Pediatric Dental FAQs
We are a family dental practice, which means we focus on treating your entire family, from infants to seniors. Doctor Whitfield enjoys caring for children, and as a parent, understands the joys and challenges of raising a child.
Below are some common questions parents have about kid's dentistry and our answers about the best way to care for your children's teeth.
When should I schedule my child's first visit to the dentist?
We recommend that you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets their first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child is seen by 6 months after his/her first tooth erupts or by 1 year old, whichever is first.
What happens during my child's first visit to the dentist?
The first visit is usually short and simple. In most cases, we focus on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. The doctor will check your child's teeth for placement and health, and look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw. If necessary, we may do a bit of cleaning. We will also answer any questions you have about how to care for your child's teeth as they develop, and provide you with materials containing helpful tips that you can refer to at home.
How can I prepare my child for their first dental appointment?
The best preparation for your child's first visit to our office is maintaining a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults' apprehensions and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure that your child will fear an unpleasant experience and act accordingly. Let your child know that it's important to keep their teeth and gums healthy, and that the doctor will help them do that. Remember that your family dentist is trained to handle fears and anxiety, and our staff excels at putting children at ease during treatment.
How often should my child visit the dentist?
We generally recommend scheduling check-ups every six months. Depending on the circumstances of your child's oral health, we may recommend more frequent visits.
Baby teeth aren't permanent; why do they need special care?
Although they don't last as long as permanent teeth, your child's first teeth play an important role in their development. While they're in place, these primary teeth help your little one speak, smile and chew properly. They also hold space in the jaw for permanent teeth. If a child loses a tooth too early — due to damage or decay — nearby teeth may encroach on that space, which can result in crooked or misplaced permanent teeth. Also, your child's general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.
What's the best way to clean my baby's teeth?
Even before your baby's first tooth appears, we recommend you clean their gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as their first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. You can most likely find a toothbrush designed for infants at your local drugstore. Get more details about caring for infants' teeth
At what age is it appropriate to use toothpaste to clean my child's teeth?
Once your child has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under three, as too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing, to begin a lifelong habit he'll need when he graduates to fluoride toothpaste. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause teeth to stain. You should brush your child's teeth for him until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age six or seven.
What causes cavities?
Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.
How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Be sure that your child brushes their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as flossing can reach spots between the teeth that brushing can't. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking, and maintain a healthy diet. And finally, make regular appointments so that we can check the health of your child's teeth and provide professional cleanings.
Does my child need dental sealants?
Sealants cover the pits and fissures in teeth that are difficult to brush and therefore susceptible to decay. We recommend sealants as a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are hardest to reach. Find out more about dental sealants
My child plays sports; how can I protect their teeth?
Even children's sports involve contact, and we recommend mouthguards for children active in sports. If your little one plays baseball, soccer, or other sports, ask us about having a custom-fitted mouthguard made to protect their teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.
What should I do if my child sucks their thumb?
The large majority of children suck their thumbs or fingers as infants, and most grow out of it by the age of four, without causing any permanent damage to their teeth. If you child continues sucking after permanent teeth erupt, or sucks aggressively, let us know and we can check to see if any problems may arise from the habit.
When should my child have dental x-rays taken?
We recommend taking x-rays after three years old. The first set consists of simple pictures of the front upper and lower teeth, which familiarizes your child with the process. Once the baby teeth in back are touching each other, then regular (at least yearly) x-rays are recommended. Permanent teeth start coming in around age six, and x-rays help us make sure your child's teeth and jaw are healthy and properly aligned. If your child is at a high risk of dental problems, we may suggest having x-rays taken at an earlier age.
Call our Tukwila, WA dental office to learn more about dentistry for kids.
Your Baby's First Visit to the Dentist
It's recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of their first tooth's eruption — usually around their first birthday.
Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely they are to avoid problems.
We'll look for any signs of early problems with your baby's oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for their teeth.