Kid-friendly Dentistry - Ennis Family Dentistry & Orthodontics

Kid-friendly Dentistry

The First Visit

We recommend your child comes in for an initial appointment by his or her first birthday, so that great oral hygiene habits can be adopted from the very beginning. It’s our belief that this first visit should be enjoyable, as it often sets the tone in a child’s mind for future appointments. We want you and your child to feel at ease from the moment you arrive at our office. Our gentle staff makes a special effort to use pleasant words to describe each treatment and aims to make getting to know one’s teeth fun! Getting your child familiar with the dentist ahead of time through conversations about what to expect, reading children’s books and coloring pictures can help relieve anxiety and encourage positive feelings about dental care.

When New Teeth Arrive

Your child’s primary (baby) teeth will begin to make their appearance around 6-12 months of age and continue to erupt until about age three. During this time, your child’s gums may feel tender and sore. To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring. When your child has finished teething, you can expect a total of 20 primary teeth.

These first teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood. Permanent teeth begin erupting at age six and continue until age 21 when all 28 have come in (32 including wisdom teeth).

Adopting Healthy Habits

As your child’s teeth erupt, be sure to examine them every two weeks, looking for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Parents should begin a brushing routine as soon as the first tooth arrives, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. For children under two, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional. Because sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, we recommend brushing after each meal and before bedtime for optimal oral hygiene. As your child grows and begins to brush independently, review proper tooth brushing procedures and assist as necessary.

Flossing is also an important part of good oral hygiene habits, and our skilled dentists will discuss with you the right time to start. If you notice signs of decay, contact our office immediately.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by sugars left in your mouth that turn into acid and can break down your teeth. Children and adolescents are at high risk for tooth decay for the simple reason that many do not practice good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines, combined with dental cleanings and checkups every six months, help prevent tooth decay.

We recommend fluoride treatments during these appointments to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s molars, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants last for several years, but will be monitored during regular checkups to make sure they’re doing their job.

Pediatric Dental FAQs

Below are our answers to some of the most common questions we receive:

How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?
All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) begin by completing dental school, then continue their education with several years of additional specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, your doctor gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents.

Not only do pediatric dentists enjoy working with children, they also possess 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.

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, will look for any potential problems with the gums and jaw and, 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 his first dental appointment?
Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, so one of the best things you can do to prepare your child for a first visit to the dentist is to maintain a positive attitude. If you make negative comments, you can be sure that your child will fear an unpleasant experience and act accordingly. Show your child the pictures of our office and staff on our website. Let your child know that it’s important to keep teeth and gums healthy and that the doctor will help to do this. Remember that our dentists are specially trained to handle fears and anxiety and our entire team excels at putting children at ease.
How often should my child visit the dentist?
We generally recommend scheduling checkups 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 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 health of the teeth and gums.
How is a pediatric dentist different from other dentists?
All dental specialists (pediatric dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, and others) begin by completing dental school, then continue their education with several years of additional specialized training. During training in the field of pediatric dentistry, your doctor gained extensive knowledge and experience in treating infants, children, and adolescents.

Not only do pediatric dentists enjoy working with children, they also possess 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.

What’s the best way to clean my baby’s teeth?
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, we recommend you clean the gums after feedings with a damp, soft washcloth. As soon as his first tooth appears, you can start using a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Most drugstores carry toothbrushes designed specifically for infants.
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 tiny amount of fluoride-free toothpaste. Too much fluoride can be dangerous for children under the age of two. Always have your child spit out toothpaste and rinse after brushing in order to develop a habit that becomes important when using fluoride toothpaste. Swallowing too much fluoride-containing toothpaste can actually stain teeth. You should brush your child’s teeth until he or she is ready to take on that responsibility. This usually happens around age six or seven.
What causes cavities?
Certain types of bacteria naturally live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugars on our teeth that have been left behind from the foods we eat, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through it and creating holes, which we call cavities.
How can I help my child avoid cavities?
Be sure that your child brushes at least twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste. Flossing daily is also important, as it cleans spots between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. Check with your pediatric dentist about a fluoride supplement which helps tooth enamel harden and become more resistant to decay. Maintain a healthy diet that avoids sugary foods and drinks, limit snacking and make regular dental 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 are, therefore, susceptible to decay. They are a safe, simple way to help your child avoid cavities, especially for molars, which are the hardest to reach and clean.
My child plays sports. How can I protect his teeth?
Even children’s sports involve contact, and we recommend custom-fitted mouthguards to protect teeth, lips, cheeks, and gums. Ask us about these at your child’s next appointment!
What should I do if my child sucks his 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 your 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 around the age of two or three. This first set consists of simple pictures of the upper and lower front teeth and familiarizes your child with the process. Once the back baby teeth are touching one another, 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 high risk for dental problems, we may suggest having X-rays taken at an earlier age.