Pediatric Dentistry in Norman, OK

What you need to know about your Child’s Dental Care

Just like adults, children should regularly see a dentist. And having a great experience is very important on the road to lifelong good oral health. Their first visit with a dentist may shape how they feel about going to the dentist. This initial appointment is less focused on treatment, and more about making kids feel safe and welcomed at the office. By creating a positive atmosphere at the first visit, the dentist’s office can feel more inviting to kids, and make them more receptive to dental care. Early appointments matter – the health of a child’s primary teeth can affect the arrival of their secondary teeth. We generally recommend that your child sees us regularly and gets regular cleanings as preventative care. We also offer fluoride treatments, sealants, and fillings for our youngest patients. Of course, we are here for your child\’s urgent care needs in case a tooth gets knocked loose during soccer practice or a brand-new permanent tooth gets chipped while playing. 

Your Child’s Oral Health starts at Home

Some parents think my baby doesn’t even have teeth yet, so why worry about dental care? Some parents don’t take caring for baby teeth seriously. After all, they fall out before the permanent teeth come in. However, that is wrong. Wipe your baby\’s gums, keep an eye on pacifier use and thumb sucking habits, and brush even the first tooth, make sure you don’t let your baby or toddler have sugary drinks, and brush early and often. All this will assure that your child’s teeth have a chance to develop strong and healthy.

Here are some age-appropriate guidelines:

  • Before teeth come in, clean gums with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Start brushing with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a very small amount of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) when your child\’s first tooth appears. Use a pea-sized dab of fluoridated toothpaste after 3 years of age. This is when the child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
  • Prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Don\’t give children a bottle of milk, juice, or sweetened liquid at bedtime or when you put them down to nap.
  • Limit the time your child has a bottle. Your child should empty a bottle in 5 to 6 minutes or less.
  • Help your child brush his or her teeth until age 8 or 9. Have the child watch you brush, and follow the same brushing pattern to reduce missed spots.
  • Limit foods and treats that increase tooth decay. This includes hard or sticky candies and sweetened drinks or juice. Offer fruit rather than juice. The fiber in fruit tends to scrape the teeth clean. Juice just exposes the teeth to sugar.

When should your Child first see a Dentist? 

\"PediatricYou can take your child at a younger age, but experts recommend taking him or her within 6 months of the first tooth coming in (erupting), or by about 12 months at the latest. Your child\’s first dental visit is to help your child feel comfortable with the dentist. These initial visits will likely be short and fun. Depending on your child\’s age, the visit may include a full exam of the teeth, jaws, bite, gums, and oral tissues. If needed, your child may also have a gentle cleaning. This includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar, and stains. 

If your child is old enough, we will also show your child how to properly brush and floss. If there are any concerns about the proper development of teeth, we may recommend an X-Ray. In general, it is best that young children not have dental X-rays unless absolutely needed.

Prepare your Child for the Dentist Visit.

Tell your child where they are going and make it sound like a fun adventure. Give your child a general idea of what to expect. Explain why it is important to go to the dentist. Build excitement and understanding. Never tell them to “not be afraid of the dentist,” because all they will hear is “Oh, there is a reason I should be afraid of the dentist”. Schedule an appointment at a time when your child is typically fresh, alert, and cooperative. Please tell your child it is OK to ask questions. In other words, avoid nap time or days when they have a busy schedule. It is OK to bring a comfort item. But if you forget, Dr. Wheatley’s daughters have picked out several stuffed animal friends to comfort our youngest patients.

Prepare Yourself for the Dentist Visit.

We hate to say it, but parents tend to be more anxious than the kids we see. Try to remain calm. Feel free to ask any questions and remember that your feelings toward dental visits can be quite different from your child\’s. If you have dental anxieties, be careful not to relate those fears or dislikes to your child. Parents need to give moral support by staying calm while in the dental exam room. If your child gets upset, don’t yell at them, just calmly let them know that it is best to cooperate. 

Regular Follow-up Visits

Children should see the dentist about twice a year. This will build comfort and trust. Regular visits can also help keep an eye on a development problem and prevent issues and cavities.

Speaking of Cavities…

Cavities (also known as caries or tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. According to the CDC, children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.

About 1 of 5 children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. And unfortunately, children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households, according to the CDC.

The good news is that cavities are preventable. Fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third of cavities in baby teeth. Plus, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have fewer cavities.

Dental sealants can also prevent cavities for many years. Applying dental sealants to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth prevent 80 percent of cavities.

How do Sealants Protect Children’s Teeth?

\"DentistDental sealants are an important tool in preventing childhood cavities and tooth decay. Especially when used in combination with other preventative measures, like regular checkups and good daily home care, sealants can aid the mouth’s defenses. If the pediatric dentist evaluates a child to be at high risk for tooth decay, he or she may choose to coat additional teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, ensuring that food particles and oral bacteria cannot access vulnerable tooth enamel.

Dental sealants are as easy as your child’s paint project. Yes, basically, Dr. Wheatley will “paint” your child’s teeth. Dental sealants are basically liquid plastic. The pediatric dentist will first clean and prepare the tooth, before painting sealant on the teeth. When every targeted tooth is coated, the sealant is light-cured and completely hard before leaving.  The “sealing” procedure is easily completed in one office visit and is entirely painless.

Dental sealants are used to protect molars from oral bacteria and harmful oral acids. These larger, flatter teeth reside toward the back of the mouth and can be difficult to clean. Molars mark the site of four out of five instances of tooth decay. Decay-causing bacteria often inhabit the nooks and crannies found on the chewing surfaces of the molars. These areas are difficult to access with a regular toothbrush.

Dental sealants do not enhance the health of the teeth directly, and should not be used as a substitute for fluoride supplements or general oral care. Sealants are less costly, less uncomfortable, and more aesthetically pleasing than dental fillings.

What if my Child needs a Filling?

If your child needs a filling despite regular care, we can help. A filling is a dental treatment that cleans out and fills in tiny holes in your tooth. Any decayed matter is taken out of the tooth before the filling material is applied to the surface. Without a cleaning and filling in the beginning stages of decay, a tooth can become seriously infected. It can be difficult to see a tiny cavity on a child’s tooth. Sometimes the first sign may be pain. If you inspect the tooth closely you might see a small dark spot on the enamel. If you want to catch a problem before it becomes painful, schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings. Unfortunately drills are part of fillings. Some kids may be nervous about the sound of drills and dental pain. Ease your child’s worries by letting them know that we are here to make them feel comfortable and that numbing gels and local anesthesia are available. You can discuss these sedation options, including nitrous oxide with your dentist in advance.

Wisdom Teeth and Baby Tooth Extractions

There are several reasons a child may need a tooth removed. A digital X-ray may show that your child\’s teeth need to be removed due to overcrowding. Maybe your child had an accident that damaged a tooth that is beyond repair. Other times a tooth may have too much decay and need to be extracted. Regardless of the reason we are committed to gentle and comforting dental care. In cases where it is needed we can offer nitrous oxide to calm nervous patients. 

When it is time to have your teen’s wisdom teeth pulled, we are happy to help as well. 

Fluoride Treatments for Kids

\"DentistFluorine, a natural element in the fluoride compound, has proven to be effective in minimizing childhood cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride is a key ingredient in many popular brands of toothpaste and mouthwash, and can also be found in most community water supplies. Though fluoride is an important part of any good oral care routine, overconsumption can result in a condition known as fluorosis. 

Fluoride fulfills two important dental functions. First, it helps limit mineral loss from tooth enamel, and second, it promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel. When sugars are consumed, oral bacteria feed on them and produce harmful acids. These acids attack tooth enamel – especially in those who take medications or produce less saliva. Repeated acid attacks result in cavities, tooth decay, and childhood periodontal disease. Fluoride protects tooth enamel from acid attacks and reduces the risk of childhood tooth decay.

Fluoride is especially effective when used as part of a good oral hygiene regimen. Reducing the consumption of sugary foods, brushing and flossing regularly, and visiting the pediatric dentist biannually, all supplement the work of fluoride and keep young teeth healthy.

Dr. Wheatley may apply a topical fluoride that can be applied to the tooth enamel quickly and painlessly during a regular office visit. 

Cracked or chipped teeth

Accidents happen… especially to active children. The injury may be to a baby tooth or a permanent tooth. A tooth can be cracked, chipped, or totally knocked out from its socket. There may be blood, pain, or increased sensitivity when a tooth is injured. And we understand that anxiety and stress will be at a high level for the child and the parent. So what to do if your child injures a tooth?

Keep calm and call your dentist.

On the phone we can likely determine if you need to be seen right away or tell you what the next steps will be. In general, use the following guidelines if the tooth is still in the mouth:

  1. Remain calm and reassure your child that you can help.
  2. If the area is bleeding, place a small piece of folded gauze at the site and have your child bite down or hold it in place with firm pressure.
  3. Offer your child cool water or an ice pop to suck on to help reduce swelling and pain.
  4. If a tooth is chipped or cracked, collect all the pieces of the tooth. Make sure a piece of the tooth is not embedded in the lips, tongue, or gums.

If the tooth has been knocked out, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Remain calm and reassure your child that you can help.
  2. Contact your child\’s dentist immediately.
  3. If the area is bleeding, place a small piece of folded gauze at the site and have your child bite down or hold it in place.
  4. Offer your child cool water or an ice pop to suck on to help reduce swelling and pain.
  5. Hold the tooth by the crown (top of the tooth), not by the root (bottom of the tooth). Plug up the sink to prevent losing the tooth down the drain and gently rinse the tooth with milk (do not scrub the tooth or use tap water as it contains chlorine and may injure the tooth).  
  6. Place it in milk and bring it to the dentist’s office.
  7. At the dentist\’s office, X-rays of the area may be taken to make sure no bones are broken and no other hidden damage occurred.
  8. Acetaminophen can be given for discomfort, as needed.

Speaking of injured teeth…

Mouthguards for your young athlete


Mouthguards, also known as sports guards or athletic mouth protectors, are crucial pieces of equipment for any child participating in potentially injurious recreational or sporting activities. Fitting snugly over the upper teeth, mouth guards protect the entire oral region from traumatic injury, preserving both the esthetic appearance and the health of the smile. Also, mouth guards are sometimes used to prevent tooth damage in children who grind their teeth at night.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) in particular, advocates for the use of dental mouth guards during any sporting or recreational activity. Most store-bought mouthguards cost fewer than ten dollars, making them a perfect investment for every parent.  We offer more robust options at our office so ask Dr. Wheatley what is recommended for your child.

Pediatric Dentistry at Tecumseh Ridge Dental

As you can tell, we are passionate about pediatric dentistry and lifelong good oral health. We hope that Tecumseh Ridge Dental will become your child’s dental home. Our motto is “I Like Your Smile” and that’s how every kid should feel about their smile, too. Of course we are here for your entire family’s dental needs.