Parents often have questions about their children’s dental care. Soudabeh Sharafi DMD has provided this page of frequently asked questions about pediatric dentistry to help you gain a better understanding of your child’s dental care. To learn more about pediatric dentistry in San Diego, California, and to schedule your child’s appointment with Dr. Soudabeh Sharafi, please contact us at 858-461-6726.

What is a pediatric dentist?
A pediatric dentist has received two years of specialized children in providing dental care for children from infancy through their teenage years.

Why are primary teeth important?
Primary teeth, or baby teeth, are important because their health and overall condition will affect the developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth also help children to chew and speak properly, provide space and guidance for the incoming permanent teeth, and help the jaw and muscles develop properly.

How often should my child see the dentist?
It is recommended that children visit the dentist at least twice a year. Some children may require more frequent appointments due to tooth decay, poor oral hygiene, or unusual growth patterns.

How much toothpaste should my child use when brushing his/her teeth?
Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush their child’s teeth as soon as they begin to erupt. When children are between 3-6 years old, the amount of toothpaste used should be about the size of a pea. Parents should help their child brush his or her teeth until they are about 7 years old, as children simply do not have the ability to effectively brush their teeth when they are younger.

Does a good diet affect teeth?
A healthy, well-balanced diet will lead to healthy teeth. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. We recommend that children avoid eating sweet or sugary snacks frequently, and that he or she brushes regularly. Sugary, sweet drinks should be avoided, and even all-natural fruit juices should be limited. If you child needs to snack, we recommend providing vegetable, low-fat yogurts or cheeses, or other nutritious foods.

What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, adhesive coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of teeth. They are a preventive treatment that help to protect your child’s teeth against cavities and other forms of tooth decay.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when an infant’s teeth are exposed to sweetened liquids for long periods of time. Liquids that can cause baby bottle tooth decay include milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice, and other sweetened drinks. It is often a result of putting a baby to bed or down for a nap with a bottle. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth, giving plaque bacteria a source of food and an opportunity to flourish. If you child must have a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, the bottle should contain only water.

When will my child’s teeth begin to come in?
Children usually begin teething at about 6-8 months. Your child’s primary teeth begin forming before birth, and can emerge as early as 4 months. All 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, and permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6. Permanent teeth can continue to emerge until about age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth. If you include wisdom teeth, adults may have up to 32 teeth total.

What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that works to strengthen teeth against cavities and tooth decay. Our pediatric dentist will monitor your child’s fluoride levels to ensure that he or she is receiving the appropriate amount to help defend against tooth decay.

How do I stop my child from sucking his/her thumb?
Thumb sucking is a natural reflex, and many children take comfort from sucking on their thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers. Most children will stop sucking their thumbs on their own. However, if the habit persists beyond eruption of permanent teeth, it can cause problems with the growth and development of the mouth and the alignment of teeth. When trying to help your child stop sucking his or her thumb, you can try bandaging the thumb or putting a sock or a glove over the hand. Our dentist may also recommend a mouth appliance.

Please remember that positive reinforcement and encouragement will be more helpful to your child than any other response. Regular praise and reassurance for correct actions are more likely to yield a positive result.

My child grinds his/her teeth at night. What should I do?
Children may grind their teeth due to stress, pressure changes felt in the inner ear, or a bad bite. Most children will stop grinding their teeth on their own. Grinding usually lessens between ages 6-9, and stops between ages 9-12. If they continue grinding, our pediatric dentist may provide a night guard or other treatment.

What are mouth guards?
Mouth guards are protective devices, usually offered for children who participate in athletic activities. Properly fitted mouth guards help to keep your child’s teeth and soft tissues protected, avoiding broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face, and jaw. We strongly recommend the use of mouth guards for most sports, including basketball, football, soccer, baseball, softball, hockey, rugby, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and rollerblading.