General Topics

Q. Why take my child to a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry.  Following dental school, a pediatric dentist has two to three additional years of specialty training in the unique needs of young people, including those with special health needs.  We limit our practice to the treatment of children through the age of adolescence.

Q. Why do you fix cavities in baby teeth when they will eventually fall out?

Primary or “baby teeth” are important for many reasons.  Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth follow when they are ready to erupt.  Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer.  Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health, and orthodontic concerns are just a few of the problems that can happen when baby teeth are neglected.  Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth.  Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental for the overall health of your child.

Q. What causes tooth decay?

FAQ-Causes-tooth-decayFour things are necessary for cavities to form – a tooth, bacteria, sugar or other carbohydrates, and time.  Dental plaque is a thin, sticky deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone’s teeth.  When you eat, the sugars in your food cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acid that attacks the tooth enamel.  With time and repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.

Q. How safe are dental x-rays? Are digital radiographs better than traditional methods?

digital xrayRadiographs (x-rays) are a valuable aid in diagnosing oral disease and necessary to monitor growth and development.  Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.  In combination with a thorough examination, dental problems can be diagnosed and treated earlier, which often means that the treatment is less aggressive and more comfortable for your child.  Radiographs detect much more than just cavities.  For example, radiographs may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.

There is no exact timetable that our office uses to obtain radiographs for our patients, as each child’s individual circumstance and uniqueness plays a factor in determining when Dr. Stacey feels radiographs are appropriate.  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends radiographs every 6 to 18 months, depending upon certain criteria and risk factors.
Pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation.  New imaging technology (digital radiographs) requires less radiation than traditional film images, and combined with lead aprons and thyroid collars, minimize the child’s exposure to the effects of radiation.  The latest equipment filters out unnecessary x-rays and restricts the x-ray beam to the specific area of interest.  The amount of radiation received from conservative dental imaging is extremely small.  In fact, the dental radiograph represents a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem.

Q. Does your office use lasers for treatment?

Solea CO₂ laser Dr. Stacey has been a member of the Academy of Laser Dentistry since 2012. Since that time, she has used soft tissue lasers for surgical procedures and is happy to have incorporated the latest technology in laser dentistry, the Solea CO₂ laser. This amazing dual hard and soft tissue laser can be used for most procedures in dentistry (including fillings and crowns), without the need for local anesthesia (i.e., numbing). In addition to doing procedures without an injection, the use of a laser has the following benefits:

  • Bleeding can usually be controlled without sutures.
  • There is less tissue trauma and more rapid wound healing than when using cautery or scalpels.
  • There is less post-operative discomfort and reduced need for pain medication after surgery.
  • Lasers have decontaminating and bactericidal properties, requiring fewer antibiotics post-operatively.

Q. Can I stay in the room with my child during his/her visit?

As a mom herself, Dr. Stacey welcomes parents to remain with their child throughout the entire visit, with the exception of general anesthesia appointments.  Parents are not allowed into hospital operating rooms or in the operatory during in-office general anesthesia procedures.

Q. What is the best time for orthodontic treatment?

braces, orthoThe American Association of Orthodontists recommends that an initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems, or no later than age 7.  At this early age, orthodontic treatment may not actually begin, but vigilant examination can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment if necessary.

Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment.  Improving smile esthetics can dramatically improve a child’s self-esteem in their early years.  Additional benefits include improving some speech problems, creating facial symmetry, influencing jaw growth in a positive manner, and harmonizing the width of the dental arches.  Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment.  Beginning treatment at this time ensures the best result and the least amount of time and expense.

Q. What happens when the adult teeth come in behind the baby teeth?

ectopicThis is a very common occurrence in children; usually the lower front baby teeth will still be in place when a permanent tooth starts to come in.  In most cases if the child starts wiggling the baby tooth, it will fall out on its own within a few weeks.  If this does not occur, or the baby teeth are not wiggly at all, we will “help” the teeth wiggle out in the office.  The permanent tooth will usually move into its proper position once the baby tooth is removed.

Q. What age should my child stop sucking his/her thumb or pacifier?

thumb sucking, pacifierSucking is a natural reflex, and infants and young children may suck thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, and other objects (i.e., blankets).  It may make them feel secure and happy, or provide a sense of security during difficult periods.  Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.

Nonnutritive sucking behaviors are considered normal in infants and young children.  Prolonged habits (usually after 36 months of age) may result in adverse orthodontic complications (i.e., crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems).  How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether dental problems may result.  Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.  Regardless, most children stop these habits on their own without intervention from parents or dentists.
Pacifiers should not be encouraged as a substitute for thumb sucking, as they can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs.  However, the use of a pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit.  If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, please consult us.
Here are a few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:
  • Children who do not normally suck their thumb and suddenly start may be feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety instead of correcting the thumb habit.
  • Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
  • We can help encourage children to stop sucking and explain what can happen if they continue.
  • If these approaches are not helping cease the habit, remind the child of his/her thumb habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night.
  • If a sock or band aid is not working, we recommend the ThumbGuard appliance.
If your child is still sucking thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by our office.

Q. Is it normal for my child to grind their teeth at night?

Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth.  Bruxism is the habitual, nonfunctional contact between chewing surfaces of the teeth.  Approximately 1 in 4 or 5 children will, at one point or another, “grind” their teeth at night.  In the majority of cases, bruxism in the young population requires no treatment.  If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, a mouthguard (nightguard) may be indicated in certain circumstances.  Juvenile bruxism is a self-limiting condition that does not usually progress to adult bruxism. The grinding decreases between the ages of 6 and 9 and most children stop grinding between the ages 9 to 12.