Our Pediatric Dental Services
Pediatric dentistry is the specialty of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of young people. Your child’s total oral health is our top priority. Establishing us as your child’s primary dental care provider gives us the opportunity to implement preventive dental health habits that keep a child free from dental/oral disease. We focus on prevention, early detection, and treatment of dental diseases, and keep current on the latest advances in dentistry for children.
- Age 1 Visits / Initial Exams
- Dental Education
- Digital X-Rays
- Emergency Care
- Preventive Dentistry
- Routine Pediatric Dentistry
- Sedation Dentistry
- Hospital Dentistry
- Special Needs Dental Care
- Behavior Modification (habit)
Age 1 Visits & Initial Exams
Our initial exam includes an introduction to our staff and Doctors, review of dental/medical history, soft tissue examination, cleaning, polishing, scaling, necessary digital imaging (x-rays), fluoride treatment when appropriate, oral hygiene instruction (O.H.I.), dental development evaluation, dietary and nutritional counseling, patient/parent education with a review of the dental oral exam and plan. Our goal is to assist each parent with creating a sustainable dental lifestyle early in childhood that will lead to a happy, healthy smile throughout their development.
At SLO Pediatric Dental, we are committed to going above and beyond the expectations of our parents and patients. Along with helping ensure the proper growth and development of our patients, we put an extra emphasis on educating our parents and patients throughout our ongoing relationship together. Below is important information from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to educate you and your child concerning pediatric dental health and procedures. For even more information, visit the AAPD’s website.
The Importance of Primary (Baby) Teeth
It is very important to maintain the health of the primary (baby) teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance. While the front 8 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) are not replaced until age 10-12.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This condition is caused by frequent and long exposure of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar. Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.
Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with a bottle containing anything other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay. Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you must give your baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.
After each feeding wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque. The easiest way to do this is to sit down and place the child’s head in your lap, or lay the child on a changing table. Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.
Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth
Children’s teeth begin forming under the gums before birth. Usually at 6-8 months of age, the lower central incisors begin to erupt followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies.
Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).
Seal Out Decay
A sealant is a white acrylic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque, and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth. They are quickly and painlessly applied to teeth that are free of decay thus making it a very comfortable procedure for the patient. Sealants are checked at every 6 month checkup and may easily be replaced if missing or broken, though they generally last for several years. Children should avoid chewing on hard candies and ice as this can chip or break the sealants. As a preventive mechanism, sealants are an important part of a cavity-free generation.
Dental X-rays are a useful diagnostic tool when helping your pediatric dentist detect damage and disease not visible during a regular dental exam. How often X-rays should be taken depends on your present oral health, your age, your risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease. For example, children may require X-rays more often than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults. At SLO Pediatric Dental, we will review your child’s history, examine their mouth, and then decide whether or not you need X-rays.
For a new patient, the pediatric dentist may recommend X-rays to determine the present status of their oral health and have a baseline to help identify changes that may occur later. A new set of X-rays may be needed to help your pediatric dentist detect any new cavities, determine the status of your gum health or evaluate the growth and development of the teeth.
Traditional non-digital Dental X-ray exams are safe; however, they do require very low levels of radiation exposure, which makes the risk of potentially harmful effects small. But here at SLO Pediatric Dental, we put an extra emphasis on the health of our patients. This is why we have upgraded to the most state-of-the-art Digital X-ray machine.
Digital Radiography (Digital X-Ray)
Digital radiography (digital x-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental x-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor (instead of x-ray film) that captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems easier. Digital x-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental x-rays.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
We are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. Digital x-rays produce a significantly lower level of radiation compared to traditional dental x-rays. Not only are digital x-rays better for the health and safety of the patient, they are faster and more comfortable to take, which reduces your time in the dental office. Also, since the digital image is captured electronically, there is no need to develop the x-rays, thus eliminating the disposal of harmful waste and chemicals into the environment.
Even though digital x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered very safe, dentists still take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation. These precautions include only taking x-rays that are necessary, and using lead apron shields to protect the body.
If any dental emergency arises, you can call our office at anytime. The phone number to contact SLO Pediatric Dental for emergency care is 805.544.8111. An emergency operator service is available during non-office hours to contact the pediatric dentist on call.
It is not uncommon for children to have accidents and injure their teeth. It is imperative that parents are able to make the correct decisions if/when these accidents occur. The first thing to remember in these situations is to stay calm. By remaining calm and taking quick action, you will help minimize the damaging effects of the injury, and lessen your child’s discomfort. Dental emergencies can involve toothaches, broken teeth, chipped or fractured teeth, tissue damage, biting or bleeding of the gums, and any other dental pain.
Common Dental Emergencies:
Gently clean or rinse dirt from the area around the break. Place a cold compress on the face in the area of the broken tooth to minimize lip or facial swelling. If the fracture is more than one-half of the tooth, contact our office immediately.
Knocked Out Tooth:
For permanent teeth – Find the tooth. Handle the tooth by the crown, not root. If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it in cold water, but DO NOT scrub or handle the root unnecessarily. Try to replace the tooth into the socket. Have the child hold the tooth in place by closing on a gauze pad or washcloth. If it is not possible to replace the tooth, place the tooth in a cup of milk, or if this is not available, cool water. Contact our office. Time is important for saving the tooth, less than 30 minutes is the best.
For primary (baby) teeth – Teeth are not re-implanted. The tooth fairy will be at work prematurely.
Clean the area around the tooth. Rinse the mouth with warm salt water and use dental floss to remove any trapped food between the teeth. DO NOT place aspirin on the gums or tooth. This will cause a burn to the gum tissues. If there is swelling, apply cold to the outside of the face. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain. Contact our office.
Bitten Tongue, Lip, or Cheek:
If there is bleeding apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or gauze. Apply an ice compress to the injured area. If bleeding does not stop, go to a hospital emergency room.
Objects Caught between the Teeth:
Try to remove the object with dental floss. You may tie one or two small knots in the floss to help remove the debris. Do not use a sharp metal object. If you cannot remove it, contact our office.
Bleeding After a Baby Tooth Falls Out:
Fold a gauze pad or clean washcloth over the bleeding area. Keep it in place for 15 minutes, then repeat as necessary.
Cold or Canker Sores:
Some children will get these periodically. Placing vitamin E oil over the area, or other over the counter medications will usually give relief. If they persist or are extreme, contact our office.
You can help your child avoid dental emergencies. Child-proof your house to avoid falls. Don’t let your child chew on ice, popcorn kernels, or other hard foods. Always use car seats for young children and require seat belts for older children. And if your child plays contact sports, have him/her wear a mouthguard. Ask us about creating a custom-fitted mouthguard for your child. Prevent toothaches with regular brushing, flossing, and visits to our office.
Finally, Keep our phone number handy and make it known to your baby sitters, pediatrician, and your child’s school nurse.
At SLO Pediatric Dental, we practice preventive dentistry, which means we take a forward-looking approach to preventing common problems like tooth decay. With regular pediatric dental visits and parental involvement in daily oral healthcare, unnecessary tooth pain can often be avoided.
Why is Preventive Dentistry Important?
Preventive dentistry means a healthy smile for your child. Children with healthy mouths chew more easily and gain more nutrients from the foods they eat. They learn to speak more quickly and clearly. They have a better chance of general health, because disease in the mouth can endanger the rest of the body. A healthy mouth is more attractive, giving children confidence in their appearance. Finally, preventive dentistry means less extensive and less expensive treatment for your child.
How Do Pediatric Dentists Help Prevent Dental Problems?
Tooth cleaning, polishing, and fluoride treatments are all part of your child’s prevention program. However, there is much more. For example: pediatric dentists can apply sealants to protect your child from tooth decay, help you select a mouth guard to prevent sports injuries to the face and teeth, and provide early diagnosis and care of orthodontic problems. Pediatric dentists are uniquely trained to develop a combination of office and home preventive care to ensure your child keeps a happy, healthy smile.
Common Pediatric Preventive Dentistry:
Regular and General Dental Visits
Proper Nutrition and Dietary Habits
Daily Flossing & Brushing
Custom Athletic Mouthguards
Oral Health Education
Preventing Baby Bottle Decay
Guidance on Primary Tooth Eruption
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, healthy teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth. Losing primary teeth early due to cavities can sometimes cause very crowded permanent teeth.
At SLO Pediatric Dental, we consider our patients part of our family! Please Call 805-544-8111 today to schedule your child’s appointment.
Routine Cleanings & Exams
Routine dental cleanings and exams are important for your child to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent decay and disease. Your daily home care is also critical, but the professional cleanings remove mineralized plaque that can develop despite good brushing and flossing, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach. Following the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, we recommend that your child see us for a cleaning and exam once every six months.
These preventative appointments typically last between 30 minutes and an hour, and parents are always welcome to come back to the treatment area or wait in the lobby. Most older children do better when Mom or Dad don’t accompany them in the back office, and they enjoy the opportunity to be independent. Our staff will let you know if they feel your child is ready for this exciting milestone.
Cleaning and Fluoride
During the appointment, your child’s teeth will be polished and scaled to remove plaque and tartar from the tooth surfaces. He or she will get to pick a fun toothpaste flavor like strawberry or bubble gum, and they will get to watch a kid-friendly movie overhead. In addition to the cleaning, your child will also receive a concentrated fluoride treatment to help their teeth stay strong. In babies and younger children, we paint on a fluoride varnish that tastes like mint, and you will need to wait at least 8 hours before you brush your child’s teeth at home. For older children, we use a fluoride gel that comes in many flavors, and they will need to wait 30 minutes before they eat or drink anything.
Dental x-rays will be taken as needed during their routine cleaning appointments to check for cavities in between their teeth, survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone disease, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment. All of our x-ray equipment is digital and uses much less radiation than traditional dental x-rays, and your child will also wear a lead body apron with a thyroid collar during the process. If you have any concerns about x-rays for your child, please discuss them with our staff.
The last part of your child’s routine cleaning is a thorough examination with one of our Doctors. This includes reviewing any x-rays taken, examining your child’s mouth visually for problems, and talking to your child about their teeth and hygiene when age appropriate. If your child has decay or other problems requiring treatment, the dentist will discuss them with you and a treatment appointment will be set for a later date.
Each and every appointment ends with a trip to the prize treasure chest where your child will be able to choose a special reward for completing the examination. We try to update and improve our toys as much as possible to keep our patients happy and looking forward to their next dental visit!
Remember, when dental visits begin at an early age, a child learns not to fear dental exams.
Giving Ease to a Nervous Child
Deep sedation is sometimes necessary for children that are unable by either age, or maturity level to cooperate during dental treatment. Our practice utilizes the French Medical Center, Sierra Vista Hospital, and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital for children requiring one day outpatient care.
Sedation dentistry is most helpful for:
- Children who require major treatment
- A very nervous or anxious child
- Children with a strong gag reflex
- Children who are medically compromised or have special needs
- Children that have had traumatic dental experiences (sound and smell aversion)
While most dental procedures can be accomplished in our office, some of our patients may need general anesthesia while receiving restorative dental procedures. Hospital Dentistry is a special service that we provide. Hospital Dentistry allows children who cannot handle routine dental restorative procedures while awake, to be put asleep utilizing a general anesthetic.
What exactly is hospital dentistry?
Traditional hospital dentistry is regular pediatric dental work (fillings, crowns, extractions, X-rays, etc.) performed in a hospital operating room with the child asleep utilizing a general anesthetic. A qualified anesthesiologist places the child under general anesthesia and monitors the patient throughout the procedure and recovery phases. This allows the Doctor to perform the dentistry under more ideal circumstances and helps prevent the development of a lifelong fear of dental treatment. This service is also offered in our office utilizing an outpatient anesthesia service.
A very common question that a parent asks is: “Why would a child require Hospital Dentistry”? Listed below are some of the reasons why this specialized care becomes necessary:
• Some children, due to age and tremendous anxiety (dental phobia) just cannot cope with traditional dental treatment; their fear and anxiety causes them tremendous stress.
• Physically or mentally challenged children are also candidates for this type of treatment.
• In the event extensive work is required, as in the event of complete mouth restoration, it is much easier on a young patient to be placed under general anesthesia to have the procedure done, than to endure long hours in the dental chair, or many repeated visits.
Special Needs Dental Care
SLO Pediatric Dental provides expert, caring treatment for children with special needs through age 30. Our dentists and staff fully understand the demands of special-needs care, and we welcome these patients and their families.
Tooth grinding is common in children under the age of 7. While children are young, before there are permanent teeth present, their bites are flexible and change as they grow. Children may grind due to an abnormal bite or the placement of the teeth. Once the first permanent molars erupt at about 6 years old, the permanent bite begins to establish itself and tooth grinding tends to subside. Stress related grinding is common in the middle school and high school aged students, especially during testing times. Dr. Vik will monitor your child’s bite as well as chipping and wear patterns of their teeth.
Thumb and Finger Sucking