Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Diet & Cavity Prevention

What is an appropriate diet for my child?

It is important that your child receives a naturally-balanced diet that includes the important nutrients your child needs in order to grow. A daily diet should includes the major food groups of meat/fish/eggs/other sources of protein, vegetable/fruit, bread/cereal as well as milk and other dairy products.

Can my child’s diet affect their dental health?

Absolutely. It is important that you initiate a balanced diet for your child so that their teeth develop appropriately. In addition, this will positively affect healthy gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Please note that a diet high in sugar and other forms of carbohydrates may increase the probability of tooth decay.

How do I create a diet that is safe for my child’s teeth?

As we stated earlier, initiate a balanced diet. Analyze how much and how often starch-based foods are eaten. These types of foods include rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, etc. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a favorite for bagged lunches, but, if you think about it, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich might be the ultimate cavity-causing sandwich.  The jelly is full of sugar, the peanut butter may have sugar, too, and, even if it does not, it allows the jelly-containing sandwich to stick to the teeth for a long time.  If that’s not bad enough, the bread itself has several grams of sugar in it as well.  For less sugar and more flavor and nutrients, try replacing jelly with fresh fruit slices (apples, pears, or bananas). Go easy on the peanut butter, though — it’s high in fat. Choose the “no-salt-added” kind for less sodium.

Did you know most milk-based products contain sugar, too? Once again, we see that sugar is found in more than just cookies and candy.  All types of sugars can promote tooth decay because the cavity-causing bacteria that is present in the human mouth does not “care” where the sugar is coming from.

Should I eliminate all sugar and starch from my child’s diet?

Of course not. Many of these foods are incredibly important to your child’s health. Starch-based foods are much safer to eat for teeth when eaten with an entire meal. Foods that stick to teeth are also more difficult to wash away by water, saliva, or other drinks. It’s important that you talk to our staff about your child’s diet and to maintain proper dental care.

What helpful information can you give me regarding tooth decay in infants?

Nursing decay can result over time if a child is nursed to sleep.  Breast milk, like other forms of milk, contains carbohydrates which cause cavities.  Cow’s milk, juice, or formula used in a baby bottle or sippy cup at bedtime also contain carbohydrates. This can cause baby bottle tooth decay (BBTD), or, as it was referred to in the old days, “bottle rot.” When a child is sleeping, any liquid containing sugar or carbohydrates that remains in the mouth can support the bacteria that produce acid and harm the teeth. Giving your baby plain water at bedtime is fine.

Does it matter when I brush my child’s teeth?

Yes!  We recommend that you brush your child’s a minimum of twice per day, the first time being after breakfast, and the second time immediately after his or her last meal or snack of the evening so that he or she goes to bed with clean teeth.  We also want you to floss your child’s teeth immediately after the last meal or snack of the evening.  The secret to preventing tooth decay is to minimize the number of minutes and hours per day that the food is on or in-between the teeth.

You mentioned flossing.  Why do I need to floss my child’s teeth?

First of all, baby teeth or “milk teeth” are extremely important.  They serve important roles in speech, chewing, and guiding the proper eruption of the permanent teeth.  Keep in mind, too, that the last baby molars may not fall out until your child is in middle school.  It is estimated that approximately 70% or more of all the cavities that children get occur in-between the teeth, especially the molars. You could say more cavities are caused by a lack of flossing than a lack of brushing.  In-between cavities can be prevented with regular flossing, 365 nights a year, not just once or twice per week or when food gets stuck.  We recommend that parents continue to help with flossing until the child can prove to you that he or she can floss both sides, front and back, top and bottom, effectively, without missing any teeth.  If your child has braces, we might instruct you to continue helping him or her with flossing every night through the end of braces because it is both challenging and time-consuming.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Tooth Injuries

What should I do if my child’s baby tooth is knocked out?

If you know with certainty that it was a baby tooth that was knocked out, leave it out.  Just call us and let us know.  It is never recommended to put back a baby tooth if it’s been knocked out.

What should I do if my child’s permanent tooth is knocked out?

Rinse the knocked out tooth in cool water. Do not scrub the tooth. Do not hold the tooth by the root; hold it by the crown.  If possible, replace the tooth in the socket and hold it there with clean gauze until the dentist can see your child. If you can’t put the tooth back into the socket, place the tooth in a container of milk (or water if milk is not available.) Call our office immediately. Every minute counts.  The tooth has a better chance of being saved if you act immediately.

What should I do if my child’s tooth is fractured or chipped?

Contact our office as soon as possible. Time is of the essence! Our goal is to save the tooth and prevent infection. Rinse the mouth out with water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. It’s possible that if you can find the broken tooth fragment, it can sometimes be bonded back to the tooth.  If you have a digital camera or cellular phone that is capable of taking close-up, in-focus pictures (you might have to use the “macro” setting on your camera), it is useful for Dr. Aka to have pictures (be sure to hold the lip out of the way) of the tooth or teeth involved emailed to him ahead of time so that he that will be able to tell you if your child should be seen same-day, and, if so, what procedure(s) he might have to perform.

What do I do if my child has a toothache?

Call our office immediately to schedule an appointment. To help comfort your child, rinse out the mouth with cold water and apply a compress.

How can we prevent dental injuries?

Simple. Sport-related dental injuries can be reduced or prevented by wearing mouth guards. Did you know according to some studies and dental trauma experts, trampolines cause more tooth-related accidents than organized sports?  Childproofing your home can help reduce injuries at home. In addition, regular dental check ups will contribute to preventative care.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Sealants

What are sealants?

Tooth sealant refers to a material that a dentist bonds into the grooves of the chewing surface of a tooth as a means of helping prevent the formation of tooth decay on the biting or chewing surfaces of the teeth.

How do sealants work?

In many cases, it is nearly impossible for children to clean the tiny grooves between their teeth. When a sealant is applied, the surface of the tooth is somewhat flatter and smoother. There are no longer any places on the chewing part of the tooth that the bristles of a toothbrush can’t reach and clean. Since plaque can be removed more easily and effectively, there is much less chance that decay will start.  Keep in mind that a sealant only protects the chewing surface of the tooth, so it is important to make sure that your child’s teeth are flossed well every night, otherwise, he or she can get in-between cavities…even on teeth that have been sealed!

What is the life expectancy of tooth sealants?

The longevity of sealants varies. Sealants that have remained in place for three to five years would be considered successful, however, sealants can last much longer. It is not uncommon to see sealants placed during childhood still intact on the teeth of adults. Our office will check your child’s sealants during routine dental visits and will recommend repair or reapplication when necessary.

Which teeth should be sealed?

Any tooth that shows characteristics of developing decay should be sealed. The most common teeth for a dentist to seal are a child’s back teeth, and, of these teeth, the molars are the most common teeth on which dental sealants are placed. The recommendation for sealants should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What is the procedure for placing sealants?

Generally the procedure takes just one visit. Placing dental sealants can be a very easy process. The tooth is cleaned, conditioned, and dried. The sealant is then flowed onto the grooves of the tooth where it is hardened with a special blue light and then buffed. There is no numbing involved, and the child can eat or drink immediately after the appointment.

How important is brushing and flossing after sealants are applied?

It is just as important for your child to brush and floss their teeth. Sealants are only one part of the defensive plan against tooth decay, and, as previously mentioned, sealants do not prevent cavities in-between teeth so flossing remains a necessary part of the nightly routine.

How much does it cost?

This treatment is quite affordable, especially when you consider the value of protection against tooth decay. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants on the adult molars. Some other dental insurance plans even cover sealants on baby molars or (permanent) premolars.  Check with your insurance company about your child’s coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions About A Gummy Smile

When some children smile, they may show an excessive amount of gum tissue. This is called a gummy smile and may be due to a few different problems:

Gum irritation and overgrowth from braces. This is more likely to happen if the teeth appear short before the braces are placed on the teeth. This problem results not from the quality of the orthodontic care, but is a result of pre-treatment gum and bone thickness.

Altered passive eruption. The gum and bone normally recede as a part of the normal eruption of the teeth. When this normal recession doesn’t occur, the gums cover too much of the teeth and make them appear “too short”. The teeth are usually not too short. They are usually of normal size but are buried under the gum and bone.

If there are habits such as digit sucking or grinding (bruxism), excessive pressure or tooth wear can alter the appearance of the teeth.  The problems may be able to be corrected with orthodontics, surgical procedures, or dental restorations such as crowns or veneers.

Skeletal developmental problems affect the growth of the jaws and the teeth. If orthodontics are instituted between the years of seven and nine, the growth of the jaws can often be controlled and the cosmetics can be improved.

Before treatment, it is critical to properly evaluate the problems and get an accurate diagnosis. Some cosmetic issues can be easily corrected while others like skeletal problems can be more difficult.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Mouth Guards

What is a mouth guard?

A mouth guard is comprised of soft plastic. They come in standard or custom fit to adapt comfortably to the upper teeth.

Why is a mouth guard important?

A mouth guard protects the teeth from possible sport injuries. It does not only protect the teeth, but the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw bone as well. It can contribute to the protection of a child from head and neck injuries such as concussions. Most injuries occur to the mouth and head area when a child is not wearing a mouth guard.

When should my child wear a mouth guard?

It should be worn during any sport-based activity where there is risk of head, face, or neck injury. Such sports include hockey, soccer, karate, basketball, baseball, skating, skateboarding, as well as many other sports. Most oral injuries occur when children play basketball, baseball, soccer, or jump on a trampoline.

How do I choose a mouth guard for my child?

Choose a mouth guard that your child feels is comfortable. If a mouth guard feels bulky or interferes with speech to any great degree, it is probably not appropriate for your child.

There are many options in mouth guards. Customized mouth guards can be provided through our practice. They may be a bit more expensive, but they are much more comfortable and shock absorbent.  Other mouth guards can be found in athletic stores. These vary in comfort, protection as well as cost. The least expensive tend to be the least effective in preventing oral injuries.