Oral Health FAQs

What should I do in a dental emergency?

If it’s during business hours:

Call us and come in! For emergencies, please call in advance if you can, so the office will expect your visit.

If it’s after business hours:

If you’re a Kool Smiles patient, please call your dental office. You’ll be put in touch with the doctor on call.

For immediate attention, or if you’re not a Kool Smiles patient:

Call 911 to get help right away.

Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

When should tooth brushing and flossing begin?

Begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth comes in. It’s also a good idea to use a clean finger or a damp cloth to wipe the gums even before the teeth come in.

When brushing your kids’ teeth, use a soft brush with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. Kids should begin flossing when two teeth come in next to each other. This helps prevent cavities from forming between the teeth. Flossing is especially important for molars, too. Molars are usually closer to each other than the front teeth are.

How often should I replace a toothbrush?

General dentists and hygienists suggest replacing your child’s toothbrush every three to four months. You should also replace the toothbrush when the bristles appear worn. A worn toothbrush may not clean your child’s teeth as well. It could also hurt their gums.

What should I do for a toothache?

To help relieve your child’s toothache, first clean the area around the sore tooth. Then rinse his or her mouth with warm salt water. You can also use dental floss to help remove trapped food or debris. Apply a cold compress to reduce any swelling. And make sure you see your child’s general dentist as soon possible.

How do I investigate tooth decay?

Tooth decay is an oral disease caused by bacteria that live in the mouth. When a child consumes sugary foods, plaque interacts with the starchy deposits left on the teeth and produces acids that erode enamel, weaken teeth and cause cavities.

Learn more about investigating tooth decay

How do I investigate gum disease?

Like cavities, gum disease can be prevented with good dental hygiene habits like brushing teeth twice a day, flossing and seeing the dentist regularly. However, certain medical conditions and habits can increase your chance of gum disease.

Learn more about investigating gum disease

When should my child visit the general dentist for the first time?

Kids should begin dental check-ups when they turn one or when their first tooth comes in. Regular visits and healthy daily habits will create smiles for life

What should I do for a cut or bite inside the cheek?

If your child cuts or bites their cheek, tongue, or lips, put ice on the area right away. Use firm but gentle pressure with a clean cloth or gauze. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes or isn’t helped by simple pressure, you may need to see an emergency room doctor.

What should I do for a broken tooth?

A broken tooth needs dental attention right away. Rinse away any dirt from the injured area. Find and save any pieces of the broken tooth, and get emergency dental care as soon as you can.

If your child knocks out a permanent tooth, try to find the tooth right away. Rinse the tooth in cold water. Be careful not to touch the root. Try to re-insert the tooth into the socket, and hold it in place by having your child bite down on a clean piece of gauze or cloth.

If the tooth can’t be re-inserted, take it to the general dentist in a cup of cold water or milk. Time is extremely important in saving the tooth. Be sure to see your general dentist within 30 minutes.

One of the biggest worries about injury to baby teeth is that they might be pushed into the gum and hurt adult teeth that haven’t come in yet. If you think this type of injury has occurred, please bring your child for dental X-rays as soon as you can.

What should I do if my child bleeds after losing a baby tooth?

If your child bleeds after losing a baby tooth, fold and pack a clean piece of gauze over the bleeding area. Have him or her bite on the gauze with pressure for 15 minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, see a general dentist.

What should I know about bottles, pacifiers, and thumb sucking?

To help your kids have the best oral health, it’s a good idea to wean babies when the first baby molars start to come in. This means weaning them from a bottle, pacifier, thumb, and nursing. For most kids, molars come in around 14 to 18 months of age. Weaning a child at about this age can help prevent many forms of decay in the baby teeth.

What should I know about baby teeth?

Even before you can see them, baby teeth are growing under your infant’s gums. Baby teeth are also called primary teeth. Though they fall out, taking care of your child’s baby teeth is important. They help keep space in the jaw for permanent teeth.

Early dental care helps create a healthy smile for life! Visit Kool Smiles at age one or when your baby’s first tooth comes in. Watch the video »

When the baby teeth actually come in is different from kid to kid. Usually about eight front teeth come in by the first year. By age three, all 20 primary teeth usually come in.

There are a lot of differences between primary and permanent teeth. Primary teeth are smaller, whiter, and more round. Primary molars also have more rounded points than premolars. Sometimes they resemble tiny flower buds! Permanent molars eventually come in behind the primary molars and are much bigger than any of the other teeth.

A baby tooth usually stays in until a permanent tooth comes in. The permanent tooth will push it out and take its place. Kids usually lose primary teeth between the ages of 6 and 12. The lower front teeth are usually lost first, and then they’ll lose the upper front teeth. Eventually, all 20 primary teeth will be lost.

Unfortunately, some kids lose their baby teeth too soon. A tooth might get knocked out accidentally or removed because of dental disease. When a tooth is lost too early, your general dentist may suggest a space maintainer to prevent future space loss and dental problems. Space maintainers keep the room in a child’s mouth created by a lost tooth. They’re small, and most kids easily adjust to them after a few days. It’s more affordable and easier on your child to keep teeth in their normal positions with a space maintainer. Otherwise, the teeth may have to be moved back in place later with orthodontic treatment like braces.

Make sure you take care of your child’s primary teeth. He or she will have them for nearly 12 years.

What if my child has a visible cavity?

It’s never a good idea to ignore tooth decay—even in baby teeth. Most children have their baby teeth for almost 12 years!

Untreated decay will spread into the other teeth and can affect how your kids eat and speak.

It’s important to take good care of baby teeth, because they keep the space for your child’s permanent teeth. To save a primary tooth with a lot of tooth decay, your general dentist might suggest a baby root canal. Baby root canals are easier and quicker than root canals for permanent teeth.

How can I maintain proper oral hygiene for myself and my child?

Good daily habits to care for your teeth can help with your nutrition and general well-being. People with healthy teeth can chew more easily, digest food better, and enjoy a lot of nutritious foods.

Cleanings every six months and proper brushing and flossing every day will help your mouth stays healthy. A bright, healthy smile will make you and your child look and feel

What should I tell my dentist during a dental visit?

Let your dentist know if you or your child has…

  • any pain in your mouth, teeth, or jaw
  • a strange taste in your mouth or smell to your breath
  • a dry mouth
  • tender or bleeding gums
  • a sore jaw, or hear grinding or popping sounds when you speak or eat

What questions should I ask the dentist about my child’s teeth?

Ask your dentist if:

  • your child’s teeth and jaws are forming properly
  • your child is flossing enough
  • they would recommend sealants for cavity prevention
  • they have any tricks for getting kids to brush their teeth

What questions should I ask my dentist about my own teeth?

Ask your dentist if:

  • you are flossing enough
  • you should start using a fluoride rinse
  • your mouth, teeth, and gums look healthy
  • there are any foods they recommend for your dental health
  • there is anything you need to tell your family doctor

What questions should I ask before undergoing any dental procedure?

Ask your dentist if:

  • Is this treatment absolutely necessary?
  • What will happen if I don’t get this treatment?
  • Are there less expensive options?
  • How much will it cost me? How much will my insurance cover?

What is the least expensive type of dental filling?

Metal fillings that are made from a mix of mercury, silver, tin, and copper are the least expensive. These are usually silver in color. They are also long-lasting. For these, a larger portion of the healthy tooth has to be removed for the filling. The filling can also expand and shrink over time, causing cracks in the tooth.

What fillings last the longest?

Mercury fillings and gold fillings usually last the longest. They last around 10-15 years.

Can I get a filling that will match my tooth color?

Yes. Composite fillings are made of a mix of glass and plastic. They can be blended to perfectly match your tooth color. They don’t last as long as metal fillings (around 5 years). They also cost more.

Why do white fillings cost more than metal fillings?

White fillings are made of more expensive materials. They also need more time to place properly. Metal fillings are made from a mix of mercury and other inexpensive metals.

What is the strongest type of filling?

Gold is much stronger than other filling materials. It can last for decades in a filling. But it comes at a very high cost.

What are healthy, affordable sources of protein?

For your daily protein needs, there are a lot of affordable and healthy options. Your family can get protein from eggs and nuts and nut butters (like peanut butter). There’s also a lot of protein in beans and lentils, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and chunk light tuna.

What are the worst foods for my teeth?

  • Foods with sugars produce acids which eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Be sure and brush and floss after eating any of these foods:
  • Candy, especially chewy or hard candy. Eat candy rarely!
  • Potato chips and snacks with a lot of flour. These can turn into a paste after chewing, and get trapped in the spaces between teeth.
  • Acidic foods like citrus fruits and pickles
  • Soda might actually be worse for your teeth than candy! Carbonated soft drinks—even diet versions—can break down tooth enamel. They can also take minerals from your teeth.

What foods and drinks can stain my teeth?

  • Drinks such as coffee, tea, and red wine are known to stain teeth.
  • Blue, purple, and red berries can sometimes also cause of food stains.
  • Potato chips and snacks with a lot of flour. These can turn into a paste after chewing, and get trapped in the spaces between teeth.
  • Foods and candies with a lot of dye can stain your tongue. Over time, these can also stain your teeth.
  • Soy sauce, curry sauce, tomato sauce, and other sauces with deep colors can stain teeth if you eat them a lot.

What foods are good for my teeth?

  • Chicken and other lean meats have calcium and phosphorus. These can help rebuild tooth enamel.
  • Crunchy fruits and veggies like apples or celery are filled with water so they help clean teeth. The chewing massages the gums and stimulates saliva flow which washes away acid from your teeth.
  • Dairy products contain calcium, which is good for your teeth. They also help neutralize acids in the mouth. Hard cheeses like cheddar can actually help clean teeth. Dairy products do contain natural sugars so make sure you brush after eating!

What drinks are good for my teeth?

  • Water is the best thing you can drink for your teeth. But a daily cup of green or black tea can help fight bacteria and gum inflammation.
  • Avoid sodas, juices, and sports drinks. These can cover your teeth in sugar. All that sugar creates a perfect environment for cavity-causing bacteria.
  • Avoid soda especially. Carbonated drinks (even plain soda water) contain phosphoric acid which can remove minerals from your teeth and eat away tooth enamel.

The spaces between my teeth are too narrow to floss. What should I do?

Try a dental floss that is flat instead of round. This type of floss is usually made of a super-slippery material that goes between tight teeth easily.

What if it hurts when I floss?

Flossing isn’t supposed to hurt, so let your dentist know if it does. Pain could mean that you are flossing too hard or incorrectly. It could also be a sign of gum disease, which is all the more reason to keep on flossing. Floss very important to prevent gum disease and tooth loss.

Why does my dental floss shred?

If your floss is shredding, it could mean that you have a cavity hidden between your teeth or have dental work that is catching on the floss. Either way, be sure to ask your dentist. Both are problems that need to be fixed.

Do I need to floss even if I don’t see or feel any food in my teeth?

Yes. Bits of food that get caught in the teeth may be too small to feel or even see. But flossing doesn’t just remove trapped food. It also helps clean plaque from between the teeth and the spaces where the gums meet the teeth.

What is toothpaste?

Toothpaste is a paste, gel or powder that helps to remove plaque. Plaque is the layer of bacteria that covers teeth and gums. Plaque can cause gum disease and tooth decay.

When should my kids start brushing with toothpaste?

Around age 2, when your child is able to spit out toothpaste, is the best time to start brushing with toothpaste. Some children may have to grow comfortable with the toothbrush and toothpaste.

Sometimes brushing the mouth of a small child can be hard. Your young child may not want to open their mouth, or may not be comfortable with the taste of toothpaste.

How do I find the right toothpaste?

Some of the best toothpastes will have the approval mark from the ADA, or the American Dental Association, on the tube. Look for the ADA seal on the tube of toothpaste. ADA research shows that fluoride is the main ingredient to keep mouths healthy.

Toothpastes may also have flavoring agents, to make the paste taste good, detergents, which create foam, or mild abrasives, which remove stains on the teeth. Kids are known to like fruity flavors or bubble gum flavors in toothpaste.

When kids first learn how to brush using toothpaste, they may swallow instead of spitting into the sink. Finding the right toothpaste for your child is important just in case they end up swallowing. Your child should enjoy the taste of toothpaste so that they will want to brush after meals.

I think my teeth are crooked. Is there anything I can do about it?

Yes! Speak with your Kool Smiles Dentist. They can refer you to a specialist called an Orthodontist. They will examine your teeth to see if you would benefit from braces or other orthodontic hardware.

My child will not quit sucking their thumb. Will this push their teeth out of place? What can I do?

A serious thumb-sucking habit can push the front top teeth forward. This can make children self-conscious about their smile. It might even lead to them needing braces later.

Your dentist can refer you to an Orthodontist who can place a metal device on the roof of your child’s mouth. This helps break the habit by making thumb-sucking uncomfortable.

My child lost a baby tooth pretty early. Is this bad? Is there anything I can do?

Tell your dentist if your kid lost a tooth before the age of 4 or 5. Baby teeth are very important as they hold space for adult teeth. If they are lost too early, adult teeth might not grow in straight. Your dentist can refer you to an Orthodontist who might put something called a “fixed space maintainer” in the spot where the baby tooth used to be. This prevents other baby teeth nearby from crowding the empty space and blocking the path of the permanent tooth.

What are molars?

Molars are the big teeth in the very back of your mouth that you use for chewing and grinding food. Kids have 8 molars in total. There are two on each side of the upper jaw, and two on each side of the lower jaw.

Why do my kid’s molars hurt?

These are some of the common causes of molar pain:

  • A cavity is one of the most common causes of molar pain. Cavities are treated with dental fillings.
  • A tooth abscess is an infection that has reached the soft inside part of the tooth. This is where nerves and blood vessels are. Abscesses usually require a root canal.
  • An injured tooth might also cause pain. Accidents might lead to broken, cracked, or loose teeth.
  • Gum disease is another source of pain. Infected gums can be caused by poor oral hygiene and untreated tooth decay. This can lead to pain around the teeth.
  • Your child might have a loose tooth. If your child is around 9–12 years of age, they might be losing a baby molar, which could cause mild pain
  • Teeth grinding while sleeping can also cause pain. This usually goes away with age, but mention it to your dentist.
  • A misaligned bite can cause pain in the teeth or jaws. This means your child’s top and bottom teeth don’t fit together properly. Treatment usually includes orthodontics.

When should I see a dentist about molar pain?

If there is severe pain or pain that lasts longer than a day or two, see your dentist right away. If your child also has a fever, chills, a bad taste in the mouth, or swelling in the face, see a dentist immediately. The infection could become life-threatening.

What can I do for molar pain if the dentist can’t see me right away?

Use a topical pain reliever with benzocaine. Apply only a small amount. Tell your child to spit in the sink after 1 minute to get rid of any leftover ointment.

You can also try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

An ice pack on the cheek might help with pain.

How should I take care of molars?

Molars are hard to keep clean. They have lots of uneven surfaces that can trap food. When brushing molars, spend extra time on them brushing both the tops and sides.

Also ask your dentist if sealants are a good idea. This is a special plastic type of coating. It can help prevent food from sticking to teeth and protects them from acids in the mouth.