Information About Pediatric Dentistry

General information, tips and suggestions!


What is a Pediatric Dentist?

In the same way that pediatricians are trained to meet a child's medical needs, our pediatric dental specialists are uniquely qualified to protect your child's oral health using the most advanced techniques, and all in our friendly open treatment area. Pediatric dentists have an additional two to three years of training at university pediatric facilities in addition to four years of dental school and four years of college study. They learn how to deal with the behavioral aspects of children, how to make them feel comfortable and to make the experience pleasant. They also are trained and qualified to treat special needs patients.

Why are Baby Teeth Important?

Primary teeth are important because they help with proper chewing and eating, speech development, and add to an attractive appearance. A child who can chew easily, speak clearly, and smile confidently is a happier child. Healthy primary teeth allow normal development of the jaw bones and muscles, save space for the permanent teeth, and guide them into place. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, permanent teeth may come in crooked. Decayed baby teeth can cause pain, abscesses, and infections that can damage the developing permanent teeth. Also, your child's general health can be affected if diseased baby teeth aren't treated. Remember, some primary molars are not replaced until age 10-14, so they must last for years.

At what age should my child first see a dentist?

If possible, your child's first visit should be scheduled at their first birthday or after the eruption of their first tooth. The earlier regular visits begin, the better chance you and your dentist have to prevent problems. In addition to checking for decay and proper growth, the dentist will teach you how to properly clean your child's teeth daily, evaluate any adverse habits, and identify your child's fluoride needs. Habits are hard to break, so start your child off right with a healthy habit of proper dental care!

How often should my child see the dentist?

It is generally recommended that children visit the dentist every six months. Depending on the dental needs of your child, Dr. Jackson will set a schedule of visits customized to your child. Some of the factors that effect the frequency of visits are: initial condition of your child's teeth, oral hygiene and eating habits.

What to Expect During Your First Visit

Your child's first set of teeth are extremely important. Starting out on the right foot in your child's dental care is crucial for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Strong, healthy primary teeth help your child chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and look good. Neglected primary teeth can lead to general health problems and many missed days of school. Preventive services such as fluoride treatments and sealants are less costly than the fillings, crowns and other treatments that your child may need if the teeth are neglected. Dr. Jackson can help your young child look forward to a lifetime of healthy teeth and a great smile.

How should I prepare my child for their first visit?

You play an important role in preparing your child for his first visit to us. The first visit to the dentist can determine your child's attitude towards dental visits for years to come. Be relaxed and at ease with your child. Any anxiety on your part will be sensed by your child. Tell your child that we will "count" and possibly "take pictures" of his teeth, and then talk afterwards about it. Don't use words that may create fear in your child such as "hurt, shot, drill, X-ray, or needle". Don't relate any negative experiences you may have had as a child, and don't let other people tell your child stories that may provoke fear.

Is it ok for children to cry?

Crying is a normal reaction to almost any kind of anxiety in a young child. New experiences, strange people and places fit in that category for the very young. Please do not let your child's occasional tears upset you as it is very common and we anticipate crying in some small children. The more relaxed we ( parent and dental staff ) are at that time, the sooner the child will overcome his/her anxiety.

Pointers for Parents!


* Try to make dental visits enjoyable for your child, we'll help!
* Set a good example! Brush and Floss your own teeth daily, and visit the dentist regularly.


* Bribe your child into going to the dentist.
* Use a dental visit as a punishment.
* Let the child know you feel any anxiety about going to the dentist.
* Let anyone tell your child scary stories about dental visits.
* Use words like hurt, pain, needle, drill, shot, etc.


Tooth Brushing/Flossing

Brush 2 X day for 2 minutes. Floss daily. We can help you with tips and techniques.


Tooth decay is the most widespread dental disease among children, but is also the most preventable. Sealants are one of the most effective methods of preventing tooth decay. Sealants are made of clear or shaded resin and are applied to the chewing surface of the tooth. Brushing and flossing are effective in most cases, but the back teeth tend to have depressions and grooves which can be difficult, if not impossible, to clean. Sealants are used to fill these depressions so that decay cannot start. The addition of a sealant to an active oral hygiene regime can significantly reduce the occurrence of tooth decay. The application of a sealant is quick and painless, taking only one visit. Research shows that sealants can be effective for many years. If your child has good oral hygiene and avoids biting hard objects, sealants will last even longer. Early application of a sealant can protect your child throughout the most cavity-prone years and lay the foundation for a lifetime of dental health and a beautiful smile. Sealants are very affordable and are covered by most dental insurance programs. Over the course of your child's life, sealants actually save you money by preventing more expensive (and painful) tooth problems.


Sugar is everywhere! Children should be eating a balanced diet. The American Heart Association recommends that children eat no more than 18 grams of sugar per day. A high sugar diet increases a child's risk for dental decay as does a diet high in carbohydrates. Parents should avoid sticky snacks such as dried fruits, gummy bears and gummy vitamins as these foods stick in the grooves of teeth and increase the risk of dental decay.


You've probably noticed just how important your baby's mouth is to them. Babies use their mouth for the obvious things, like eating and communicating their needs, but also for expressing feelings, exploring their world, and for their own personal security. Here we will take you through some of the important dental milestones you will go through with your baby, and teach you some of the things you can do to safeguard your baby's dental health. Sucking is an important and satisfying activity which is a normal part of a baby's development - most babies suck on their fingers or thumbs before they are born. At a young age sucking helps strengthen and develop the oral muscles, which in turn helps position their teeth in the proper position as they appear. It doesn't really matter if your child sucks on their fingers or a pacifier. If your child uses a pacifier, follow these tips: * It should be designed for safety! It should be constructed in one piece of a flexible but firm non-toxic material. The nipple and mouthguard should not be separate. * It should also have an easily held handle or grip. The mouthguard should contain ventilating holes, and the pacifier should be large enough to prevent it from being sucked into baby's mouth. * NEVER tie the pacifier around your baby's neck. Each year babies die of strangulation from pacifier laces. * The pacifier should be kept clean. Always wash it before giving it to a baby. If it wears out, get a new one. * Never sweeten it by putting honey or sugar on the nipple. This can cause baby bottle tooth decay, and cause serious damage to your child's teeth. * A pacifier or thumb habit can change the position of your child's teeth. Most children give up the sucking habit at 3 or 4 years of age. If your child hasn't, they may need help with their oral habit. See your pediatric dentist!


If your children are active and play sports, mouthguards should be tops on your equipment list. Of all sports injuries, those to the teeth, lips, gums and tongue are the most preventable, yet some of the most common. A properly fitted, high quality mouthpiece can protect your child against tooth, lip and jaw injuries and prevent concussions. Any mouthguard is better than none at all, but there are several reasons why a professionally fitted, custom-made mouthpiece is a better choice than a cheaper commercially available model. These "boil and bite" mouthguards are sized to fit the largest variety of mouth types and don't fit very well in any particular mouth - like your child's. In order to improve fit, you must boil the guard to soften the material and then bite down on it to form an impression of your teeth. Unfortunately, this displaces most of the protective material so that you are actually getting little or no protection. Our custom made, professionally fitted mouthguards are formed to exactly fit your child's teeth. They are more comfortable, longer lasting and provide a greater level of protection. Though a custom mouthguard is moderately more expensive than a generic one, they can be cost effective over time - a broken tooth can cost as much as $2,000 to repair.

Early Childhood Decay

Early Childhood Decay is a common problem in our community. Early intervention is the key to preventing catastrophic infections or problems with the baby teeth. If your child has dark yellow or brown areas present on their teeth, they should be checked immediately.

Silver Diamine Fluoride

You many have heard of a treatment option called silver diamine fluoride (SDF). SDF is a liquid that can be painlessly brushed on a cavity on a child's tooth to stop decay. You might want to consider SDF for cavities if your child is young or has special needs. SDF can help delay more extensive procedures such as drilling to fill a cavity or sedation until a child is older. Keep in mind that SDF blackens the decayed part of the tooth, leaving it discolored, and that Dr. Jackson will need to monitor the cavity periodically to ensure that it has stopped growing. If your child's cavity is on a baby tooth that will eventually fall out, or if the tooth is in the back of the mouth where it is hard to see, SDF might be a good option.

While brushing twice a day and flossing is the best way to keep little teeth healty, cavities do happen!


X-rays are a necessary tool to diagnose and treat dental decay. We use a digital x-ray to decrease the exposure to radiation as well as a lead apron shield with a thyroid collar. Our office uses the ALARA(AS LOW AS REASONABLY ACHIEVABLE) technique. This means we only take x-rays that are really needed.


Dr. Jackson's office provides in office anesthesia to those children who are not able to comfortably tolerate routine care in an awake office setting. Dr. Jackson's pediatric dental office is the only office in Santa Cruz that provides dental care under general anesthesia using a pediatric anesthesiologist from the Children's Anesthesia Medical Group. These pediatric anesthesiologists are highly skilled, extensively trained physicians who provide anesthesia services to infants and children everyday at Children's Hospital Oakland and the offices of twenty pediatric dentists. All have subspecialty (fellowship) training in pediatric anesthesia.

What is the difference between conscious sedation and general anesthesia?

Conscious sedation is the use of medication to "take the edge off", but requires that your child be awake (conscious) during the procedure. When conscious sedation fails or is considered inappropriate for the nature or amount of dental work, deep sedation or general anesthesia is recommended. With the use of modern, short-acting anesthetics, children are just as awake and alert after general anesthesia as they are after conscious sedation. Our office does not offer conscious sedation. If this is the appropriate treatment recommendation for your child, we will likely refer your child to an office that offers this service.

How does general anesthesia work?

After it is recommended that your child have deep sedation or general anesthesia, your pediatric anesthesiologist will contact you for a pre-anesthetic evaluation. On the day of the dental visit, your child will be given an oral medication that will make him or her less anxious and more comfortable for their separation and dental procedure. Following this, medication is given to deepen sedation so that your child is no longer awake. Special care is given to protect the airway and to ensure the continuous delivery of oxygen to your child. State-of-the-art technology is used to monitor your child's electrocardiogram, oxygen level, expired carbon dioxide, and blood pressure. This is the same level of monitoring that we use in a hospital operating room or surgery center.

Who should sedate your child?

We recommend that a physician (an MD) who is a pediatric anesthesiologist care for your child if he or she requires deep sedation or general anesthesia. These physicians have the most training and experience with the use of medications used to sedate and treat pain in children. Their experience makes them highly capable of detecting subtle changes or treating the rare complications, should they arise.

What is the cost?

Anesthesia services provided by a pediatric anesthesiologist in the dental office will be considerably less expensive than the fee in a surgery center or hospital. Anesthesia fees are based on the length of time of the procedure; a detailed estimate will be provided ahead of time. We ask that you cover the expense the day of the procedure. If your dental insurance will authorize part or all of the anesthesia fee, our billing office can aid you in coordinating reimbursement. They can also arrange credit card payments.


General Information

Special children sometimes need special attention to dental hygiene. Some children are very susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease or oral trauma. Others require medication or diets that are, unfortunately, detrimental to dental health. Still other children have physical difficulty with effective dental habits at home. Dr. Jackson and her staff are trained specifically in dental care for mentally and physically disabled children. Dr. Jackson will customize a preventive strategy tailored to fit the special needs of your child. Our office is designed to be physically accessible to special children. In cases where your child needs to visit our office for treatment, we are able to provide personalized services.

Sterilization Standards

We are as concerned about your child's health as you are. That's why our office meets or exceeds all government standards for sterilization. * All instruments capable of withstanding high heat are autoclaved (steam-sterilized) which kills infectious bacteria and viruses. The autoclaves are tested weekly to insure that they are operating properly. * All handpieces (drills) and burs (drill bits) are autoclaved after each use. * Many items are single-use and are disposed of after each patient. This includes all syringes (needles) and saliva ejectors (the plastic tips on the suction tube which are placed in the mouth to remove saliva). * The rubber cups which hold the paste used to polish your teeth are disposed of after each use. * Gloves and masks are worn to prevent transmission of disease between you and our staff. Gloves are never used on more than one patient. * All surfaces are disinfected with a chemical solution again formulated to kill infectious bacteria, spores, and viruses. Barriers (paper covers, etc.) are used whenever possible. * A rubber dam, which is a thin sheet of latex, is used whenever necessary to reduce the amount of bacterial spray-back which occurs when dental procedures are performed. We continually monitor our procedures for compliance with OSHA, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Dental Association recommendations.

Emergency First Aid