Pennsylvania Dental Association Provides Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Jan. 29, 2003
Association kicks off National Children's Dental Health Month with poster contest.

In observance of National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM) in February, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is sponsoring its annual poster contest. All Pennsylvania
third-grade students are eligible to participate. The grand prize is a $1,000 education bond, along with $250 for the winner's school and teacher.

The winning entry will be reproduced as a bookmark that is distributed to all Pennsylvania public libraries. Visit for more information on NCDHM.

The PDA distributed lesson plan kits to third-grade teachers in
Pennsylvania public, private and charter schools. Each kit contains
information on dental health topics, classroom activities, four activity sheets, instructions for the PDA-sponsored poster contest and a complimentary NCDHM poster for the classroom. In addition to these resources for educators, the PDA would like to answer several questions parents frequently ask.

What are dental sealants?
Dental sealant, a clear plastic material, is applied to chewing surfaces of permanent back teeth, premolars and molars.
The sealant acts as barrier against the bacteria and acid that attack the enamel. Sealants only take a few minutes to apply but last for several years.

Your dentist will check the sealants during your child's biannual exam to determine if reapplication is necessary.

Is fluoride safe?
Yes! Like any other vitamin or mineral, fluoride is safe when used properly. When combined with proper dental care (brushing,
flossing and regular dental check-ups), fluoride can reduce dental decay by as much as 60 percent. Ask your dentist if your child is receiving enough fluoride. If your community's water supply is not fluoridated, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatment or supplements.

When should thumbsucking stop?
Children should stop thumbsucking by the time their permanent teeth erupt, usually around ages 7 or 8. Failure to stop
thumbsucking can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. Pacifiers are no substitute for thumbsucking because they affect the teeth in the same way.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by prolonged exposure of infant's teeth to liquids that contain sugar, like milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey, only put water in your child's naptime or bedtime bottle and always wipe your baby's gums and teeth with a damp washcloth after each feeding.

When should my child start brushing?
Wipe your baby's gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding. Start brushing your child's teeth with water as soon as the first tooth appears. Children over two should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Floss your child's teeth as soon as two teeth have erupted side-by-side. Continue brushing and flossing your child's teeth until they are capable to do it themselves, usually by ages 6 or 7. Establish good dental hygiene early, so your child's smile lasts a lifetime.

When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?
The American Dental Association recommends parents take their children to the dentist by the child's first birthday. The dentist will demonstrate how to properly care for your child's teeth, evaluate any adverse habits and identify your child's fluoride needs.

For further information on any of above topics, or for other dental
health information, please visit the PDA's website,