Proper care of your child’s teeth and gums includes brushing and rinsing daily. It also includes having routine dental exams, and getting necessary treatments such as fluoride, sealants, extractions, fillings, or braces and other orthodontics.
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Routine Care

What Does Routine Dental Care For Children Entail? Giving your child routine dental care simply means you’ll bring your child to visit our Sammamish pediatric dentistry office for cleanings and checkups even if they are not facing any oral problems. It is common for many people to visit their dentist only when they have any oral conditions affecting them, but bringing your child in for routine dental exams at our Sammamish pediatric dentists office will help them have healthy teeth for life.

Thumb sucking

Thumbsucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects may make babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world.

Young children may also suck to soothe themselves and help them fall asleep.

How can thumb-sucking affect my child’s teeth?

After permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.

Pacifiers can affect the teeth in essentially the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs, but it is often an easier habit to break.

The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb-suckers may develop problems with their baby (primary) teeth.

When do children stop Sucking their thumbs?

Children usually stop sucking between the ages of two and four years old, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth or are concerned about your child’s thumbsucking consult our Sammamish pediatric dentistry office.

How Can I Help My Child Stop Thumbsucking?

  • Praise your child for not sucking.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort.
  • Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  • Your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.
  • If these tips don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance.


Beginning dental care early is important for your child’s health. Dental care keep teeth healthy for a lifetime. Healthy baby teeth help children eat and speak clearly. Baby teeth guide permanent adult teeth into the proper position. Some baby teeth are not replaced by permanent teeth until the age of 12 or 13. Dental care includes cleaning your baby’s gums even before the teeth come into the mouth. An excellent child dentist and routine dental exams are the easiest ways to keep your child’s teeth and gums clean and healthy.

What is early childhood tooth decay (cavities)?
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Early childhood tooth decay refers to the development of cavities in children from 6 months to 6 years of age. Once your child has teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. Many things cause tooth decay, including the bacteria that is normally found in the mouth. Without treatment, decay can spread deeper into the tooth. The decay can cause pain and infection, and can even damage the underlying adult tooth. The baby tooth or teeth may need to be removed.

What can contribute to tooth decay?
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The following factors may contribute to early childhood tooth decay:

  • Frequent Eating(especially sticky or sugary foods)
  • Constant use of a baby bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, juice or formula (especially at bedtime)
  • Not brushing your child’s teeth daily
  • Not using fluoride toothpaste

According to the Canadian Dental Association, the damage that sugar does to teeth depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays in the mouth. When your child eats or drinks sugars, the germs (bacteria) in your child’s mouth mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (also called enamel) to form cavities.

If your child often sips juice or eats sticky or sugary snacks between meals, the teeth are coated in sugars over and over again. Tooth decay can also develop when a child goes to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. The liquid stays in the mouth, bathing the teeth in sugar for a long time.

Transferring bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s:
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Your child can get bacteria from family members through the saliva. You can reduce the chance of passing cavity-causing bacteria to your baby by:

  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes
  • Avoid licking soothers to clean them
  • Avoid feeding your baby with a spoon that has been in your mouth
  • Making sure all family members have healthy mouths
Bacteria, combined with poor dental hygiene and unhealthy eating habits, can increase the risk of your child developing early childhood cavities.

How to prevent tooth decay?

Practice good dental care

Good dental care includes cleaning and checking your child’s teeth and mouth every day. Lift the lip so you can see along the gum line when cleaning. Look for white or brown areas, which may be early signs of tooth decay.

Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a wet clean face cloth. When teeth start to come in, use a small soft-bristled toothbrush with a smear (size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste. Brush your child’s teeth in the morning and especially at bedtime. Once your child turns 3, brush your child’s teeth using a “pea-sized” amount of fluoride toothpaste on a soft child’s toothbrush. Fluoride toothpaste used in these amounts is considered safe and effective against tooth decay.

Offer water to drink between feedings

Introduce your baby to using a lidless cup between 6 and 9 months of age. After 12 months, water is the best choice between regular feeding times and for thirst.

Give up the bottle or sippy cup at bedtime

For tips on how to help your child give up a bottle or sippy cup at bedtime, visit the Canadian Dental Association – Early Childhood Tooth Decay

When will my child get teeth?

Children have their own schedule for teething. Most children begin teething at about 6 months of age. Your child should have all of their first set of teeth, or “baby” teeth, by 3 years of age. The bottom front teeth usually appear first, followed by the top front teeth. In total, 20 teeth should appear – 10 in the top jaw and 10 in the bottom jaw.

For more information about when teeth come in, visit CDA Dental Care for Children – Dental Development

How can I comfort my baby when they are teething?

Teething may cause some discomfort, making your baby fussy. Your baby may feel better if allowed to chew on a clean, chilled teething ring, teething toy or clean wet face cloth. Teething cookies or biscuits are not a good choice because these can stick to your baby’s teeth and cause tooth decay.

Teething does not cause fevers. If your baby has a fever or diarrhea while teething, treat it as you would at any other time. If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s fever or diarrhea, call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or contact your healthcare provider.

What about soothers or pacifiers?

Soothers or pacifiers are sometimes given to babies during rest, sleep or other times. If you choose to give your baby a soother, here are a few tips:

Pediatric Dentistry

Ensure that breastfeeding is well established

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Choose the right size soother for your baby’s mouth

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Check the soother nipple often. Throw it away if it is sticky, cracked or torn

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Keep the soother clean

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Avoid dipping the soother in honey or other sweet substances that can cause tooth decay

Sleep hours

By age 1 or 2, if your child is using a soother, limit use to nap time or bedtime

Do not use soothers or pacifiers once all baby teeth have grown in, usually when your child is about 3 years old. After this age, regular use of a soother may affect the child’s speech development and teeth positioning.

When should my child go to the dentist?

The Canadian Dental Association recommends regular dental visits starting 6 months after your child’s first tooth appears or when they are about 1 year old. Your child’s first dental visit is a good time to discuss daily dental care, fluoride, and eating habits with our Sammamish pediatric dentistry office.

Can fluoride help stop tooth decay?

The Canadian Dental and Medical Associations and the dental professionals of British Columbia recommend fluoride for preventing tooth decay for people of all ages.

Fluoride is a proven, effective and low-cost way to prevent cavities. Using the recommended amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day helps make tooth enamel stronger and better able to resist tooth decay. Some toothpastes do not have fluoride. Always check the label.

Our Sammamish pediatric dentistry team may also apply fluoride at regular dental visits.

In B.C., there is little natural fluoride and few cities add fluoride to the drinking water. If you are unsure if your water supply contains fluoride, call your local public health unit. For more information on water fluoridation, see HealthLinkBC File #28 Water Fluoridation Facts.

Pediatric Dental FAQs

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

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 when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday.

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

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has 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.

How do I find a pediatric dentist in my hometown?

Use the Find a Pediatric Dentist search with the link below. Enter your city, state and zip for a list of pediatric dentists nearest you. If your entries result in “no matching pediatric dentist records were found,” broaden your search by entering the state only or nearest city and state.

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.

What should I do if my child has a toothache?

First, rinse the irritated area with warm salt water and place a cold compress on the face if it is swollen. Give the child acetaminophen (e.g., Children’s Tylenol) for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.

Are thumbsucking 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 past the age of three, 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 bed-time 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/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled by your child’s first birthday.

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?

The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. 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.

How do dental sealants work?

Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.

How do I know if my child is getting enough fluoride?

Have your pediatric dentist evaluate the fluoride level of your child’s primary source of drinking water. If your child is not getting enough fluoride internally through water (especially if the fluoride level is deficient or if your child drinks bottled water without fluoride), then your pediatric dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.

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

Soft plastic mouthguards can be used to protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. A custom-fitted mouthguard 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.

What should I do if my child falls and knocks out a permanent tooth?

The most important thing to do is to remain calm. Then find the tooth. Hold it by the crown rather than the root and try to reinsert it in the socket. If that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist.

How safe are dental X-rays?

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. Lead aprons and high-speed film are used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation.

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.

What is the best toothbrush for kids 9-13? Do you recommend the sonic?

By the time your child reaches 9-10 years old, many adult teeth are now present and an adult toothbrush/toothpaste can be used. Any soft-bristled toothbrush should be used two times a day for two minutes.

Visit Tips for Parents for oral health tips for parents and caregivers.

Do you have a cosmetic dentistry practitioner on staff? If not, can you refer to one that accepts insurance?

We are a member organization, so there are actually no dentists on staff at our office in chicago. If you would like to find a dentist in your area, please use the Find a Pediatric Dentist search on our website. From there you should be able to find a dentist in your area and contact them for information regarding insurance.