Frequently Asked Questions

Why should my child see a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentistry is a specialty that focuses on the specific needs of infants, children and adolescents, including those with special health and emotional needs. Specializing in pediatric dentistry requires a dentist to complete an additional two to three years of specialty training beyond dental school. Dr. Kevin Clifford is a board-certified pediatric dentist, or diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, meaning he passed a voluntary two-part examination administered by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. The examination certifies that the dentist possesses the requisite knowledge, skills, and experience to deliver the highest level of pediatric dental care.

When should I schedule my child’s first dental appointment?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be evaluated by a dentist within six months after their first tooth has erupted, or by their first birthday- whichever comes first. The primary reason for a child’s initial exam is to identify problems early, such as early childhood caries or dental abnormalities. The earlier these problems are found, the easier they are to treat.

How should I prepare my children for their dental visit?

Talk to them about their dental appointment, but avoid words that may sound frightening to them, such as needle, pain, hurt, etc. A variety of books are available on the subject that make learning fun and informative for young children. Playing “dentist” at home also can be an entertaining way of preparing children for their dental check-up.

It is important that if you are a parent who has a dental fear to not project this anxiety onto your child. Our goal is to create positive dental experiences and a lifetime of healthy smiles.

What steps are taken to to make my children comfortable during their appointment?

It is our goal to make every visit to our office pleasant for your children, but occasionally, some discomfort cannot be avoided. As a pediatric dentist, Dr. Clifford is highly trained in behavior management of young children. This is our primary tool used when treating patients. When more intervention is needed, we consult with parents on the use of topical anesthetics, local anesthetics, nitrous oxide and in-office oral sedation.

There are isolated cases that require treatment under general anesthesia for the child’s own safety. You should always feel welcome to discuss the available options for your child with Dr. Clifford and his team.

What is normal development and eruption of children’s teeth?

The primary teeth begin to form beneath the gums before birth. Primary teeth typically erupt at 4–6 months of age, with the lower front teeth coming in first. Permanent teeth generally form in the third trimester and first year of life, with first erupting permanent teeth at about age 6. They generally are lost in the order in which they came in, beginning with the lower front teeth. Eventually your child will have up to 32 permanent teeth.

Why are baby teeth important?

They enable children to speak appropriately and allow for proper nutrition. They also help in the eruption of the permanent teeth and play a role in jaw and facial development as your child grows. Many people are unaware that 12 of the 20 baby teeth normally are not lost until the ages of 10 to 12. It is important to prevent decay and treat it when it does happen as these teeth help to lay the foundation of our permanent teeth.

How can I help my child prevent cavities?

Proper oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, begin at home, as does a nutritionally balanced diet. A diet that is low in sugar will aid in cavity prevention. Routine professional dental cleanings that reach those difficult-to-reach areas, topical fluoride applications and dental sealants provide additional protection from tooth decay.

What should I do in the event of a dental emergency?

Trauma: Children between the ages of 2 and 3 are most likely to experience trauma to primary teeth because of their developing motor coordination. With toddlers, it is important to take measures to prevent injury by keeping electrical cords out of the way, child-proofing your home, having your children wear pads and helmets when necessary, and using car seats in the back seat of vehicles.

Injuries to permanent teeth frequently happen as a result of falls, traffic accidents, violence or sports-related injuries. If your children are involved in sports, mouth guards are a must-have piece of equipment, as they are a proven protective device to reduce dental and orofacial injuries.

Bumped tooth: If a tooth is bumped and becomes slightly loose, but there is no visible fracture or other trauma, call our office immediately for consultation.

Fractured tooth care: Gently clean the area with warm water and apply a cold compress in the injury area to combat swelling. Immediately come to the office if it is during normal business hours, and please call on your way so we can have a room ready for your child upon arrival.

If it is after hours, please call our emergency line for further instructions: (434) 205-4594

Knocked-out tooth/Avulsion: Gently remove any dirt and/or debris from the tooth by rinsing it in a cup of milk or a saline solution, being careful not to scrub the tooth or remove any tissue particles from the root. If possible, place the tooth back into the socket and hold it in place. If this is not possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk. Immediately come to the office if it is during normal business hours, and please call on your way so we can have a room ready for your child upon arrival. Time is essential in saving a tooth that has been knocked out.

Toothache: A toothache can be caused by a variety of issues. Rinse your child’s mouth with warm water every hour as needed to help alleviate the discomfort. You can add a bit of salt to the water to aid in antibacterial action, if you choose. Thoroughly clean the area around the affected tooth by brushing well and flossing and/or using a toothpick. An ice pack placed on the area also may relieve some of the pain. Do not administer aspirin or place aspirin on the gums, as it can cause the gum tissue to burn. If necessary, give your child the recommended dosage of Tylenol (Acetaminophen) or Motrin (Ibuprofen) for their pain. If swelling is present around his/her eye, apply an ice pack and take child to the emergency room immediately.

If your child is in pain, contact our office to make an appointment for an evaluation. Toothaches should not be left untreated.

Some causes of a toothache include:

  • Deep cavities

  • Fillings or crowns that are broken or have fallen out

  • Food that has become lodged in the gums or between teeth, such as popcorn kernals

  • Periodontal disease

  • Dental infection

Loose baby tooth: In children, a loose baby tooth typically is the result of trauma or simply the natural exfoliation process of the baby tooth. If there has been no trauma, simply have your child “wiggle” the tooth themselves, pushing it a little each day until it falls out. This may happen spontaneously, or while chewing food. If you can see the new tooth coming in through the gums and the primary tooth is only slightly loose but not enough for your child to remove it, call our office for an appointment. It is important to remove over-retained primary teeth so that the new permanent tooth can come in straight.

Why do you take X-rays of my child’s teeth?

X-rays help detect cavities, but they also enable Dr. Clifford and his team to evaluate the erupting teeth, diagnose bone disease, assess the outcome of an injury, or to assist in orthodontic treatment planning. X-rays provide information for proper and timely diagnosis and treatment of health conditions that cannot be detected by a clinical examination alone. Discovering and treating dental problems early means we can provide more comfortable and more affordable dental care for your child and you.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children who are at high risk of tooth decay have X-rays and examinations every six months. On average, most pediatric dentists request X-rays annually. It is advisable to have a panoramic film every three to five years.

As an office that specializes in pediatrics, we are careful to minimize our patients’ radiation exposure by using digital X-ray film, proper shielding with lead aprons and body shields and through advanced technology in equipment to filter the exposure.

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

Teeth grinding is known as bruxism. Parents often discover that their children grind their teeth because they hear the noise it creates, or because they notice that their children’s teeth are getting worn.

Bruxism can be caused by several factors and is very common among young children. This habit often does not require any treatment because it is self-limiting and usually ceases before adolescence. If excessive wear occurs, bruxism management via mouth guards, psychological techniques or medications may be needed.

What if my child sucks his/her thumb or can’t stop using a pacifier?

Non-nutritive sucking behaviors are normal and common in infants and young children. It often gives children a secure, pleasurable feeling and provides a sense of security. However, dental and skeletal development may be compromised if the habit continues beyond age three. Treating prolonged habits must take into consideration the child’s development, comprehension and ability to cooperate.

Treatment options include patient/parent counseling, behavior modification, and the use of appliances that take away the pleasurable feeling that a pacifier or thumb-sucking provides. Using an appliance to manage the habit is necessary only when the child wants to stop the habit and would benefit from a reminder.

Can my child’s teeth be whitened?

The increased concerns related to personal appearance prompt many teenagers to ask about teeth whitening to promote a healthy-looking smile. Excellent oral hygiene and routine dental checkups are the best way to create and maintain a beautiful smile, but some teenagers also want to try whitening their teeth for that extra white gleam. Tooth bleaching can safely lighten the color of your teenager’s or young adult’s teeth and can last as long as five years.

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products tend to be safe and effective, but consult with Dr. Clifford before using them to be sure. Bleaching does not effectively whiten everyone’s teeth and may not work for teeth with intrinsic staining. Stains from coffee, tea, food coloring or darkened soda drinks can easily be bleached and whitened. For a quicker, safer and more effective result, we can provide cosmetic teeth whitening with custom trays.

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