About Teeth / Prevention

Throughout your life, you will have two sets of teeth: primary (baby) teeth and secondary (permanent) teeth. At age 6-8 months, the primary teeth may start to appear; all 20 are usually place by age 3. Your adult teeth will total 32 including wisdom teeth. However, in most instances the wisdom teeth are extracted between the ages of 16 and 25. It is best to extract the wisdom teeth when the roots are about one third to one half developed. The permanent teeth usually start appearing around ages 6-8, with the front teeth usually coming in first.

Your front teeth are called incisors. The sharp “fang-like” teeth are canines. The next side teeth are referred to as pre-molars or bicuspids, and the back teeth are molars. Your permanent teeth are the ones you keep for life, so it is vital that they are brushed and flossed regularly and that periodic check-ups by a dentist are followed.

Tips for Prevention

Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers. Children usually cease thumb sucking when the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of primary teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. If you notice prolonged and/or vigorous thumb sucking behavior in your child, talk to your dentist.

Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb sucking:

  • Don’t scold a child when they exhibit thumb sucking behavior; instead, praise them when they don’t thumb suck.
  • Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety—thumb sucking is a comfort device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.
  • Praise them when they refrain from the habit during difficult periods.
  • Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.

If none of these options work, our orthodontist can make an appliance similar to a retainer that will prevent the child from thumb sucking. Consultations with our orthodontist are at no charge.

Tips for Prevention

Tooth Decay Prevention

Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Our dentists only use white fillings, we no longer use the old mercury containing amalgam fillings. White fillings offer a number of advantages over metal ones. First of all, there is usually less drilling away of tooth structure, this conserves your remaining healthy tooth. Secondly, the white fillings actually bond to the tooth and strengthen it to prevent tooth fracture. Finally, the white filling hides the fact that you have any filling at all since it blends in with your natural tooth color.

A very large cavity may require a crown (a crown is a large covering that goes over the tooth, making it stronger, it is made in a lab and looks just like a tooth once it is cemented in place). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing at least twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.


The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible)for children to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.

Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments. Insurance usually covers most if not all of the cost of sealants on children up to the age of 14 but different plans vary. We can let you know if your plan covers them or not.


Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. You should regularly drink water treated with fluoride. All public water in Fairfax County as well as Alexandria is fluoridated. Brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly fewer cavities.

There are ways to get additional fluoride. For instance, over the counter mouthrinses such as ACT and Fluorigard can be used to get extra topical fluoride. Swish with it for a minute after brushing your teeth at night and then don’t drink anything for at least 30 minutes. Fluoride mouthrinses can also be used to desensitize teeth. Generally, this takes about 4-6 weeks of regular use.