When Should My Child First See the Dentist?

when first dentist appointment child

As soon as the first tooth appears, your child needs regular checkups every six months.

Q:Dr. Burhenne, my child is still an infant, but at what age should I bring him in for his first dental visit?

A:The general rule, which actually makes a lot of sense, is six months after the eruption of the first tooth. Basically, so long as your child has teeth, he or she should be seeing the dentist every six months. After all, decay can occur as soon as teeth appear. Eruption of the first tooth is typically before his or her first birthday.Going to the dentist as an adult absolutely depends on the experience you had as a child. People who have had a bad experience or don’t develop the habit during childhood almost always have inferior oral health as adults, which impacts their overall health. Taking your child to the dentist at a young age is the best way to not only prevent problems such as tooth decay, and can help you learn how to clean your child’s teeth but also help establish a lifetime of good oral care habits. Bringing your child to the dentist early often leads to a lifetime of good oral care habits and acclimates your child to the dental office, thereby reducing anxiety and fear, which will make for plenty of stress-free visits in the future.

What should I do before coming in with my child?

Before the visit, ask the dentist about the procedures of the first appointment so there are no surprises. Plan a course of action for either reaction your child may exhibit – cooperative or non- cooperative. Very young children may be fussy and not sit still. Talk to your child about what to expect, and build excitement as well as understanding about the upcoming visit. Bring with you to the appointment any records of your child’s complete medical history.

What will happen on the first visit?

Many first visits are nothing more than introductory icebreakers to acquaint your child with the dentist and the practice. If your child is frightened, uncomfortable or non-cooperative, a rescheduling may be necessary. Patience and calm on the part of the parent and reassuring communication with your child are very important in these instances. Short, successive visits are meant to build the child’s trust in the dentist and the dental office, and can prove invaluable if your child needs to be treated later for any dental problem.

Child appointments should always be scheduled earlier in the day, when your child is alert and fresh. For children under 36 months, the parent may need to sit in the dental chair and hold the child during the examination. Or, parents may be asked to wait in the reception area so a relationship can be built between your child and the dentist.

If the child is compliant, the first session often lasts between 15 and 30 minutes and may include the following, depending on age:

  • A gentle but thorough examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues to monitor growth and development and observe any problem areas
  • If indicated, a gentle cleaning, which includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar buildup or stains
  • X-rays
  • A demonstration on proper home cleaning

The dentist should be able to answer any questions you have and try to make you and your child feel comfortable throughout the visit. The entire dental team should provide a relaxed, non-threatening environment for your child.

When should the next visit be?

Children, like adults, should see the dentist every six months. Some dentists may schedule interim visits for every three months when the child is very young to build up a comfort and confidence level or to treat a developing problem.

How can I protect my child’s oral health at home?

Parents typically provide oral hygiene care until the child is old enough to take personal responsibility for the daily dental health routine of brushing and flossing. A proper regimen of preventive home care is important from the day your child is born.

  • Clean your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding.
  • You’re on the hook for seven years.
  • As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and water.  If you are considering using toothpaste before your child’s second birthday, ask your dentist first.
  • To avoid baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, try to wean your child off of the breast and bottle by one year of age, and monitor excessive sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs. Never give your child a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened liquid as a pacifier at naptime or bedtime.
  • Help a young child brush at night, the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities. Perhaps let the child brush their teeth first to build self-confidence, then the parent can follow up to ensure that all plaque is removed. Usually by age 5 or so, the child can learn to brush his or her own teeth with proper parental instruction.
  • The best way to teach a child how to brush is to lead by good example. Allowing your child to watch you brush your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.

What Can I Do About Stained or Discolored Teeth?

sunnyvale dentist teeth staining

Q:Dr. Burhenne, what can I do about staining on my teeth? Is there anything that can be done about the discoloration on my teeth without having to give up coffee, wine, berries – basically everything I find delicious?

A:Surface staining can be removed during a routine teeth cleaning. During a dental cleaning, the hygienist removes the pellicle, a natural film that forms on top of your teeth. When the pellicle is removed, the tooth appears cleaner, brighter, and even reflects light differently.

Removing the pellicle of the tooth is completely natural – the biofilm grows like a weed and comes right back.

The scrubbing motion of an Oral B Braun electric toothbrush can be very effective at removing stains and brightening your teeth. Brush your teeth for a full five minutes by holding the spinning head over each tooth and gently holding it against each tooth. Do this with a whitening toothpaste – I’m a fan of Rembrandt (it has citroxin, a patented stain-remover), and gently hold the toothbrush against each tooth for four seconds. You should see a difference in the brightness of your smile within five days if you were previously using a manual toothbrush.

How Can Cosmetic Dentistry Improve the Appearance of My Smile?

What Are the Benefits of Invisalign?

sunnyvale invisalign

Correcting your bite with Invisalign will straighten your teeth – but the health benefits actually extend much deeper than that.

Q:Dr. Burhenne, what’s your opinion on Invisalign? I’ve been thinking about straightening my teeth for a while but they don’t bother me that much and my teeth don’t seem crooked enough to look that bad.

A:Most people see just one benefit with Invisalign: the option to not have to wear metal braces. There’s nothing wrong with wanting straight, beautiful teeth and wanting an “invisible” way of achieving that, but the truly beautiful thing about Invisalign is actually has nothing to do with how your teeth look.

Here are some of my favorite reasons why Invisalign is about so much more than just the looks:

Protective gear you can use the rest of your life.

Once you’re done with Invisalign, you’ll have what is essentially a clear mouth guard that you will wear at night to keep your teeth straight, but can also be used to whiten your teeth, protect your teeth from grinding at night or during sporting events (like mountain biking and lifting weights) – the device has many functions!

Shorter, more efficient dental cleanings with the hygienist

Teeth that are properly aligned tend to be more self-cleansing and more self-maintaining. They’re easier to floss and they’re easier for the hygienist to clean! Crooked teeth are very hard to clean. For example, when teeth are twisted and crowded, the instrument that the dental hygienist uses is rendered ineffective, allowing the bacteria to evade removal during the cleaning process.

Speech and phonetics – better speech and pronunciation

Your ability to pronounce words properly is largely determined by the position of your teeth. I have patients in the movie, comedy, voice over, and music industries, for whom Invisalign has able to help by fine-tuning their speaking voice. For example, if your two upper front teeth are too long or if you have an open bite, you may lisp or have difficulty to pronounce certain words, or even whistle a little bit as you speak.

Reduced food impaction from easier home care

When teeth do not fit up against each other tightly enough, it is likely that, at every meal, a piece of stringy meat or vegetable will get caught in between the teeth and will stay there until removed by floss. This condition is called food impaction and can cause great harm to the gums and teeth. The food is held in place by the misaligned teeth so that the bacteria can feast upon it. Facilitating their growth in your mouth will bring about accelerated gum recession and dull, throbbing pain in the mouth.

Proper positioning of the teeth facilitates easier and more efficacious flossing and brushing. If your teeth are all lined up correctly in the proper position, there is less for you to do and less to worry about to have good oral health.

Invisalign aligners can fix facial, jaw, and neck pain

People who suffer from sore facial muscles and from the effects of grinding can not only benefit from a better bite, but they can also benefit from wearing an aligner over several months. As long as there is no joint pathology, wearing an Invisalign aligner is a great way to deprogram the muscles involved in grinding and relieve TMD symptoms.

Better bone architecture and gum positioning

It’s not just what’s above the surface! When the teeth are crooked, the bone that’s supporting the tooth is also crooked, leading to complications. This is referred to as bone architecture and without optimal bone architecture, it is almost impossible to have good gum and tooth health.

Better digestion by more efficient chewing and breakdown of food particles in the mouth

The mouth is responsible for the first stage of the digestion of food. Improper mastication of food in the mouth has ramifications for the entire process of the absorption of nutrients throughout the body. To put it simply, you will get less nutrition out of the food you eat without a proper bite.

Proper positioning of the lower jaw in relationship to the upper jaw

Here’s the analogy I use with my patients. The jaw is like a door with two hinges – one hinge at each ear and the door jam and the strike plate being your teeth. In an ideal mouth, you want the door to be able to open smoothly and easily and close without effort. The door hits the strike plate and the door jam at the same time without any undue friction or sticking.

Who of us have had doors that we’ve had to force it shut? The door that doesn’t close properly will eventually pull the screws out of the hinge plates and, one day, will not be able to close.

The equivalent in the mouth is TMJ or TMD, pain in the joints, clicking and popping, misaligned jaws, inefficient and painful chewing, or the inability to chew. Perfectly aligned teeth will allow that door to open and close freely without slow deterioration of the jaw and without pain.

This is what orthodontics and braces were invented for – not only to give you a pretty smile, as you may have been told, rather, but to improve your overall health and help you live a long life without pain. No doubt that a beautiful smile brings confidence and self-esteem, but without good physical health, the former is hollow!

Mark Burhenne DDS

How Often Should I Have a Teeth Cleaning?

how often teeth cleaning sunnyvale dentist

Dentists always say to come in every six months for a checkup, but it’s actually more complicated than that.

Q: How often do I need to get my teeth cleaned?

A:The general recommendation from dentists, including me, is that you come in for a teeth cleaning every six months. I like to use this as a basic rule of thumb, but the six months rule certainly is not one size fits all.

That’s because tartar and plaque form in the mouth at different rates. I’ve seen a patient for a cleaning visit only to see them two weeks later for a scheduled filling and already see tartar forming on the teeth. I also have some patients that need to come in for a cleaning only every 12 months.

Think of it like taking your car in for service: Are you a fast driver that puts lots of wear and tear on your car, or do you baby your car, warm it up every morning and drive like the owner of a Zamboni in an ice rink?

Are you flossing and brushing regularly (and properly)? How soon would you need to take your car in for service? What type of driver are you?

Home care is vital in determining the rate of plaque buildup that is partially responsible for gum disease, as well as more serious conditions like heart disease. Good brushers and flossers (determined by the frequency and quality of doing so) of course will fare better and last longer before needing another cleaning.

Gum disease is 100% preventable, but once seen in the mouth it is not 100% curable, and is not as easy to arrest. This is why every six months is a good rule of thumb if that’s what ensures you’ll come in for cleanings regularly, but could be too frequent or too infrequent, depending on how much wear and tear and how many miles you’re putting on your teeth and gums. For this reason, we will work together to find a teeth cleaning schedule that works for you.

Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS