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Dr. Bryan McGuinness Answers Frequently Asked Dental Questions

Meadow Ridge Dental Centre, serving Maple Ridge, Mission and Pitt Meadows, is always pleased to answer any questions you may have about your oral health or smile. For that reason, we are answering some of our most frequently asked questions here on this page. If you have other questions, feel free to give us a call or email us anytime.


Q: Does my child need fluoride?

A: Fluoride can help in the prevention of tooth decay when used in combination with brushing and flossing. It can also aid in the slowing down and reversal of early stages of tooth decay. Everyone benefits from the use of fluoride to some extent. Generally, toothpastes with fluoride are recommended for everyone. For young children and infants, fluoridated toothpaste is to be used very sparingly (a rice grain-sized amount for a child up to 3 years of age and a pea-sized amount after that). Children should be monitored to ensure that they spit toothpaste out rather than swallow it. Should your child be deemed at high risk for cavities, the dentist may recommend a supplemental form of fluoride, which can come in several forms including drops, a varnish that is painted on the teeth, and -- for older children -- a mouth rinse.


Q: Why should I have my child’s baby teeth restored?

A: Tooth decay is a progressive disease, so the cavities will get larger with time. Ultimately, the child will experience discomfort or pain and, most likely, infection or abscess. The baby teeth have several important functions:

  • Aiding in the development of speech
  • Holding space for the developing adult teeth and the development of the jaw
  • Growth and development of the child by allowing the child to eat a proper diet
  • Self-esteem, because decayed front teeth are unattractive


It is important to note that some baby teeth are present in the mouth to about 12 years of age.


Q: How are cavities caused?

A: Tooth decay or cavities occur when bacteria that are present in the mouth combine with carbohydrates (sugars and starches) that are present in foods to produce acid. The acid dissolves the enamel of the tooth, which eventually forms a hole in the tooth. Since the enamel of baby teeth is much thinner than in adult teeth, children are more susceptible to cavities.


Q: Do I need x-rays?

A: Since every person is unique, the need and frequency of dental radiographs differs for each person. Children, due to their growth and increased susceptibility to cavities, generally require more frequent x-rays. The risk of undetected dental problems is considered greater than any risks associated with the taking of x-rays. At Meadow Ridge Dental Centre, we take all precautions to minimize radiation exposure for young and old.


Q: At what age should I start to brush my child’s teeth?

A: Baby teeth normally start to erupt at about 6 months of age. Cavities can begin to develop as soon as this first tooth appears, so it is important to begin cleaning the baby teeth right away. This is best done twice a day, especially before bedtime. Not only is this the best time, but it helps to develop a life-long routine. Use a soft, infant sized toothbrush and if the dentist recommends a fluoridated toothpaste, use just a rice-grain sized dab.


Q: When should my child visit the dentist for the first time?

A: Children should be brought to the dentist by their first birthday, or no later than 6 months after the appearance of the first tooth. It is important to go to the dentist before there is a problem so as to create a positive atmosphere at the dental office. At this appointment, any risk factors to cavities can be assessed and preventive tips can be given to parents or the care-provider. It is important not to over-prepare your child for his or her first visit. Treat it as routine and avoid the use of phrases such as, “it won’t hurt,” “don’t worry,” or “everything will be OK.”


Q: What is a sealant?

A: A sealant is a tooth-coloured coating that is applied to the deep grooves and pits of a tooth to seal out food and plaque. These are areas that are generally difficult to keep clean and so the sealants are effective in reducing the risk of cavities in these areas, which usually are on the biting surface. Placement of sealants does not require anesthetic and can protect teeth for several years. They are not a substitute for brushing and flossing.


Q: What’s the difference between silver (amalgam) and white (composite) fillings?

A: Silver amalgam fillings have been used since the 1800s. Amalgam is durable, relatively inexpensive and causes minimal post-operative sensitivity. It is generally used in unaesthetic (or non-showing) areas of the mouth where high stress occurs from chewing. Composite fillings are made from composite resins. These fillings are best suited for front teeth and can be used for small fillings in high-stress areas. In recent years, there has been some controversy regarding the use of amalgam fillings because they contain mercury. Numerous studies have indicated the safety of the use of amalgam fillings. Further information can be found at the Canadian Dental Association.

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