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This FAQs page is a great starting point for finding answers to your questions about your children's dental health.

FAQs | Kids R Us

General Questions

Why does my baby need to see the dentist? Their baby teeth will all fall out anyway.

Although your baby’s milk teeth will fall out, there are 3 very important reasons to provide them with consistent dental care right from the beginning:

  • To avoid the pain — and the emotional and behavioural problems it can cause — of tooth decay in their milk teeth
  • To ensure their adult teeth come in healthy, and in the right positions
  • To help them develop dental hygiene habits that will help them keep those adult teeth strong and healthy throughout their lives.
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What’s the difference between a regular and a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are uniquely trained to address children’s specific oral and dental health needs, from infancy to adolescence. They also receive extensive training in providing clinical care for special needs children.
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What is tooth decay?

Simply put, tooth decay is the breakdown or erosion of the protective layers of the teeth (enamel and dentin). Tooth decay is generally caused by a combination of poor oral and dental hygiene, plus overexposure to foods that promote decay (foods with high sugar content). Unhealthy foods left too long in the mouth create acid and bacteria build-up, which leads to plaque and the development of cavities.

What exactly is plaque?

If you’ve ever watched TV, you’ve seen ads for toothpastes touting their plaque-fighting powers. But what is it, and why is it bad? Plaque is bacteria that forms a thin, tooth-coloured film on teeth that aren’t being properly cared for. If left too long, plaque creates an acid which eats away at the surface of both teeth and gums, making them very vulnerable to decay (cavities).

Plaque can irritate the gums, making them very sore and red; it can also cause bleeding and receding gums. Left too long, plaque may even cause infections that can destroy the bone beneath the teeth. Preventing plaque is crucial for long-term dental health, which is why early treatment and prevention are so important.

Can children get gum disease?

Yes, children can get gum disease, and it can begin at almost any age.

Gum disease, or gingivitis, can develop when plaque is allowed to build up unchecked on teeth. While there are sometimes early symptoms—such as constant bad breath, painful or swollen gums, or frequent bleeding after brushing or flossing—early gum disease often has no symptoms. Another good reason to get your children taking great daily care of their teeth as early as possible.

Can I tell by looking if my child is experiencing tooth decay?

In its early stages, tooth decay sometimes appears in the form of white lines near the gums, usually in a semi-circle or crescent shape. Remember to check your baby’s teeth each time you clean them for such signs, and take them for regular dental check-ups, beginning by their first birthday.

My child’s new adult teeth are looking a bit yellow — should I be worried?

Not necessarily. In fact, it usually means their dentin (the protective layer beneath the enamel) is developing properly. Learn more about what to expect as your young one’s permanent teeth erupt here.

Is fluoride safe for kids?

Scientific studies have not found that water fluoridation or the correct amount of fluoridated toothpaste are bad for kids. Overexposure in childhood to fluoride can cause a condition called dental fluorosis, but this usually manifests only as tooth discolouration. According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007-2009, 84% of Canadian children do not experience this condition at all, while the 16% that do tend to have an extremely mild form of it.

Are dental sealants safe for children?

Yes. Some parents are concerned about sealants because they contain bisphenol A. This substance is present in very small amounts in sealants, and children’s exposure to it when getting sealants lasts only a few hours or up to a few days after treatment; exposure then reduces to almost zero.

Health Canada’s restrictions on bisphenol A apply only to things like baby bottles and infant formula cans. This is because of babies’ increased sensitivity generally and because the amount of exposure from such sources is higher and therefore closer to the safety margins Health Canada has established.

Is it safe for my child to get dental x-rays?

Yes. Dental x-rays expose children to only a very small amount of radiation because of sophisticated modern safeguards like lead aprons and high-speed film.

Practical Issues

When should my child first see the dentist?

Your baby should see a dentist within either 6 months of their first tooth erupting, or by the time they turn 1. Early prevention and treatment will set them on the right track for long-term oral and dental health.

How often does my child need to visit the pediatric dentist?

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that all children receive a checkup and cleaning every 6 months.

When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

When the first teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Around the time your child turns 3, begin encouraging him or her to brush their own teeth in the morning—but be sure to supervise. At bedtime, parents should still be in control of their children’s brushing until age 8-9. Find out more about getting your child brushing their own teeth here.

When should my child begin using toothpaste? And how much?

Introduce your young one to fluoridated toothpaste when they’re about 2 years old and use very little to start—no more than a grain of rice sized amount.

Should children use a different toothpaste?

Between 2-12 years of age, your child should use plain sodium fluoride toothpaste, which is approved by the Canadian Dental Association, without whitening agents nor other added ingredients that are present in adult toothpastes. But even if your toothpaste meets these criteria, it may still have too strong a flavour for your little one. Ask your dentist or pharmacist about toothpastes designed for kids’ super-sensitive taste buds.

How do I choose a toothbrush for my child?

Choose one that has soft, rounded bristles and fits their mouth; any good-sized pharmacy should have a variety of children’s toothbrushes for you to choose from.

How often should I replace my child’s toothbrush?

If their toothbrush is looking worn or the bristles are bent, it’s time for a new one. How long this will take depends on the child, but the average is every 3 months or so.

How often should my child brush their teeth?

After every meal and before bed. Not only is this just a good habit to get into, you don’t want the bacteria from the food they’ve eaten that day sitting on their teeth for prolonged periods—this will encourage cavity-causing acid and plaque to build up.

What if my child’s gums bleed during brushing or flossing?

Your child’s gums may bleed a little when you first begin brushing and flossing their teeth; if this happens, don't stop brushing. If it continues after a week or so of brushing and flossing, however, take your child to the dentist—there may be other problems developing, such as gum disease.

What constitutes a “dental emergency”?

If your child experiences any of the following, seek medical help:

Toothache: If they’re still in pain after gently brushing the sore tooth or teeth and surrounding area, flossing and rinsing with warm water, they need to visit the clinic.

Cut/Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek: If applying ice doesn’t reduce swelling in a couple hours or applying gauze to open cuts doesn’t stop the bleeding, take your child to the doctor or emergency room right away.

Knocked-Out Tooth: If you’re able to find the broken tooth, carefully hold it by its top (the crown) not the root and try putting it back in the socket. If this doesn’t work or isn’t possible because of pain or swelling, place the tooth in cold milk and take your child to the dentist immediately. 

Broken Tooth: If your child’s tooth is broken causing sensitivity to cold or is exposing the pulp (seen as a pin-point red spot), then see your dentist immediately. 
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Is it okay for children to use tooth whiteners?

This is best avoided. Children’s tooth pulp continues developing until at least age 14, and whitener can damage pulp while it’s still growing. But keeping in mind variations in growth that can occur among different children, it’s safest to not let your kids use whitening toothpaste or strips until they’re in their late teens.

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