved until they’re ready to fall out naturally. Of course, life isn’t always ideal and cavities can happen—so what do you do if your child has a cavity? How are cavities treated in children? And how can you help your child prevent cavities in the first place?

Here are 10 of the top questions about kids’ cavities we hear from parents and our answers.

1. How common are cavities in baby teeth?

Five times more prevalent than asthma, dental caries (aka cavities) is the most common chronic disease of childhood. An estimated 42% of children aged two and 11 have had dental caries in their primary (baby) teeth. Early childhood caries, which encompasses cavities between birth and 71 months, affects 28% of children between two and five.

2. How do I know if my child has a cavity?

The symptoms of tooth decay can vary greatly from child to child. A cavity may be obvious to the naked eye or present no symptoms whatsoever. While the best way to know whether or not a cavity has developed is to schedule an appointment with an experienced pediatric dentist, here are a few common signs that a cavity has developed:

  • White, brown, or black spots on the teeth. White spots may indicate that tooth enamel is breaking down, making your child’s teeth vulnerable to tooth decay or sensitivity. Light brown spots usually indicate an early cavity, while brown or black spots indicate that a cavity has formed already.
  • Tooth sensitivity. If your child has enamel erosion or a cavity, they may experience temperature sensitivity or sensitivity to certain tastes, such as sour or sweet.
  • Toothache or pain. A cavity may cause tooth pain or pain in the tissues that surround it.

3. Why does my child have a cavity?

Cavities form when harmful oral bacteria get the upper hand over your child’s mouth and teeth. As these oral bacteria feed (they especially love anything sugary), they produce an acid byproduct that weakens and breaks down tooth enamel, causing cavities. Baby teeth are especially susceptible to cavities, as they have a thinner layer of protective enamel than permanent (adult) teeth.

Certain factors, alone or combined, may increase your child’s risk for cavities, including:

  • Saliva transmission. Another person’s saliva—even a parent’s—can overexpose your child to the acid-producing oral bacteria that causes cavities.
  • Diet. As oral bacterias feed on carbohydrates, a diet high in sugars and starches may contribute to the formation of cavities. Additionally, sticky foods or those that dissolve slowly, like lollipops or hard candies, give oral bacteria more time to feed.
  • Bedtime drinks. The risk of early childhood caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay) increases when sweetened liquids are used as a naptime or bedtime drink, as salivation slows during sleep. Without saliva or brushing to remove sweetened liquids from your child’s teeth, oral bacteria have a longer amount of time to feed on leftover sugars on and around your child’s teeth.
  • Dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth may be caused by multiple factors, including mouth breathing or dehydration.
  • Oral hygiene habits. Your child may be at risk for cavities if they’re not brushing long enough or often enough, or if they’re not properly flossing.

4. Is it my fault my child has a cavity?

Many parents struggle when they find out they’re child has a cavity, though there’s no need to panic or be hard on yourself. Take heart and know that a cavity doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent or that you’ve necessarily done anything wrong. A cavity may still happen despite your best efforts to prevent them through healthy lifestyle choices and a consistent oral hygiene routine. If your child has a cavity, what matters most is that you seek guidance and appropriate treatment from a pediatric dentist, and carry on with your best and well-informed efforts to prevent cavities.

5. Can I make a cavity go away?

Watching our children go through an injury or illness is never easy. If only we really could wave a magic wand and make it all go away! Though you can’t make a cavity go away once it’s formed, there is a lot you can do to support your child’s oral health and general well-being before, during, and after cavity treatment (see #9 and #10 for tips).

6. Is my child’s cavity a dental emergency?

While you should have your child seen by a kids dentist as soon as possible if you suspect they have a cavity (see #2), a cavity does not warrant an emergency dental visit as long as they are pain free.

7. Is it necessary to fill cavities in baby teeth?

If cavities are left untreated, the infection can damage other teeth and even spread into your child’s face and body. In addition to potentially affecting the health and alignment of your child’s permanent teeth, an untreated cavity can eventually impact your child’s ability to concentrate at school and properly chew and speak.

Because the consequences of an untreated cavity can be so grave, your family dentist will most likely recommend a filling or crown to support your child’s health, comfort, learning, and well-being. In some cases, the pediatric dentist may choose to monitor the tooth instead (for example, your child has a minor cavity in a baby tooth that is likely to fall out soon). Along with addressing a cavity, your family dentist may also recommend preventative measures (such as a professional fluoride treatment), diet or lifestyle changes, and at-home care.

8. How do dentists fill cavities in toddlers and children?

Cavity treatment for toddlers and children is very similar to cavity treatment for adults. First, the pediatric dentist will ensure your child is comfortable with a local anesthetic, and, if needed, sedation techniques, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Once your child is comfortable and relaxed, your dentist will remove the tooth decay from your child’s baby tooth and protect the remaining tooth structure with a filling or a pediatric dental crown.

9. How can I prepare my kid to have a cavity filling? 

One of the best things you can do for your child is keep all talk of the pediatric dentist cool, calm, and positive. While you might be frustrated or disappointed that your child has a cavity, it’s important not to frame cavity treatment as punishment, such as “you didn’t brush your teeth enough, now you have to have your tooth filled.” Instead, you can try offering some basic information, such as “the dentist is going to remove a few sugar bugs from your teeth, then your smile will be so happy and healthy!”

If discovering your child has a cavity triggers your own feelings of dental anxiety, carve out time to process your feelings with another adult, such your partner, a therapist, or a trusted friend. By finding an appropriate and healthy outlet to process your feelings, you can spare your child from framing the pediatric dentist through a lens of fear, dislike, or anxiety.

10. How can I help my child prevent cavities?

Whether or not your child has had a cavity, there are several steps you can take to minimize their risk of getting cavities in their baby and adult teeth. Along with ensuring your child is properly brushing twice daily and flossing once daily, you can help your child prevent cavities by serving water over sugary drinks, trading sippy cups for regular cups, reducing sticky, sugary or acidic foods and treats, and visiting your pediatric dentist twice annually.

Dr. Shea and her team are dedicated to providing high quality dentistry for children to the greater Rocester and Chili, NY communities. To help your child experience the benefits great oral health brings, contact our office to schedule an appointment today.

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Pediatric Dentistry

Dental Care for Kids: Oral Care Guide for Parents

The best approach to cavities is prevention.

At least 16.9% of American children between the ages of five and 19 have untreated cavities. If an average school classroom size is 30 students, that means that five kids are suffering from a cavity.

When left untreated, cavities can transform into a larger dental issue. Sometimes, cavities can become extremely painful, making it hard for kids to play, speak, and even learn.

So, how can you protect your child from the pain of a cavity or further oral health issues?

The key is prevention. With the right information and care, you can protect your child’s oral  health. Read on to learn about dental care for kids and what you can do to keep your child healthy at every age.

Brush Twice a Day

Just like adults, children need to brush their teeth twice a day. Regular brushing is the best way to prevent cavities and gum irritation.

Make sure your kids are brushing their teeth for at least two minutes. This applies to adults too! This is the amount of time it takes to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Flossing is also a big part of a good oral care routine. It helps clear away food and bacteria under the gums and between the teeth. As soon as your child has teeth that touch, you can start using floss.

Consider Fluoride Treatments and Sealants

Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps strengthen enamel (the hard outer layer on your teeth) and prevent cavities. You can find it in most types of toothpaste. Plus, many U.S. towns and cities add fluoride to their tap water.

You can also opt for fluoride treatments from the dentist for even better cavity prevention. These may come in the form of a gel tray, foam, or varnish.

Another effective way to prevent cavities is to get sealants. A sealant is a thin plastic-like coating that a dentist applies to the crevices in your child’s molars. The sealant blocks bacteria and food from getting stuck there and causing decay.

Sealants cut your child’s risk for cavities by 80%. In fact, children without sealants are three times more likely to get cavities than kids without them.

Using fluoride treatments and sealants as well as fluoride-treated tap water and toothpaste will dramatically reduce your child’s risk for cavities.

See the Dentist Regularly


At every age, it’s important to take your child to regular dental checkups. Regular cleanings and checkups can prevent small issues from becoming major dental problems.

Children’s dentists know how to look for developmental or structural issues with your child’s teeth and jaw. They’ll look for issues with the bite pattern, teeth alignment, jaw growth and structure, and check for cavities.

Routine dental appointments can make your child feel more comfortable at the dentist’s office. If you ever need emergency dental care for your kids, your child won’t feel as nervous if they’re used to visiting the dentist.

Dental Care for Infants

When you’re caring for an infant, dental care is probably the last thing on your mind. Feeding, changing diapers, and playing takes up most of your time. Besides, babies don’t even have teeth yet.

But, you can protect your baby’s mouth and future teeth. Use a clean cloth to wipe their gums once in the morning and once at night. This keeps sugar and bacteria from hanging around and causing irritation.

When the first tooth comes in, book your baby’s first dentist appointment. The first tooth usually appears between four and seven months, but it can take longer than that. Either way, your baby should see a dentist at or before their first birthday.

You can also use a soft infant toothbrush and some water to clean your baby’s teeth. Ask your dentist when you should add fluoride toothpaste to the routine.

Dental Care for Kids

In childhood, it’s really important to establish a dental hygiene routine. Be sure to supervise your child’s brushing habits to make sure they’re cleaning each tooth. They’ll carry the habits they learn into adolescence.

Try turning it into a game or playing music to make it more fun. You can also brush your teeth alongside your child to model good brushing behavior. Plus, it can be a fun morning and evening ritual.

If your child is less than three years old, use a rice-grain sized amount of kid’s toothpaste. Ask your dentist for recommendations on a toothpaste that best fits your child. You don’t want to use too much fluoridated toothpaste because over mineralization of the teeth can leave white marks on the tooth’s surface. After age three, you can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Dental Care for Teens

When your child is a teenager, you need to make sure that they continue the hygiene practices they learned as a kid. Plus, they still need to see a dentist twice a year.

By the time your child is a teenager, they will have all or most of their adult teeth. Good hygiene is especially important at this age since their teeth are permanent. Unlike baby teeth, there’s no backup for adult teeth.

Contact sports can also pose a risk to your teenager’s teeth. If your kid plays football, baseball, or softball, make sure they wear their mouthguard.

As your teen’s mouth grows, their teeth can start to shift at this age. Your dentist will give you advice on whether or not your child needs braces or orthodontic care. Wisdom teeth can also pose an issue at this age, but your dentist can monitor this as well.

Book Your Child’s Next Dentist Appointment Today

In addition to good hygiene and a healthy diet, keeping regular dentist appointments is the best way to make sure your child’s dental health is on track. But, visiting the dentist can be a stressful experience for kids.

That’s why it’s so important to choose the right pediatric dental group that can provide the best dental care for your kids. If you want to take your child to the best dentist in Rochester, NY, you can’t go wrong with Dr. Judith Shea. She’s a board-certified pediatric dentist.

Since Dr. Shea specializes in dental care for kids, both you and your child can rest easy. Your kid will have a happy, stress-free appointment, and you’ll feel relieved knowing you’re protecting your child’s oral health.

To book an appointment or schedule a visit to our office, contact us today.