What should I use to clean my baby's teeth?

You should start cleaning your baby's teeth as soon as the teeth come in. A toothbrush will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay. Any soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, should be used at least once a day at bedtime.

When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?

In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist no later than his or her first birthday. It is important to establish a comprehensive and accessible ongoing relationship between the dentist and patient – referring to this as the patient's "dental home".

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

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. Pediatric dentists have 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.

Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

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 can follow when they are ready to erupt, which can be as late as 13 years old.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and attempt to clean the area if food debris is visible. Call your pediatric dentist and provide Tylenol or Motrin. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.

Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child's teeth?

Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.

How can I prevent decay caused by nursing?

Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bedtime bottle. Also, learn the proper way to brush and floss your child's teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his or her teeth and gums checked.

How often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?

A check-up every six months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems. However, your pediatric dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their personal oral health.

Toothpaste: when should we begin using it and how much should we use?

Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced as soon as the first tooth erupts. Prior to that, parents should clean the child's gums with water and a cloth or a soft-bristled toothbrush. When the first tooth erupts, up until when the child can spit, parents should brush with a fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Parents should supervise brushing, and when the child is able to spit and make sure the child uses no less than a pea-sized amount on the brush. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.

How do I make my child's diet safe for his teeth?

Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, and meat, fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children's teeth.

What can I do to protect my child's teeth during sporting events?

Soft plastic mouth guards can be used to protect a child's teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. A custom-fitted mouth guard developed by a pediatric dentist will protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head.

How safe are dental X-rays and how will my child be protected from exposure?

There is very little risk in dental x-rays. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed.  At Desert Ridge Pediatric Dentistry, we only utilize low-dose digital x-rays, which are the newest improvement in dental diagnostic imaging.  Dental x-rays are now done electronically, almost instantly appearing on our computer screen with up to 80 percent less radiation.  This means, that you would need eight years of these new state-of-the-art low-dose digital x-rays to equal one year of the regular dental x-rays. Lead body aprons and a thyroid collar are shields to protect your child.  Today's equipment filters out unnecessary x-rays and restricts the x-ray beam to the area of interest.  Digital sensors and proper shielding decreases the amount of radiation to insignificant amounts to assure your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure. 

To emphasize the safety of dental x-rays, we quote from an article by Drs. Truhlar, Morris and Ochi in the Journal of Implant Dentistry, Vol. 2, No. 21993.  "The calculated risk of cancer to a patient from a panoramic x-ray or series of cavity detecting x-rays is less than one in a million.  To lend perspective on the relative risk of one in a million, compare to the following activities that are estimated to have a one in a million risk of causing your death."

    1.  20 minutes as a 60-year-old man (natural death)
    2.  Two months in Denver (cosmic radiation)
    3.  10 miles by bicycle (accident)
    4.  300 miles by car (accident)
    5.  10 days of typical factory work (accident)
    6.  One cigarette (chemical carcinogen)
    7.  500 ml of wine (alcohol)

We are exposed to radiation every day from various sources, including outer space, minerals in the soil and appliances in our homes (like smoke detectors and television screens).
Below you will find how dental x-rays compare to other sources of radiation:


Estimated Exposure (mSV*)

Dental Radiographs X
    Bitewings (2 wings) -Children
    Full-mouth series (about 19 films)- Adults




Medical Radiograph X
    Lower GI series
    Upper GI series



Average radiation from outer space in
Denver, CO (per year)


Average radiation in the U.S. from
natural  sources (per year)


Source: Adapted from Frederiksen NL.  X-rays:  What is the Risk?  Texas Dentist Journal. 
1995;  112(2):  68-72.

*A millisievert (mSV) is a unit of measure that allows for some comparison between radiation sources that expose the entire body (such as natural background radiation)  and those that only expose a portion of the body (such as radiographs).

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly, beginning with the eruption of the first tooth. Then, the dentist can recommend a specific program of brushing, flossing, and other treatments for parents to supervise and teach to their children. These home treatments, when added to regular dental visits and a balanced diet, will help give your child a lifetime of healthy habits.

At what age should I bring my child to the pediatric dentist?

Children should have the first dental visit within six months of the eruption of the first baby tooth and no later than their first birthday. This is so that an assessment and record can be made of your child's dental development and risk of getting cavities. This also gives us the opportunity to discuss good oral hygiene practices at home, diet, injury prevention and possible need for fluoride supplements. If we find cavities or other problems, these things can be taken care of early before they become a bigger problem.

Will I go into the treatment room with my child?

This depends on the pediatric dentist, the parent, the child and the situation. The decision on where the parent remains during the child's treatment should be made by the pediatric dentist and the parent, and is based on what is best for the child.

When will my baby start getting teeth?

Usually the two lower front teeth (central incisors) erupt at about six months of age, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. During the next 18 to 24 months, the rest of the baby teeth appear, although not in orderly sequence from front to back. All of these 20 primary teeth should be present at 2 to 3 years of age.

Is there anything I can do to comfort my baby while he is teething?

Some children appear to be comforted during the normal eruption process by chewing on a frozen teething ring. Do not use teething medications that can be rubbed on the gums.

Why do the permanent teeth look so much yellower than the baby teeth?

Permanent teeth are normally yellower than primary teeth, but they appear even more so because you are comparing them with the lighter baby teeth still in the mouth.

Is it all right for my child to remove her own baby teeth when they become loose?

Perfectly all right. As the tooth loosens, it is natural for a child to assist the process, which may take several weeks.

What about the big space between my 8-year-old's two upper front teeth?

Usually there is no need for concern. The space can be expected to close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. If there is a problem, your pediatric dentist will recognize it.

My child's baby teeth had a lot of decay. Does this mean that the permanent will be just as bad?

It is possible, unless the cause can be determined and proper preventive and corrective steps are taken.

What causes nursing caries and baby bottle tooth decay?

Though dairy products are considered one of the four basic food groups and an important part of the diet, in one specific situation milk can be responsible for causing a type of rampant decay. This decay process happens when a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and bottle-feeding. The milk is collected on the roof of the mouth and tongue, and the upper front teeth are bathed in it. During sleep, the flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. The sugar content of the stagnant collected milk is changed to acids which cause decalcification (softening) of the enamel, resulting in extensive decay called "nursing caries".

Why should the baby teeth be filled, since they will be lost anyway?

Even though these primary teeth are called "baby teeth", some of them must serve until the child is at least twelve years old, sometimes longer. Neglect of the baby teeth can result in pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health, and premature loss of teeth, which is a major cause of orthodontic problems. Also, cavities tend to form in teeth that are next to other teeth with unfilled cavities, because decay is really an infection and will spread if left untreated. It is unwise to leave active decay in the mouth. Decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Unfortunately, most children with untreated decay on baby teeth will develop decay on permanent teeth.

What toothpaste is best for my child?

Fluoridated toothpaste is recognized by the American Dental Association as being effective in reducing tooth decay and should be used when the first tooth erupts. The amount should only be the size of a grain of rice, when a child is unable to spit. Once the child is able to spit, a pea-size amount of toothpaste is recommended. Equally important as the toothpaste, is the thoroughness with which the plaque is removed by brushing and flossing.

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