For more information, check out the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s site here.

You can find more information at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association FAQ page here and the American Dental Association FAQ page here.

How do you know if you’re doing a thorough job?



Your dentist may recommend using plaque disclosing tablets available over-the-counter at pharmacies and other stores that sell oral hygiene products. Plaque disclosing tablets are chewed after you clean your mouth. Red dye will stain plaque that has not been removed showing you spots that need additional cleaning.

Should I brush or floss first?



The sequence makes no difference as long as you do a thorough job. Look for products that have the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance. Choose a toothbrush that feels comfortable in your hand and in your mouth, and use it twice a day. While tooth brushing removes plaque from tooth surfaces, it can’t do the entire job of removing plaque. Cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or other interdental cleaners removes debris from between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. An ADA-Accepted dental floss or interdental cleaner is recommended.

How do I get rid of bad breath?


That depends on what is causing it. Often, bad breath results from less-than-optimal oral health, and sometimes people are not aware that they are not performing oral hygiene as effectively as they could be. A dental hygienist or dentist will be able to evaluate your oral health procedures and make recommendations for improvement; also, these professionals will be able to recognize any associated problems that might be contributing to an unpleasant mouth odor. In addition to evaluating and suggesting alterations to your brushing, flossing, and tongue deplaquing regimen, your dental hygienist may recommend products such as a mouthrinse that contains zinc. If it turns out that the problem isn’t in the mouth, a physician appointment is advisable. Sinus problems, stomach problems, certain foods and medications, and other factors can contribute to bad breath.

What is the best way to get my teeth whiter?


Most people have teeth that are naturally darker than “pure” white. If you want them whiter, the best thing you can do is talk to your professional oral health care provider about your options. Different people respond differently to different procedures used to whiten teeth, and it will take an in-person consultation with a professional to determine what is best for you. Sometimes all it takes is professional prophylaxis to remove stain and then abstinence from behaviors that stain teeth, such as drinking coffee or tea, or smoking tobacco. Some people respond well to the use of whitening toothpastes while some do not. Other options available include bleaching, at home or in the office, with chemicals or with lasers, as prescribed by a dentist. Sometimes a combination of options is used.

What kind of toothpaste should I use?

There are a lot of products to choose from, and much of the decision depends on individual preference. A fluoride toothpaste is essential for optimal oral health. Beyond that, your dental hygienist and dentist can alert you to any other features that make one product more suitable than another for you as an individual.

Which is better: a manual toothbrush or an electric one? 


Comparisons have been made between power-assisted (electric) toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes to look at the ability of each to remove plaque and prevent or reduce calculus (tartar) buildup, thus reducing gingivitis (gum disease). These research studies have shown both powered and manual toothbrushes to be equally effective when used correctly. So probably, in practical terms, which brush you use is not the critical factor, but how you use it.

How many times a day should I brush my teeth?


The American Dental Association advocates brushing twice each day. Although there is research indicating that brushing once a day is sufficient to disrupt the formation of plaque that feeds the bacteria that cause decay, this may not be enough for some people, depending on factors such as their diets and the efficacy of their brushing technique. ADHA recommends that you discuss this with your dental hygienist who understands your individual oral health needs and will be able to make a recommendation appropriate for you.

How Do You Stop Plaque Attacks?


Two key factors in preventing dental caries are fluoride and dental sealants. Fluoride compounds are found naturally in soil, water, and in many foods. Plaque attacks can’t be stopped, but you can help to prevent plaque build-up by following a good oral care program of brushing, flossing, rinsing, and regular visits to your oral health care professional.

How Does Plaque Attack the Gums?


Plaque can also produce harmful byproducts that irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal diseases. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it will build up into a hard deposit called calculus. If plaque continues to form on top of the calculus, it can irritate the gums, and a pocket may develop between the teeth and gums. Plaque build up can eventually destroy the gums and bone that support the teeth.

Can Periodontal Diseases Be Prevented?


Teeth can be protected from acid attacks by removing plaque, reducing the number of times and the amount of sugar and starches eaten, using fluorides, having plastic sealants applied to teeth, and by regular professional cleaning of teeth by a dental hygienist.

What Causes Periodontal Diseases?


Plaque, a thin, colorless, sticky film containing bacteria, which constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria use carbohydrates—sugars and starches—to produce an acid that attacks the enamel covering the teeth. After repeated acid attacks, the enamel can be broken down and a cavity begins. Continued acid attacks eventually dissolve the enamel and penetrate the softer, inner layer of the tooth, where decay can spread rapidly throughout the tooth’s structure. Acid attacks begin immediately after every meal or snack and last about 20 to 30 minutes.

What Causes Tooth Loss?


The most common causes of tooth loss are dental caries, also known as tooth decay, and periodontal disease, which affects the gums and bone structure that supports the teeth. Dental caries is the major cause of tooth loss in children, and periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults; however, it too can afflict youngsters.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a “smear” of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing. 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 often does my child need to see the pediatric dentist?

A check-up every six months is recommended in order 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.

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.

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.

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 for any pain, rather than placing aspirin on the teeth or gums. Finally, see a dentist as soon as possible.

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 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.

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 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.