Ask The Bean Team: What You Need to Know About Dental Care for the Littles

This is a sponsored post by Bean Tree Pediatric Dentistry.

When our daughter Avery was about 2 years old, we had a dental scare. I noticed dark areas in all of her molars, and my husband and I were concerned that she had cavities…ALREADY!!

We had been brushing her teeth since the first one came in, morning and night, or least one of the two. We upped it to three times a day after this, brushing after each meal. The dark areas did not go away or get any better with the increased brushing so we had her evaluated by a pediatric dentist. Our fears were eased when we found out that her teeth were perfect. The dark areas were not cavities at all, but were likely staining caused by her multi-vitamin. Phew…what a relief?!

Now that our little guy Evan is here, I wanted to make sure that I am both educated and prepared to give him proper dental care from the start to protect and benefit his oral health now and in the future. And I also wanted to make sure that I am doing what is best from Avery as well. So I reached out to The Bean Team at Bean Tree Pediatric Dentistry with a few questions about our little ones’ dental care. Here is what the Head Bean, Dr. Jodi Mason, DMD had to say:

1. What are the biggest misconceptions about dental hygiene for infants and toddlers?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that baby teeth are not important and that “they will fall out anyway”. See answer to #5 below for more info. Some don’t realize the importance of brushing, flossing, and maintaining healthy teeth and gums in children.

2. When should I start cleaning my child’s mouth/teeth?

It’s good to get in the habit of cleaning the gums even before the teeth erupt. It serves to remove bacteria as well as instill the habit of cleaning the mouth as part of daily routine for both the parent and child. There are infant dental wipes specifically made for cleaning the gums before teeth erupt, but parents could also use a small soft-bristle toothbrush or even a washcloth with water.

Even if only a single tooth has erupted, a parent should brush the gums and tooth/teeth twice daily with either a pea-sized amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste (if the child is under age 1) or only water on the brush.

Bean Tree

3. One of JMB’s contributors was instructed by her children’s pediatrician to start using a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste for her 9 1/2-month-old that already has several teeth. As a pediatric dentist, when should fluoride toothpaste be started and how often?

The recommendation of when to start using fluoridated toothpaste is based on several factors: diet, family risk factors (caregivers with recent history of cavities) and oral hygiene habits. Due to the reasons above it’s best if you let your pediatric dentist guide you during this stage. Spacing between teeth (or lack thereof) can make cleaning the teeth more challenging as well. A toothbrush will not clean the places where teeth touch, so those areas must be flossed in order to remove plaque that can cause gingivitis and cavities.

It is considered safe to use a pea-sized amount of children’s fluoridated toothpaste twice daily after the first birthday. I would only recommend use of fluoridated toothpaste when a parent is brushing the teeth for their very young child. Have your child brush first with a training toothpaste or just water and then you can brush after with fluoride toothpaste.

4. When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time? How often should visits be scheduled? What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

I like to follow The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry guidelines, which recommends the first dental visit be within 6 months of the first tooth coming in or by age 1, whichever is soonest. Some pediatric dentists, including myself, are trained to help treat tongue and lip-ties, which can help if there is difficulty nursing in newborns.

The frequency of visits should be based of risk factors that were discussed above. Children that are currently at high risk for developing dental caries are often seen every 3 months, whereas those with little to no risk factors would be seen every 6 months to a year.

A pediatric dentist specializes in treating children and specifically baby teeth. Baby teeth are very different that permanent teeth and should be treated according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines.

Pediatric dentists, upon graduation from dental school, spend an additional two years in a pediatric residency program where we are trained to take the child’s cooperation level, personality, dental history, age, time till anticipated loss of a baby tooth, diet and other factors into account when developing a plan of treatment. We are trained to focus on prevention of caries (cavities) and not just drilling and filling cavities.

It’s best to find a board certified pediatric dentist. The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry’s website offers a search function for finding board certified pediatric dentists in your area.

Having the certification from The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (also known as board certified) means a pediatric dentist has completed a graduate program accredited by CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) in the specialty of pediatric dentistry. A dentist who graduates from a specialty program becomes a pediatric dentist and is eligible to become board certified through the voluntary examination process of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD). Involvement in the certification process is a demonstration of the pediatric dentist’s pursuit of continued proficiency and excellence.

Bean Tree Dentistry

If you would like to find a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist in your area, you can follow this link: Click here

5. Are “baby” teeth really that important to my child?

Yes! I cannot stress this enough. Baby teeth are important not just for eating solid foods, but they serve a vital role as “place holders” for permanent teeth that will erupt from age 5 until around age 13. If baby teeth are lost early, due to cavities or infection, it can lead to space loss and necessitate orthodontic treatment. They are also important for a child’s self-esteem and play an important role in the development of the jaws.

6. My 10-month-old takes a pacifier. Are pacifier and/or thumb sucking habits harmful to tooth development?

Habits such as using a pacifier or thumb can influence the position of baby teeth and also the development of the jaws. The chance for either of the above occurring is influenced by the frequency and “force” involved in the habit. It’s all fairly child-specific. During your child’s appointment, let us know your concerns and we can give you the best information about when and if discontinuing a habit is advisable. After becoming a mom I approach this subject a bit differently than others. To me, it’s best to allow the child to continue the habit until at least they are through the teething process. If one were to take away a pacifier at age 1 the child may start using a finger in the place of that trusty pacifier, which is typically a harder habit to break.

In general, many children will benefit from orthodontic treatment in their future. If there is a habit that causes some tooth alignment issues, it can also be addressed at a later time. The stress involved in having your child stop the habit before he/she is ready may be worse than any orthodontic needs down the road.

Bean Tree Dentistry

7. My 10-month-old still does not have any teeth. Will this prolong his adult teeth from coming in? Is there a timeline that can be used to estimate when to expect his first adult tooth to come in?

Some infants are born with a tooth/teeth and some get their first tooth as early as 3 months. My daughter began teething shortly after birth and her first tooth erupted about 3 months later. However, some children are close to their first birthday when the first tooth erupts. If a child did not have any teeth present at 18 months, that may be cause for concern, but otherwise there is a wide range of what’s considered normal.

Typically when a child gets their teeth on the early side of that range we see that permanent teeth erupt sooner as well, the opposite is also true with “later teethers”. Later teethers may not lose a tooth until age 7 and may have some baby molars in place until age 14 or 15. Early teethers may lose their first tooth around age 4 or 5 and have all permanent teeth in place by age 11.

8. I have a 10-month-old and 4-year-old. Can you give me your top tips for brushing my children’s teeth?

Bean Tree DentistryIt’s best to brush for your child until they are around age 7. Morning and night-time brushing are both important, but if you have a few rushed mornings during the week make sure to help brush and floss your children’s teeth before bedtime (and after all eating/drinking is complete). With infants and toddlers I find it’s easiest to brush with your child in a reclined position or laying back on a pillow/bed. It’s much easier to see the teeth and gums in that position. Tickles and making fun sound effects when brushing and flossing have always worked well with my daughter. Try to keep it fun. Singing songs works well too. If you’re stressed about the process, it tends to make it more difficult. If your child wants to help brush his or her teeth, you can start by brushing before or after you brush for them. Don’t forget to use positive reinforcement to encourage their cooperation.

Use just a small amount (pea-sized) of toothpaste. Make sure to brush all of the teeth by placing the toothbrush half on the gums and half on the teeth. Start with the cheek side, move to the tongue side, and then finish by brushing the biting surfaces. Don’t forget to brush back teeth as well.

Cavity-causing bacteria hides in the plaque along the gum lines in pits and grooves on the biting surface and at the contact points of the teeth. If there are any areas where the gums are red or bleed, give the area bit of extra attention for a few days and the bleeding should stop. Bleeding gums are not typically a sign of brushing too forcefully but instead that those areas may not be getting as clean as they should be.

Lastly, floss any teeth that are touching. Children’s flossers are great for those that are not cooperative for brushing/flossing and will help keep your fingers happy and safe!

A message from The Bean Team:

We like to keeps things fun and stress free at our office. Which is why one of my biggest recommendations is to not stress about taking your little one to the dentist. Children can pick up on your stress and it can create a not-so-fun visit. If you have any dental anxiety, just let the Bean Team know and we’ll give you walkie-talkie so you can wait in the front and still be able to talk to your little one while he or she is getting their teeth cleaned.

The environment here is like a cozy home. We have movies to watch, music to listen to and lots of    fun games to play. None of our Bean Team members wear scrubs. Only jeans and t-shirts here –    we feel it adds to the relaxed environment.  

The dental visit is all about your child, from the moment they walk in the door and get their Bean Club membership badge, the coloring bean they get to color and place on our bean tree mural to their very own goodie bag that includes a bean growing kit. We all love children here and most of us have at least one. Those that don’t, well – they act like kids themselves.

Thank you Bean Tree Pediatric Dentistry for sponsoring this informative post!



Read reviews on Bean Tree Pediatric Dentistry on our Family Directory.
2008 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32204, USA
Bean Tree Pediatric Dentistry is an office like no other. We’ve taken the conventional office paradigm and turned it on its head. Our pediatric dental office is what we like to call the anti-dental, dental office. We designed our practice to be like a cozy home. A place where children…

Paula Brunt, who has spent the majority of her life in North Central Florida, found comfort with her husband Stefan and their two children, Avery (4 years) and Evan (9 months) here in Jacksonville. Paula’s career as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse at Nemours Children’s Clinic has recently been put on hold to enjoy the pleasures and embrace the challenges of being a stay at home mom. Raising her two toe-heads consists of plenty of excitement daily, but Paula still makes it a priority to begin her mornings with the ladies of Jacksonville Stroller Strength, where she is a student as well as an instructor. Aside from doing her best to live an active and healthy lifestyle, she enjoys time with friends rooting for the Gators, and “relaxing” at the beach with her family in tow. Family, friends, and good food bring a smile to Paula’s face, and she loves nothing more than bringing them all together!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here