The Center for Pediatric Dental Care and Orthodontics logo
Drs. Weiss, Barton, Mermelstein, Krausz, and Taylor
1560 Beacon Street | Brookline, MA 02446
Call Us! 617-731-5437 (KIDS)

Dental Topics page art for The Center for Pediatric Dental Care and Orthodontics

Dental Topics

Girl with Flowers - Pediatric Dentist serving Brookline and Newton, MA

For more information concerning pediatric dentistry, please visit the website for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.


General Topics

What Is A Pediatric Dentist?

The pediatric dentist has an extra two to three years of specialized training after dental school, and is dedicated to the oral health of children from infancy through the teenage years. The very young, pre-teens, and teenagers all need different approaches in dealing with their behavior, guiding their dental growth and development, and helping them avoid future dental problems. The pediatric dentist is best qualified to meet these needs.

Why Are The Primary Teeth Important?

It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth, or baby teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren't replaced until age 10-13.

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Eruption Of Your Child's Teeth

Children's teeth begin forming before birth. As early as 4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies.

Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21.

Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).

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Dental Emergencies

Dental Emergencies - Pediatric Dentist serving Brookline and Newton, MAToothache: Clean the area of the affected tooth. Rinse the mouth thoroughly with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge any food that may be impacted. If the pain still exists, contact your child's dentist. Do not place aspirin or heat on the gum or on the aching tooth. If the face is swollen, apply cold compresses and contact your dentist immediately.

Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek: Apply ice to injured areas to help control swelling. If there is bleeding, apply firm but gentle pressure with a gauze or cloth. If bleeding cannot be controlled by simple pressure, call a doctor or visit the hospital emergency room.

Knocked Out Permanent Tooth: If possible, find the tooth. Handle it by the crown, not by the root. You may rinse the tooth with water only. DO NOT clean with soap, scrub or handle the tooth unnecessarily. Inspect the tooth for fractures. If it is sound, try to reinsert it in the socket. Have the patient hold the tooth in place by biting on a gauze. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, transport the tooth in a cup containing the patient's saliva or milk. If the patient is old enough, the tooth may also be carried in the patient's mouth (beside the cheek). The patient must see a dentist IMMEDIATELY! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.

Knocked Out Baby Tooth: Contact your pediatric dentist during business hours. This is not usually an emergency, and in most cases, no treatment is necessary.

Chipped or Fractured Permanent Tooth: Contact your pediatric dentist immediately. Quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If possible, locate and save any broken tooth fragments and bring them with you to the dentist.

Chipped or Fractured Baby Tooth: Contact your pediatric dentist.

Severe Blow to the Head: Take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately.

Possible Broken or Fractured Jaw: Keep the jaw from moving and take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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Digital X-rays

Digital Radiography (X-rays)

The Doctors at The Center for Pediatric Dental Care and Orthodontics have converted the routine dental x-rays to digital X-rays. Dental radiographs or x-rays are an important part of a complete dental exam. Two to four check-up x-rays called "bite-wings" are standard of care, and necessary every 12-18 months, depending on each individual child's needs. As pediatric dentists, Drs.Weiss, Krausz and Barton are very concerned about minimizing the amount of radiation a patient receives at the dental office. That’s why they used high-speed film, and cover all patients with a lead apron during x-ray procedures, and have converted to digital. You should know that 2 dental x-rays deliver 5,600 times less radiation to an unborn child than an upper GI series, 80 times less radiation than a chest x-ray, and 4 times less radiation than a normal day of background radiation playing in the sun. Dental x-rays are necessary and both safe and effective.

Digital imaging has been used by the medical community to make diagnostic information more accessible and more valuable. It is now available for dental offices. Digital Radiography, offers some positive advantages over typical film X-rays. The most remarkable is the reduction of radiation exposure, by as much as 80%, which makes dental X-ray taking safer and minimizes concerns about radiation exposure even more.

These dental x-rays are taken using electronic sensors that send the image directly to a computer. This image is displayed on a LCD monitor, can be enlarged, and can help the patient visualize and understand the doctor's treatment recommendations more easily. It also faciliates the doctor's diagnostic ability in "zooming in" and enlarging a specific area of the x-ray. The digital image only takes 10-15 seconds to appear on the monitor. A side benefit ia that digital X-ray is also environmentally friendly. The sensors used do not contain lead foil, like conventional dental film, that needs to be recycled or disposed of as hazardous waste. Also, there are no chemicals or water involved in generating an image, reducing pollution and water consumption.

Digital X-ray generates pictures that are diagnostically equivalent to film based images. Many image enhancement tools allow many viewing options. They allow zooming, brightness and contrast control, reversing, colorization, and other features that can be used to assist the dentist in diagnosing dental problems. The images also can be transmitted electronically for either insurance purposes or to another doctor involved in treatment.

Kids really enjoy being able to actually see their X-rays on the computer screen. It helps them to understand their condition better and gets them involved in treatment. By placing a large image of an x-ray on a monitor that the child can see, we can begin to include the child in the diagnosis. It is a great teaching tool. The assistant and hygienist also no longer have to go back and forth to the darkroom. This leaves more time to spend with the patient.

All our x-rays, including panoramic and cephalometric films for orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning, are state of the art digital units giving our patients the safest x-ray experience possible.

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What's The Best Toothpaste For My Child?

Brushing Teeth - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MATooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles. They contain harsh abrasives, which can wear away young tooth enamel. When looking for a toothpaste for your child, make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association as shown on the box and tube. These toothpastes have undergone testing to insure they are safe to use.

Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur. If your child is too young or unable to spit out toothpaste, consider providing them with a fluoride free toothpaste, using no toothpaste, or using only a "pea size" amount of toothpaste.

Does Your Child Grind His Teeth At Night? (Bruxism)

Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. 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.

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. 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.

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Thumb Sucking

Thumb Sucking - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MASucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy, or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep.

Thumb sucking can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not 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. Children should cease thumb sucking by three years of age. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.

Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the 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, consult your pediatric dentist.

A few suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:

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What Is Pulp Therapy?

The pulp of a tooth is the inner, central core of the tooth. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue and reparative cells. The purpose of pulp therapy in Pediatric Dentistry is to maintain the vitality of the affected tooth (so the tooth is not lost).

Dental caries (cavities) and traumatic injury are the main reasons for a tooth to require pulp therapy. Pulp therapy is often referred to as a "nerve treatment", "children's root canal", "pulpectomy" or "pulpotomy". The two common forms of pulp therapy in children's teeth are the pulpotomy and pulpectomy.

A pulpotomy removes the diseased pulp tissue within the crown portion of the tooth. Next, an agent is placed to prevent bacterial growth and to calm the remaining nerve tissue. This is followed by a final restoration (usually a stainless steel crown).

A pulpectomy is required when the entire pulp is involved (into the root canal(s) of the tooth). During this treatment, the diseased pulp tissue is completely removed from both the crown and root. The canals are cleansed, disinfected and, in the case of primary teeth, filled with a resorbable material. Then, a final restoration is placed. A permanent tooth would be filled with a non-resorbing material.

What Is The Best Time For Orthodontic Treatment?

Orthodontic Treatment - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MADeveloping malocclusions, or bad bites, can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age. Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Stage I - Early Treatment: This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years. At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss of primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking. Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II - Mixed Dentition: This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6 year molars. Treatment concerns deal with jaw malrelationships and dental realignment problems. This is an excellent stage to start treatment, when indicated, as your child's hard and soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.

Stage III - Adolescent Dentition: This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.

Adult Teeth Coming in Behind Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MAThis is a very common occurrence with children, usually the result of a lower, primary (baby) tooth not falling out when the permanent tooth is coming in.  In most cases if the child starts wiggling the baby tooth, it will usually fall out on its own within two months. If it doesn't, then contact your pediatric dentist, where they can easily remove the tooth.  The permanent tooth should then slide into the proper place.

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Early Infant Oral Care

Perinatal & Infant Oral Health

 Perinatal & Infant Oral Health - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MAThe American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all pregnant women receive oral healthcare and counseling during pregnancy. Research has shown evidence that periodontal disease can increase the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Talk to your doctor or dentist about ways you can prevent periodontal disease during pregnancy.

Additionally, mothers with poor oral health may be at a greater risk of passing the bacteria which causes cavities to their young children. Mother's should follow these simple steps to decrease the risk of spreading cavity-causing bacteria:

Your Child's First Dental Visit-Establishing A "Dental Home"

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend establishing a "Dental Home" for your child by one year of age. In our practice a child's first visit should be between 18 and 24 months old. We do see younger children for screeneings and emergencies. The dentist will introduce your child to the dental instruments in a playful way, do a clinical examination to detect decay and evaluate proper dental and facial development, and give guidance regarding oral habits, oral hygiene, and stages of dental development. Choosing a toothbrush, practicing brushing, counting the teeth, catching bubbles are part of the game. It is typical for most children to smile, even laugh, and have a fun visit. Our dentists are exceptional in guiding the child. Parents should smile and enjoy the trip as the Doctor takes over the appointment. Each child is treated individually and brought into the interaction with the dentist in a personalized way.

While many children get their teeth between 6 and 9 months, it is not unusual for a 12 month old to have fewer than 8 teeth. There is a wide range for normal tooth eruption. Proper oral hygiene should be instituted as early as when the first tooth comes into the mouth. Teeth should be wiped off with a gauze pad, cloth diaper or thin washcloth. A toothbrush is not necessary as most young children will chew on it and destroy it in a day. Toothpaste is not necessary as most children will swallow it. If toothpaste is needed due to stain on the teeth, a non fluoride toothpaste should be used until a child can spit out. Wiping off the teeth and gum pads will massage them and help reduce teething discomfort. Plaque will form on any tooth and the gum pads around them causing potential inflammation and teething discomfort.

Dental problems can begin very early. The primary cause of dental decay in young children is nursing or baby bottle tooth decay. A baby may get severe decay when he or she nurses constantly from the breast or a bottle containing milk or juice during bedtime or naps. A child should not be put to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or sweetened liquid. If a bottle is used, only water should be used. A pacifier is preferable. Bottle feeding should be stopped by one year of age.

If you have further questions, email us.

When Will My Baby Start Getting Teeth?

Teething, the process of baby (primary) teeth coming through the gums into the mouth, is variable among individual babies. Some babies get their teeth early and some get them late. In general, the first baby teeth to appear are usually the lower front (anterior) teeth and they usually begin erupting between the age of 6-8 months.
See "Eruption of Your Child's Teeth" for more details.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (Early Childhood Caries)

 Baby Bottle Tooth Decay - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MAOne serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child's teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water. If your child won't fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle's contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.

After each feeding, wipe the baby's gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child's head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child's mouth easily.

Sippy Cups - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MASippy Cups

Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and should be discontinued by the first birthday. If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill the sippy cup with water only (except at mealtimes). By filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including milk, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, it soaks the child's teeth in cavity causing bacteria.

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Prevention

Care Of Your Child's Teeth

Brushing Tips:

  • Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft cloth and water.
  • As soon as your child's teeth erupt, brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • If they are under the age of 2, use a small "smear" of toothpaste.
  • If they're 2-5 years old, use a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste.
  • Be sure and use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and make sure your child does not swallow it.
  • When brushing, the parent should brush the child's teeth until they are old enough to do a good job on their own.

Flossing Tips:

  • Flossing removes plaque between teeth and under the gumline where a toothbrush can't reach.
  • Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch.
  • Be sure and floss your child's teeth daily until he or she can do it alone.

Good Diet = Healthy Teeth

Good DietHealthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children's teeth.

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How Do I Prevent Cavities?

Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. See "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay" for more information.

For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child's first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.

Your pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child's molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.

Seal Out Decay

A sealant is a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.

Sealant-Before
Before Sealant Applied

Sealant-After
After Sealant Applied

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Fluoride

Fluoride is an element, which has been shown to be beneficial to teeth. However, too little or too much fluoride can be detrimental to the teeth. Little or no fluoride will not strengthen the teeth to help them resist cavities. Excessive fluoride ingestion by preschool-aged children can lead to dental fluorosis, which is a chalky white to even brown discoloration of the permanent teeth. Many children often get more fluoride than their parents realize. Being aware of a child's potential sources of fluoride can help parents prevent the possibility of dental fluorosis.

Some of these sources are:

Two and three year olds may not be able to expectorate (spit out) fluoride-containing toothpaste when brushing. As a result, these youngsters may ingest an excessive amount of fluoride during tooth brushing. Toothpaste ingestion during this critical period of permanent tooth development is the greatest risk factor in the development of fluorosis.

Excessive and inappropriate intake of fluoride supplements may also contribute to fluorosis. Fluoride drops and tablets, as well as fluoride fortified vitamins should not be given to infants younger than six months of age. After that time, fluoride supplements should only be given to children after all of the sources of ingested fluoride have been accounted for and upon the recommendation of your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.

Certain foods contain high levels of fluoride, especially powdered concentrate infant formula, soy-based infant formula, infant dry cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Please read the label or contact the manufacturer. Some beverages also contain high levels of fluoride, especially decaffeinated teas, white grape juices, and juice drinks manufactured in fluoridated cities.

Parents can take the following steps to decrease the risk of fluorosis in their children's teeth:

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Mouth Guards

 Mouth Guards - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MAWhen a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child's smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.

Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.

Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.

 

Xylitol - Reducing Cavities

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.

The use of XYLITOL GUM by mothers (2-3 times per day) starting 3 months after delivery and until the child was 2 years old, has proven to reduce cavities up to 70% by the time the child was 5 years old.

Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.

Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol.

Studies suggest xylitol intake that consistently produces positive results ranged from 4-20 grams per day, divided into 3-7 consumption periods. Higher results did not result in greater reduction and may lead to diminishing results. Similarly, consumption frequency of less than 3 times per day showed no effect.

To find gum or other products containing xylitol, try visiting your local health food store or search the Internet to find products containing 100% xylitol.

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Beware of Sports Drinks

Sports Drinks - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MADue to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve even fluoride-rich enamel, which can lead to cavities.

To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during and after sports.  Be sure to talk to your pediatric dentist before using sports drinks.

If sports drinks are consumed:

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Adolescent Dentistry

 Teens - Pediatric Dentist and Ortho serving Brookline and Newton, MA

Tongue Piercing - Is It Really Cool?

You might not be surprised anymore to see people with pierced tongues, lips or cheeks, but you might be surprised to know just how dangerous these piercings can be.

There are many risks involved with oral piercings, including chipped or cracked teeth, blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscess, nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia), receding gums or scar tissue. Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing. Your tongue could swell large enough to close off your airway!

Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, an increased flow of saliva and injuries to gum tissue. Difficult-to-control bleeding or nerve damage can result if a blood vessel or nerve bundle is in the path of the needle.

So follow the advice of the American Dental Association and give your mouth a break - skip the mouth jewelry.

Tobacco - Bad News In Any Form

Tobacco in any form can jeopardize your child's health and cause incurable damage. Teach your child about the dangers of tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco, also called spit, chew or snuff, is often used by teens who believe that it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is an unfortunate misconception. Studies show that spit tobacco may be more addictive than smoking cigarettes and may be more difficult to quit. Teens who use it may be interested to know that one can of snuff per day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce pre-cancerous lesions called leukoplakias.

If your child is a tobacco user you should watch for the following that could be early signs of oral cancer:

Because the early signs of oral cancer usually are not painful, people often ignore them. If it's not caught in the early stages, oral cancer can require extensive, sometimes disfiguring, surgery. Even worse, it can kill.

Help your child avoid tobacco in any form. By doing so, they will avoid bringing cancer-causing chemicals in direct contact with their tongue, gums and cheek.

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