Teeth 101 - A Basic Introductory

Below are a few terms or questions that parents, or kids, may have upon visiting the dentist.

Dental Emergencies - What is Considered a Dental Emergency?

Some minor pain after a major surgery is expected. But, when that pain is great, or a tooth gets knocked out, that's a dental emergency. Below are a few of the most common dental emergencies and what you can do during them.

Knocked-out Tooth

Primary teeth (Deciduous teeth or "baby teeth") are not a concern if they are knocked out. These are replaceable. However, permanent teeth require immediate care. If a permanent tooth is knocked-out, rinse the tooth briefly with water. Be careful not to touch the root. Place the tooth immediately in the socket and gently hold it in place by biting down on a paper towel, or washcloth. Keeping the tooth moist will prevent the cells of the tooth root alive long enough for re-attachment. If the tooth cannot be replaced, place the tooth in milk, egg yolk, or have the child carry the tooth in their mouth. Call us immediately so we can attempt to save the tooth.

Broken Tooth

Find the broken fragment of the tooth and call us as soon as possible. Most of the time the broken piece can be re-attached. To relieve the pain and swelling, put a cold cloth near the area of the broken tooth, on the gum or cheek.


First, rinse with warm salt water. Then, brush and floss the area to remove trapped food/bacteria. If pain continues, call us as soon as possible for an evaluation.

Why Fix Baby Teeth?

A few parents are under the misassumption that leaving baby teeth untreated won't have any lasting effect on adult teeth. This is untrue.

Primary teeth, or baby teeth, serve many functions. They serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. Without these spaces, adult teeth can grow crowded and misaligned. Another important thing is baby teeth help with the development of good pronunciation and speech habits.

What Should I Know About My First Visit?

Parents play a major role in how their child views the dentists and dental check-ups. The more relaxed the parent, the more relaxed the child. Our office has a warm, friendly atmosphere for our patients and their parents to help create a positive response. Parents are always welcome to accompany their child to their dental check-up. This usually helps children become more at ease during their visit.

The first thing we will do is explain each of our procedures to your child. We won't use medical jargon, only simple words so they can better understand. Once your child understands the procedure and is comfortable, we begin a full examination of the teeth, gums, and bones. The bite of your child will also be evaluated and teeth will be polished and flossed. X-rays will only be taken if they are necessary. Our X-ray equipment is specially selected to provide maximum safety.

Following your child's examination, we will go over treatment recommendations and answer any questions you may have concerning treatment. Please let us know of any special considerations that may help us provide the best dental care for your child.


X-rays are often needed to find cavities forming between teeth. One of the concerns of x-rays is that older technology required more radiation to expose them. Modern technology has greatly reduced the amount of radiation required to expose x-rays to a negligible amount. For comparison, the standard dental x-ray will expose a patient to 0.15 mrem (Millirem, a measure of radiation exposure). On average, annual sunlight exposure is measured at 35mrem, 230 times the amount.


A dental sealant is used to prevent the accumulation of food in the pits and features of teeth. These pits and fissures are the most likely place for cavities to form. Having a dental seal helps reduce the risk of developing cavities by up to 85%. In order to remain effective, sealants should be checked and touched up as needed during regularly scheduled dentist visits, every 6 months.


Fillings are used to replace missing tooth structures after a cavity has been removed. A filling is not a permanent solution as they, like cavities, weaken the strength of the tooth. Cavities are classified by the number of tooth surfaces involved, the more surfaces the larger the filling. There is a limit to how big a filling can get before the strength of the tooth is compromised.

Pediatric Crowns

Pediatric crowns are used when large cavities weaken a tooth too much, or when the tooth can't retain fillings. These crowns allow the tooth to remain in the mouth until it falls out naturally. In order to place the crown, the tooth must be reduced in size so the crown can fit over the entire tooth. Crowns can be made of many different materials including stainless steel (silver), zirconia (white), and composite resin (white). Although white crowns are desirable, the stainless-steel crown is the most successful and dependable. We can discuss the white crown limitations and determine if they will work for your child.


A pulpotomy is the surgical removal of the nerve in the pulp chamber of the tooth, followed by the application of disinfecting medication and the placement of a crown on the restored tooth. If a cavity encroaches to the pulp chamber there is a chance that removing the cavity will expose the chamber to bacteria. It is necessary to perform the pulpotomy if this occurs.

Space Maintainer

A space maintainer is an appliance used to prevent teeth from shifting and causing crowding. These are often used after the premature loss of primary teeth. Space maintainers are tolerated by most children. They are removed when the new tooth appears, which usually takes 4 - 7 years.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide is an effective tool to help reduce anxiety, discomfort, and pain. This colorless and faintly sweet smelling gas creates a euphoric state and helps enhance the communication between the patient and dentist. It is very safe, having little effect on the respiratory system. There is no significant risk of losing reflexes. Patients are able to return to a pre-administration condition rather quickly. Although it works for the majority of the population, effectiveness is variable and depends on the patient's response or resistance to various drugs.

General Anesthesia

General Anesthesia is used in the care of situations involving children who have limited comprehension or with children who are extremely uncooperative. It is also used if the dental treatment is extensive. Your pediatric dentist will go over the details about the anesthesia and the procedure. Afterward the procedure or surgery, your child may feel groggy, confused, scared, cold, sad, or sick upon waking up. They may also be some pain, depending on the procedure or surgery. Normally medicine is prescribed after this to help relieve the pain. After recovery, your child will be evaluated to make sure they are ready to be discharged. The dentist will go over the instructions on care and recovery at home.

Braces (Orthodontics)

If teeth are found to be on an inappropriate eruption path, an orthodontist may be referred. Under most circumstances, it's alright to wait until your child has lost all of their primary teeth before visiting an orthodontist.


Fluoride is a safe method of reducing dental cavities by 55-60%. This is backed by over 50 years of scientific data. Flouride functions by strengthening tooth enamel to resist demineralization.

Healthy Snacks for Children

Healthy snacks are those that contain a low amount of carbohydrates and little to no sugar. The frequency of snacking also plays a factor as children that snack more are at a higher risk of developing cavities. If a child does eat something sweet and sticky they should be reminded to brush their teeth.

  • Carrots
  • Fresh Oranges
  • Celery Sticks – Plain or with Peanut Butter / Cheese
  • Peaches
  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Peanuts
  • Dairy Products
  • Peanut Butter
  • Eggs
  • Fresh Pears
  • Frozen Unsweetened Fruit Juices
  • Popcorn
  • Grapes
  • Salads
  • Meat
  • Sugarless Candy and Gum
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Soups
  • Olives
  • Strawberries

Healthy Habits for Your Child

  • No juice before one year old and never in a bottle
  • Avoid Ad lib nursing during the night. Bacteria quickly convert the natural sugars to acid, which decays the teeth throughout the night.
  • Drink lots of water. This constant washing of the teeth ensures that acids produced by bacteria will not stick around long.
  • For older kids, chewing sugarless gum can strengthen your teeth. The chewing process stimulates salivary flow which fights bacteria.
  • Allow two hours between snacks. Frequent snackers have higher mouth acid levels resulting in more cavities.
  • Brush your teeth morning and night moving the toothbrush along the gum line.. You only need a small smear of toothpaste, definitely not more than a “pea” sized amount.
  • Floss nightly between any teeth that are contacting, usually the molars. Tight spots retain acids produced by bacteria for a longer amount of time. The more contacting teeth your child has, the more likely they are to get cavities.
  • Visit Dental Care for Kids every 6 months to have your teeth polished and receive a fluoride treatment. This ensures that the teeth are completely clean and it significantly helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth. Children that receive regular fluoride treatment experience fewer cavities.
  • Have sealants placed on your permanent molars as soon as they have fully erupted. These teeth usually erupt around 6 years old and 12 years old. The permanent molars are the most likely teeth to acquire decay. This is because they are large teeth with lots of grooves and pits. Once a cavity occurs, the tooth will require lifelong follow-up and treatment (fillings don't last forever!).