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Pediatric Dentistry

7 Common Questions About Pediatric Dentistry

Find the answers to your questions about pediatric dentistry.

When it comes to dental health, parents want nothing more than for their child to have a bright, healthy smile. A big part of building a foundation of strong oral health for your child is picking the right dental professional.

If you’re a new parent looking for the best dentist for your baby or you’re considering the benefits of switching your child from the family dentist to their own pediatric dentist, we’re here to help. Here are the answers to the 7 most common questions Dr. Shea gets from parents about pediatric dentistry.

1. What’s the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

Family dentists provide general dental care for individuals and families, including children, while  pediatric dentists focus solely on providing dental care for children. Pediatric dental groups have no minimum patient age limit for kids and continue to provide care for their young patients up until high school and sometimes even the first year or two of college. Family dental groups may have a minimum patient age limit, usually around two to four years of age, and no maximum age limit.

Another significant difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist is education. After four years of dental school, pediatric dentists will undertake an additional two years of schooling completely focused on kids’ dental care, including diagnostics, treatment, and even soft skills training, such as interacting with children or treating kids with special needs.

2. What are the advantages of a pediatric dentist versus a family dentist?

The expertise of a pediatric dentist can’t be beaten. A skilled pediatric dentist like Dr. Shea is able to pick up on signs of trouble in a child’s oral development that a family dentist may not notice. In fact, family dentists may even refer their young patients to a dedicated pediatric practice for the treatment of trickier issues (i.e. chronic tooth decay or pediatric gum disease).

Pediatric dentists and their staff are also very knowledgeable in how to speak with kids, especially children with severe fear or special needs, putting them at ease, and helping them understand why oral health is important. Family dentists may love kids, but they are not required to undergo professional training in working with children..

3. Which dental care services can I expect from a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists provide general dental care for kids, primarily focusing on preventive and restorative dentistry. Preventive dentistry is all about stopping problems before they happen through proper oral hygiene, diet recommendations, and the use of dental sealants to prevent decay. Restorative dentistry is used to treat an issue, such as tooth decay, through the use of fillings, crowns, bridges, etc.

Dr. Shea provides complete pediatric dental services as well as orthodontic evaluations and emergency dental care.

4. When should my child start seeing a dentist and how often should appointments be?

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) both recommend parents schedule their kids’ first appointment either within six months of their first tooth erupting or by their first birthday. Following through on this early appointment timeline is a fantastic way of getting your baby accustomed to seeing a dentist and having their mouth examined.

Most kids will do great with biannual check-ups and cleanings, just like adults. Your child’s dentist may also recommend more frequent appointments under special circumstances, such as to monitor a cavity prior to treatment.

5. My child is afraid of dentists. How can a pediatric dentist help them get over their fears?

Dental anxiety or fear of the dentist is completely normal, especially for kids who have just begun to visit a dentist on a regular basis. Pediatric dentists, like Dr. Shea and her team, have the training and experience with helping kids who are fearful or nervous. This includes comfort care practices, speaking in a kid-friendly manner, and providing gentle treatment.

With time and patience, many kids naturally develop more confidence and even look forward to their trips to the dentist.

6. In the event of a dental emergency, can a pediatric dentist help my child?

Emergency dental care for kids is an important consideration for parents. Accidents happen and when they do you’ll want to know exactly who to call. The good news is many pediatric dentists do offer emergency dental care for kids, including Dr. Shea.

If your child is experiencing a dental emergency, call our office right away and follow the instructions on our phone voicemail to access our emergency phone number. Dental emergencies include an adult tooth being knocked out, severe toothaches or pain, oral swelling, oral bleeding, or a broken tooth.

7. What can I expect during my kid’s first visit with a new pediatric dentist?

Your first appointment with Dr. Shea will be easy-breezy! The goal of the first appointment is for Dr. Shea and her team to meet you and your kids, discuss your child’s oral health, and conduct an initial examination. If a problem is spotted during the examination, Dr. Shea will also put together a treatment plan.

All you need to do as the parent is bring along your kids’ insurance cards and be sure you’ve filled out our New Patient forms. If you’re unable to fill out these forms, please arrive about 10 minutes early so you have time to complete paper copies before the appointment.

When you’re ready to schedule your child’s first visit with Dr. Shea, just give us a call!

You’ll find our contact information on our website or fill out this appointment request form—it’s up to you!

For urgent appointments or questions, calling our office directly is recommended. For non-emergencies during non-business hours, feel free to leave a message on our answering machine and we’ll get back to you the next day.

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Pediatric Dentistry

What Can I Expect During My Kid’s First Dentist Visit?

Your child’s first dentist visit is a big milestone in their life—here’s how to prepare for it!

Your child’s smile lights up your world, and as a parent, you want to do everything possible to ensure their smile is bright and healthy. The first step towards investing in your child’s smile now and for the future starts with their first visit with a pediatric dentist.

Unlike general or family dentists, pediatric dentists focus solely on providing expert dental care just for kids. In addition to their expertise in kids’ oral health, pediatric dentists like Dr. Shea are also pros at interacting with children in a manner that boosts their confidence and engages their interest in caring for their teeth!

If you’re considering booking your child’s first appointment with Dr. Shea, here’s everything you need to know for the big day.

When to schedule your child’s first dental appointment.

Before we dive into what to expect during your child’s first dentist visit, let’s go over when parents should book that first appointment.

Dr. Shea highly recommends parents follow the American Dental Association (ADA) and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines, which advise that a child’s first dental appointment should happen within six months of them getting their first tooth or by their first birthday. After the initial dental visit, you can schedule your kids’ future appointments every six months, unless Dr. Shea recommends more frequent checkups.

How to prepare your child for their first visit with a dentist.

Before your child’s first dental visit, it’s a good idea to help prepare them for the big day. The smoother their first few visits go, the more positive a relationship they’ll develop with their dentist over time.

For babies and toddlers, you can help prepare them by getting them used to their mouths being examined. Take a look inside their mouths and gently feel around their gums with your finger or an infant toothbrush. Keep these sessions short, upbeat, and try to make it a fun game!

For older toddlers and kids, let them know about their new dentist and explain how a dentist is a helpful friend who wants them to have healthy teeth. Go over what may happen during the appointment and be cautious of the lingo you use. You want to keep a positive tone and be careful to not refer to the dentist or dental procedures in a way that may make your child think they have a reason to worry.

Ask your child if they have any questions and do your best to answer them. If your child does tell you they’re afraid, acknowledge this emotion and reassure them. Let them know it’s natural to feel a little worried, but reiterate that there’s no reason to feel afraid of their new dentist or the dental team.

What happens during your child’s first appointment?

Your child’s first dental appointment will be fairly simple and usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

There are two primary goals for a first visit:

  1. For your child to meet their new dentist and the dental team, and begin to develop a trusting relationship with them.
  2. For the dentist to get an idea of your child’s current oral health and to check for signs of trouble.

The bulk of the first appointment will be a thorough oral examination.

After introducing herself to you and your child, Dr. Shea will look inside your child’s mouth once they feel comfortable. She’ll take a close look at their teeth and gums as well as evaluate their bite alignment and jaw structure. For older children, Dr. Shea may also take x-rays.

During the examination, Dr. Shea will explain what she’s seeing and take note of any signs of an oral health issue. If Dr. Shea has found a problem, such as a cavity, she’ll go over what treatment options are available.

Dr. Shea will also go over in detail how to care for your child’s teeth at home.

Dental appointments are really important, but at-home oral hygiene is just as vital to your child’s long-term oral health.

Dr. Shea will explain what type of oral hygiene routine is best suited for your child based on their age. For babies who are just getting their teeth, Dr. Shea will cover how to clean their gums and budding teeth. For toddlers, you’ll learn what oral care products to use and how to introduce teeth brushing.

If your child is already learning to brush their own teeth, Dr. Shea will have them practice brushing and flossing so you and your child can get refreshed on proper technique together.

Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you or your child might have.

There’s nothing Dr. Shea and her team love more than answering any question our patients’ inquisitive minds can think up. Encourage your child to ask us any questions they might have about their teeth or about dentists in general.

Parents should also feel free to ask us any questions they might have about their child’s oral health, whether it’s about picking the right kids’ toothpaste or what a smile-friendly diet looks like.

Ready to book your child’s first appointment with Dr. Shea?

Once you and your child are ready to meet Dr. Shea and her team, all you need to do is call our office or fill out our online appointment request form. Be sure to fill out the New Patient forms before their appointment, if you can to streamline your visit.

We look forward to meeting you and your family!

 

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Pediatric Dentistry

6 Ways We Make Your Child’s First Dentist Visit Easier for Your Child and You

Comfortable, Quality Dentistry for Children

Scheduling your child’s first dental appointment can seem like a daunting task—even once you’ve found the perfect dentist, it’s easy to get caught up in worrying about the details. You might find yourself stressing out about insurance coverage, whether you’ll be late to the appointment, or how your child will react. Despite this, your child’s first dental appointment is very important; it provides a chance for their pediatric dentist to check each tooth for a cavity, since baby teeth are more vulnerable to decay than adult teeth, and to make sure that your little one’s baby teeth are developing normally. The appointment also allows your dentist to answer any questions you have about your child’s oral health. Here are just a few of the ways the team at our pediatric dental group works to ensure that your child’s first visit to the dentist is as smooth and easy as possible. 

1. We provide forms to prefill

Whether you’ve only been a parent for a few months or you have years of experience, you’re likely already familiar with the feeling of running late for an appointment, kids in tow, and realizing that you still have to fill out paperwork once you arrive at the office—oftentimes while keeping an eye on your little ones or trying to keep them entertained. We’ve streamlined the check-in process by providing our forms online for you to fill out before your child’s pediatric dentist appointment. Just fill them out in a spare moment and bring them with you to the appointment, so there’s less to worry about when you arrive at our office. All you need to do is make sure that you have your insurance card and any updated information about your little one’s overall health or medications.

2. We can schedule your whole family’s appointments at once.

When you have multiple kids, your days can fill up quickly; this can make it difficult to find time to schedule separate appointments for each of your children, especially if you have to take time off work in order to take each child to their appointment. We try to limit this stress by focusing on family dentistry, ensuring you can schedule all of your children for their regular dental health exams at once. You’ll be able to get all of their exams completed in a single afternoon, so it’s more convenient and easier than ever to get your little ones to their regular appointments.

3. We’re happy to discuss financial concerns before or after the appointment.

If you’re worried about affording your child’s dental care, such as a filling for a cavity, we’re always willing to discuss your concerns either before or after your child’s appointment. We can work with you to estimate how much of your child’s treatment your insurance is likely going to cover and help you to figure out the best way for you to afford any portion that isn’t covered.

4. We’re trained to handle anxious children.

Many children are anxious about going to the pediatric dentist, especially during their first appointment. It’s a new experience and they don’t know the staff well yet, so it can understandably be scary, but try not to worry about your little one too much. Kids’ dentists have special training to soothe this anxiety, and the entire staff is used to helping anxious children feel more at ease.

You can ease your child’s anxiety before the appointment by talking about it as a positive experience rather than a negative one; kids pick up on negative emotions, so they’ll be more nervous if they think that you’re worried. Trusting us to soothe their lingering anxiety will help you feel less stressed about the appointment as well. Additionally, let your children’s dentist explain treatments, like cavity fillings, to them instead of trying to explain it at home. We’ve perfected explaining procedures in simple, kid-friendly terms that help your little one feel more comfortable.

5. We offer emergency dental care for kids.

Dental issues aren’t always predictable—especially since kids can play rough or be clumsy. Toothaches or dental injuries like broken or knocked-out teeth often can’t wait for a regularly scheduled appointment and require immediate emergency dental care. When this happens, we’re prepared to provide the best kids’ emergency dental care for your little one, whether the emergency occurs during our regular business hours or not. Call our office as soon as you realize that you have a dental emergency on your hands. If we’re closed, our answering machine will provide directions to help you access our emergency line, ensuring your child can get the care they need right away, even if it’s the middle of the night. 

6. We submit your insurance claim for you as a courtesy.

Whether your child visited our office for a regularly scheduled appointment or for a dental emergency, we submit your insurance claim as a courtesy. This means there’s less paperwork and fewer phone calls with your insurance company for you to worry about—we know you have enough on your plate, so we take care of it! This allows you to focus on your child’s appointment with their pediatric dentist.

Whether you’re taking your child in for routine care or a dental emergency, knowing that you’ve chosen the best dentist in Rochester, NY, for your family can help you and your child take each step in their oral healthcare journey with confidence. The foundation that you and your children’s dentists lay out for your child while they’re young can help them develop strong teeth and build healthy habits early on—which will stick with them for the rest of their lives. When you’re ready to visit the dentist for a consultation, call our office or request an appointment with our handy online booking form. 

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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 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.