Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

    Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.

  • At what age should my child visit the dentist?

    The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s first visit to the dentist should occur by 12 months of age. This visit will enable the dentist to evaluate your child and introduce you to proper oral hygiene. Diet, fluoride, finger, and pacifier habits and tooth eruption will be discussed to ensure optimal dental health.

  • How often should my child have a dental exam and cleaning?

    You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits depending on how well your child cleans their teeth. Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums.

  • What can I do to make my child’s first visit positive?

    In preparation for your child’s first visit, do not use words that will evoke anxiety or fear. Explain to you child that they will have their teeth counted and sparkled, and that the dentist will explain everything, making it really fun and easy. Small children usually perform better in the morning, so scheduled the visit earlier in the day. Don’t bribe your child. Bribing a child could cause the child to question the visit. Answer all questions with a simple explanation of the visit, using non-threatening words like “drill”, “hurt” or “shot”, and leave the rest to us!!

  • Why do baby teeth need to be filled?

    Decayed teeth that are not fixed can cause pain and infection. This can cause your child to undergo more extensive procedures in the attempt to save the tooth. Teeth that are very badly decayed however, may need to be removed. The premature loss of a baby tooth may have an impact on how the tooth or surrounding teeth later in life come in. Early loss of baby teeth may cause shifting or loss of space for the adult tooth to erupt. Also, tooth decay is a bacterial infection, and it can spread if it is not treated. The permanent teeth under the gum can be affected if the decay is not treated, having long-lasting effects on your child.

  • Why are “baby teeth” important?

    Primary teeth are also known as “baby teeth.” The first tooth is usually lost around age 6 and some primary molars remain in place until 12 or 13 years of age. Primary teeth are necessary for proper chewing, speech, growth and development of the upper and lower jaws, proper alignment of the adult teeth and favorable esthetics. Care of the primary teeth is important not only for proper function, but also to avoid a number of unpleasant conditions, such as pain, that result from their neglect. Decayed teeth that are not fixed can cause pain and infection. Teeth that are very badly decayed may need to be removed. Tooth decay is a bacterial infection, and it can spread if it is not treated. Also, the permanent teeth under the gum can be affected if the decay is not treated.

  • How important is a child’s diet in the prevention of cavities?

    Although a well-balanced diet is important in preventing cavities and to ensure good general health, yet cavities are not only the result of what children eat, but also the frequency of meals. Whether it’s a toddler or teen, frequent snacking without brushing leaves food on the teeth longer and increases the likelihood of a cavity developing. Children that ‘graze” during the day have a much higher caries susceptibility than those children who limit snacking throughout the day. For infants, remember it’s not just what your baby is drinking, it’s also how often. The more time the liquids (other than water) are in a baby’s mouth via bottle or breast, the higher the risk. This is why it is dangerous to let your baby go to sleep with a bottle or at mom’s breast, or use a bottle as a pacifier during the day.

  • Which snacks are okay for my child to eat?

    According to the ADA, here are a few tips for snacking and mealtime for children of all ages

    • Give your child healthy snack foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt and low-fat cheeses.
    • Buy foods that are sugar-free or unsweetened.
    • Serve sugary or starchy foods as part of a meal rather than as a snack. Most children drink liquids during a meal. This will wash many bits of food off the teeth. Saliva also does a good job of clearing the teeth.
    • Avoid “retentive” foods unless your child plans to brush right after he or she eats them. These foods get between teeth and are hard to remove from the grooves in the tooth surface. Some of these foods include:


    1. Cookies, doughnuts, cakes
    2. Dried figs, raisins, gummy fruit snacks
    3. Granola bars
    4. Jelly beans, or any sticky/gummy treats or candies
    5. Potato chips, pretzels
    6. Puffed oat cereal


    • Offer fewer snacks throughout the day.
    • After your child snacks, make sure his or her teeth are brushed. If this isn’t possible, have your child rinse with water several times.
    • Encourage your child to choose xylitol-sweetened or sugar-free gum. Certain gums have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance for helping prevent cavities by strengthening teeth (i.e. Orbit).

  • What do I do if my child is in an accident?

    If your child has an accident, please call our office as soon as possible. We will see your child immediately. If it is an after-hours emergency, the answering service will contact the doctors and you will be contacted as soon as the message is received. We are on call 24/7 365 days a year. Our normal daily schedule may be delayed in order to accommodate an injured child. Please accept our apologies in advance should an emergency occur during your child’s appointment. You can also refer to our website for trauma instructions for all types of dental problems at

  • Is candy the only thing that causes cavities?

    No. When most people think of sugar, they think of the white sugar that is found in candy and baked goods. But all foods that contain carbohydrates will ultimately break down into sugars. Bacteria don’t care whether you eat a lollipop or a pretzel. It tastes the same to them! Additionally, frequent “sipping” on sugar-drinks (including juice, soda, and some sports drinks) in a baby bottle, “sippy” cup, or re-sealable bottle can cause widespread dental cavities.

  • Are there things I can do at home to promote good oral health for my baby?

    The ADA provides these helpful tips on preventing early childhood caries:

    • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle unless it is filled with plain water. Even watered-down fruit juice or milk can increase the risk of cavities.
    • Try to wean your infant from the bottle and pacifier when he or she is 12 to 14 months old.
    • During the day, don’t use a bottle to comfort your baby unless it’s filled with plain water.
    • Don’t dip your baby’s pacifier in sugar or sugary liquids, or add sugar to their food.
    • Clean your baby’s teeth and gums with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush after each feeding
    • Do not pass saliva from parent to child via utensils, foods, etc., especially if the parent has had a significant caries history
    • Take your baby to the dentist by their first birthday.
    • Teach your baby to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday. Avoid sippy cups if possible.
    • Make sure your baby is getting the right amount of fluoride. If your drinking water does not contain fluoride, ask your doctor or dentist about fluoride supplements
    • Establish a dental home.
    • Maintain regular dental visits.
  • What is a dental home?

    A “Dental Home” is term used to describe a place where your child’s oral health care is managed in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated, and family-centered way by a dentist properly trained to treat a young child’s growing needs. Topics including growth and development, trauma and diet are a few of the topics that will be discussed with the parents. Establishing a Dental Home also allows the dentist to instruct both parents and children about proper hygiene and home-care techniques that, when used in conjunction with the preventative services a pediatric dentist can offer, will provide the best environment for a successful dental experience during the child’s development.
    Previously, cavities in baby teeth were on the decline from the early 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. More recently however, dental cavities in the age group of 2 to 11 have shown a small, but significant increase. To help reduce a child’s risk of decay, it is now recommended that a “Dental Home” be established no later than 12 months of age Tooth decay, if left untreated, can have serious effects on a child’s long-term health and well-being. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is Early Childhood Caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). Children risk severe decay from using a bottle during naps or at night or when they nurse continuously from the breast. Childhood cavities have been linked to lower than ideal body weight and lost time in school. Some of us may be all too aware that the effects of poor oral health may be felt for a lifetime. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Dental Association (ADA) support the concept of a “Dental Home”.

  • What are dental sealants and who can benefit from them?

    Sealants are adhesive coatings that are applied to the biting surfaces of the teeth and can be very effective in preventing tooth decay. The chewing surface of children’s teeth are the most susceptible to cavities and least benefited from fluorides. Our sealants are BPA-free. Current research has shown that 4 out of 5 cavities in children under age 15 develop on the biting surface of back molars. These teeth are the most susceptible to decay because plaque accumulates in the tiny grooves of the chewing surfaces. Sealants prevent the cavities that fluoride and tooth brushing cannot effectively reach.

  • What do I do if my child has a sucking habit?

    Sucking is a very natural reflex for infants and can include finger, thumb or pacifier use. It gives the child a sense of security and happiness, and often helps them soothe themselves when they’re tired or upset. Unfortunately prolonged sucking habits may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth or position of the teeth, especially if your child is an “aggressive” sucker. Typically a child will stop a sucking habit between 2-4 years of age, but it is best if any habit like that is discontinued by 18-24 months. The chance of dental problems depends on how often, how long, and how intensely the sucking is done. Some tips to help are:

    • Never scold a child for sucking their thumb. It will evoke insecurity and actually cause them to suck more. Praise them when they don’t suck.
    • Focus on why and when the child is sucking since sucking usually occurs when the child is feeling insecure or nervous.
    • Reward the child when he or she avoids sucking their thumb
    • Other non-invasive techniques could include bandaging the finger or thumb used when sucking, or placing a thin sock over the offending hand. Usually a pacifier is an easier habit to control because it can be isolated from the child. If all else fails, the dentist can fabricate a habit breaking appliance if the child is ready.

  • Is a sippy cup okay for my child to use?

    Children should be encouraged to begin drinking from a regular cup by time they are one year old. If a sippy cup must be used, the best type of cup is one with no valves. A sippy cup with a valve is a glorified bottle. The only way to learn to sip from a sippy cup is to find one without a valve. A valve cup prolongs the sucking habit, similar to a baby bottle. Also, do not let your child walk around with the cup all day, sipping at will. The constant bathing of the teeth in any sugary liquid or milk will increase the child’s cavity risk. Once the child has learned to sip out of the sippy cup, the training cup has achieved its purpose, and the child is ready to graduate to a regular cup.

  • What do I do if my child grinds his/ her teeth?

    Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is surprisingly common in children under 5 and usually happens while they sleep. Often, the first indication of bruxism is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice the wear (teeth getting shorter) of their child’s teeth. The cause of bruxism is unknown. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. can influence a child to grind their teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing, when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure. Yet another, points to children that are restless sleepers. Lastly, some believe it may be due to the misalignment of the child’s teeth/jaw. The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is present, then a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged during sleep and it may interfere with growth of the jaws. The positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary dentition. The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. Children who grind their teeth tend to do so at two peak times — when their baby teeth emerge and when their permanent teeth come in. Most children lose the teeth grinding habit after these two sets of teeth have come in more fully. The grinding decreases between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with your pediatrician or pediatric dentist. Grinding of the baby teeth rarely results in problems. However, older children may need temporary crowns or other methods, such as a night guard, to prevent the grinding if the permanent teeth become affected. Teeth grinding can cause jaw pain, headaches, wear on the teeth, and TMD. Consult your dentist if your child’s teeth look worn or if your child complains of tooth sensitivity or pain.
    Specific tips to help a child stop grinding his or her teeth include:

    • Decrease your child’s stress, especially just before bed.
    • Try massage and stretching exercises to relax the muscles.
    • Make sure your child’s diet includes plenty of water. Dehydration may be linked to teeth grinding.
    • Make the child’s room as quiet and dark as possible to limit external stimuli.
    • Ask your dentist to monitor your child’s teeth if he or she is a grinder.


American Dental Association Oral Health Topics
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry FAQ
American Association of Orthodontists FAQ
Medline Plus Child Dental Health
NYS Dental Health Certificate Program
NYS Department of Health-Oral Health
My Children’s Teeth
How to brush
How to floss