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Common Pediatric Dental Questions

Answers from Your Tucson Pediatric Dentist

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?
Great Grins is a children’s dental office in Tucson. So, what makes a pediatric dentist different? Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years of specialty training following dental school. Because of this, pediatric dentists are the 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 pediatric dentist for the first check-up?
Your child should see a pediatric dentist by their first birthday or no later than 6 months after the first tooth erupts.
Why so early?
Regular and early dental visits allow your child to begin a thorough prevention program. Dental problems can begin early, but most dental problems can be prevented or corrected with early intervention. The main concern for pediatric dentists is early childhood caries (nursing bottle caries). A child risks severe decay from using a bottle or sippy cup while sleeping, or when continuously breast-feeding. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Your child’s primary teeth serve many important functions, like allowing for proper speech and chewing, and holding space for permanent teeth. Call your children’s dentist in Tucson at (520) 800-8878 for more information.
When should we begin to use toothpaste and how much?
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 fluoride toothpaste (or an amount about the size of a grain of rice) for children less than 2 years of age. For 2-5 year olds, dispense a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist with your child’s tooth brushing. 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 should a child have dental x-rays?
Since every child is unique, the need for dental x-rays varies from child to child. In general, children require x-rays more often than adults. Their mouths grow and change rapidly. Children are more susceptible to decay than adults. A child with a higher rate of decay may need x-rays every six months. Children with a lower risk for decay require x-rays less frequently.
How safe are dental x-rays?
We use digital x-rays which reduce the radiation exposure and lead aprons shields to protect your child. Digital x-rays and contemporary safeguards make the amount of radiation received in a dental x-ray extremely small. In fact, dental x-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem. Learn more about your children’s dentistry in Tucson by calling (520) 800-8878.
What are dental sealants?
Sealants “seal out” or fill up the deep grooves and pits of teeth. They prevent food and bacteria from becoming lodged in those areas, thus preventing or reducing the development of cavities. Sealants cannot be placed between the teeth, so flossing remains important to protect those areas from decay.
What should I do in a dental emergency?
Please remain calm. Great Grins Children’s Dentistry offers 24-hour emergency care for our patients of record. If an emergency should occur after hours, please call our office at 520-325-4746, then follow the prompts to reach our doctors. Speak clearly and leave your contact information. A doctor will return your call as soon as possible.
What should I do if my child falls and knocks out a permanent tooth?
Remain calm. First, find the tooth and hold it by the crown. Try to reinsert it in the socket. If there is debris present, you can rinse it gently in cool water but do not scrub it. Finally, if that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and contact Great Grins Children’s Dentistry in Tucson immediately at 520-325-4746 for our patients of record. The tooth has a better chance of being saved if you act fast.
Why are mouthguards important in preventing dental injuries?
Mouthguards protect not just the teeth, but also the lips, cheek and tongue. Most importantly, they help protect from head and neck injuries such as concussions and jaw fractures. Increasingly, organized sports are requiring mouthguards to prevent injury to their athletes. Research shows that most oral injuries occur when athletes are not wearing mouth protection.
How can I help my child enjoy good oral health?
The following steps will help your child be part of the cavity-free generation:

  1. Beware of frequent snacking especially with foods that are sticky and chewy
  2. Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  3. Floss twice daily but especially at bedtime.
  4. Have sealants applied when appropriate
  5. Seek regular dental check-ups twice a year
  6. Assure proper fluoride through drinking water, fluoride products or supplements

*Some information courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Prenatal & Infant Oral Health Care


If you are expecting a baby, it’s important to understand that your oral health impacts your pregnancy. It also affects the oral health of your child. Improving oral health during pregnancy can help prevent early cavities in your child’s teeth.

Please visit the Prenatal Oral Health Program website to watch a video about the importance of good oral health care during pregnancy. You can also contact Great Grins Children’s Dentistry at (520) 800-8878 if you are pregnant and do not see a dentist on a regular basis. We will be happy to refer you to a dentist in our area who is willing to see expectant mothers.


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that your child should visit a dentist by their first birthday, or when their first tooth comes in. This usually happens between 6 – 12 months. Baby teeth are at high risk for tooth decay, so the earlier they visit the dentist after their first tooth comes in, the better.

Things to consider when it comes to oral health care for your child…

Caring for gums

Wrap a washcloth or gauze around your finger and rub it gently over your baby’s gums. Doing this on a regular basis will help your baby transition to a toothbrush.

Baby’s 1st tooth

When teeth start to appear, switch to a baby toothbrush. Brush your child’s teeth twice a day. Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste (or an amount about the size of a grain of rice) for children under age 2.

Thumb, finger and pacifier habits

Sucking is a natural habit for infants. It usually serves as a comfort and security for them. According to the American Dental Association, most children stop these habits on their own between the ages of two and four. If children continue their habit, it can lead to problems with tooth alignment. It can also affect the overall oral health of the child.

First visit to the dentist

Early visits to the dentist help your child become familiar with the doctors and staff. They will also lessen the fear often associated with dental visits. Parents play a large role in making the first visit to the dentist a positive experience. Role playing with your child, counting teeth and showing them pictures of our team and our office prior to their first visit can help alleviate anxiety that your child may feel. With your help, we can make their first visit a fun and enjoyable experience.

Visit the Baby Oral Health Program website for more information on infant oral health care.

Tips for Teens and Parents

The ways we stay healthy vary based on age. At Great Grins Children’s Dentistry, patients include teens and we emphasize the importance of their dental health. These are some small ways to make a big step toward healthier teeth.

Limit soda drinking

Sugar in sweetened sodas can cause cavities, and acidic flavor additives (found in both unsweetened and sweetened sodas) can also erode and damage tooth enamel. For better teen health, limit the harmful effects of soda in two simple ways: sipping soda through a straw cuts down on the contact the beverage has with teeth, and rinsing the mouth with water after drinking soda can reduce the risk of cavities.

Play it safe

Teens can prevent injuries by wearing a mouthguard while playing contact sports. Whether a mouth guard is custom-fitted by a dentist or bought at a store, teens should keep it clean by rinsing it often and storing it in a ventilated container.

Avoid oral piercings

Oral piercings can also have an effect on teen health. People with tongue piercings chip their teeth on the jewelry while eating, sleeping, talking and chewing. The fracture can be confined to tooth enamel and require a filling, or it may go deeper, which can lead to a root canal or tooth extraction. Infections are also common with oral piercings. The tongue can swell after being punctured, and in some cases can become infected and swell to such a degree that it interferes with breathing. Unclean piercing equipment can cause other infections, such as blood-borne hepatitis.

Make time for healthy habits

Teens should have access to healthy snacks. Food such as apples, carrot sticks and low-fat cheese are “on-the-go” snacks that are easy to take to school, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs.

Fresh breath?

Chewing sugarless gum with xylitol (a natural sweetener) after meals or snacks can help cleanse the teeth and reduce the bacteria that causes cavities. Drinking water throughout the day can also help rinse the teeth of excess food debris and help keep the mouth and body hydrated.

Do the right things:

  • Brush twice daily but especially at bedtime
  • Floss twice daily but especially at bedtime.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
  • Eat healthy
  • Visit the dentist twice a year

*Some information courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the  Academy of General Dentistry.


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