Dr. Trotter and her staff specialize in pediatric dentistry, which means our focus is on treating infants, children, and adolescents. Below are common questions and our answers about the best way to care for 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 his 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. A cleaning may also be completed, if appropriate. 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 his 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. Show your child the pictures of the office and staff on the website. Let your child know that it’s important to keep teeth and gums healthy and that Dr. Trotter
will help with that. Remember that Dr. Trotter is specially 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.

How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?
During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Trotter gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatric dentists enjoy working with children and bring to each patient our expertise in childhood development and behavior. Because our office is geared toward young visitors, you’ll find that our staff, as well as our office design, decorations, and activities, all work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.

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 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 decays 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.

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 a non-fluoridated toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste that says “swallowable” on the label 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 needed when graduating 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 until the child is seventh eight years of age.

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, called cavities.

How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Be sure that your child brushes his 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 Dr. Trotter 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.

My child plays sports; how can I protect his/her 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 the teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums.

What is Early Childhood Decay and how do I prevent it?
Infants and children who sleep with a bottle containing anything but water are in danger of developing early childhood decay. Pacifiers dipped in sugar or honey are equally dangerous. While a child sleeps the salivary process slows, which allows liquids remaining in the mouth to pool around the sleeping child’s teeth. Sugars in the liquid
combine with bacteria in the mouth to form an acid that dissolves the immature enamel. Newly erupted first teeth are highly susceptible to decay. Unfortunately, it does not take long for extensive tooth decay to develop.

Early childhood decay is easy to prevent. The following steps will help your child avoid this unpleasant condition:

  • You are not the only person who cares for your child. Warn grandparents and other caregivers about the hazards of lulling young children and infants to sleep with bottles and sweetened pacifiers.
  • Remember to massage and cleanse your infant’s gums with a soft cloth or piece of gauze after each feeding.
  • Visit Dr. Trotter between the arrival of the first tooth and the first birthday. The first visit will focus on prevention, teaching, and any questions you have. This is similar to a well-baby visit with your pediatrician.
  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup between 9 and 12 months old.

What about thumb/finger sucking and pacifiers?
Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, and pacifiers on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy or provide a sense of security during difficult periods.

Most children stop on their own between two and four years of age. Thumb sucking that extends beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. How intensely a child sucks their thumb or fingers will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs or fingers passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty stopping than those who vigorously suck their thumbs or fingers.

Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can also affect the teeth the same way as sucking a thumb or fingers. Taking a pacifier away too early may cause a child to substitute his fingers or thumb for the pacifier. However, the use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb or finger sucking or the use of pacifiers, consult with Dr. Trotter.

What about fluoride?
When the element fluoride is used in small amounts on a routine basis it helps to prevent tooth decay. It encourages “remineralization,” a strengthening of weak areas on the teeth. These spots are the beginning of cavity formation. Fluoride occurs naturally in water and in many different foods, as well as in dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, gels, varnish, and supplements. Fluoride is effective when combined with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene.

Fluoride is documented to be safe and highly effective. Research indicates water fluoridation, the most cost-effective method, has decreased the decay rate by over 50 percent. Only small amounts of fluoride are necessary for the maximum benefit. Proper toothpaste amount must be supervised in order to prevent unsightly spots on the
developing permanent teeth. Do not leave toothpaste tubes where young children can reach them. The flavors that help encourage them to brush may also encourage them to eat toothpaste.

Children under the age of three may not have the proper skills to expectorate toothpaste. There are many non-fluoridated tooth cleansers on the market for young children.

Children who benefit the most from fluoride are those at the highest risk for dental decay. Risk factors include a history of decay, high sucrose carbohydrate diet, orthodontic appliances, and certain medical conditions such as dry mouth.

Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially powdered concentrated infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Please read the label or contact the manufacturer. Many decaffeinated teas and white grape juices also contain fluoride. It is best to discuss with your
child’s pediatrician and pediatric dentist these options before supplementing with drops in order to avoid fluorosis.

What is a Band and Loop or “Spacer”?
A Band and Loop or a “Spacer” is used when a primary tooth is extracted prematurely due to an abscess or other problem to hold the space for the permanent tooth. It is used to hold the space for the permanent tooth by preventing the space from closing.

Why is a Stainless Steel Crown needed for my child?
Stainless steel crowns can be used on the primary or permanent dentition. Stainless steel crowns can be used on any tooth but we use them only when needed. They are used when the decay is large enough that a filling will not withstand the normal day to day routine for the lifetime of the tooth. Oftentimes, a tooth needing a stainless steel crown will also need a nerve treatment called a pulpotomy. During this procedure, the nerve of the tooth is removed and a medicated paste is placed to help soothe the tooth for the remainder of the lifetime of the tooth.