Pediatric Dentistry in Columbia

Why Choose a Pediatric Dentist?

“Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry.”-American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Just as a parent prefers a pediatrician for their child’s medical needs, a pediatric dentist is uniquely qualified to meet children’s dental needs.

Pediatric dentists have completed two years of additional specialty training in the recognition and treatment of children’s primary and permanent teeth.

Our dentists create a comfortable, fun environment in the hopes of instilling a positive attitude towards dental visits from the very beginning.

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Many children struggle with anxiety about dental visits. While our dentists and staff have experience in putting any nerves at ease, there are things you can do as a parent to help them enjoy their dental visits as well.

  • Establishing a dental home for your child in their first year can help your child be familiar with their dentist, as well as the sounds and smells of the office.
  • Keep it simple! Don’t use too many details in explaining what the appointment will be like. This may raise more questions than you are prepared to answer and could cause more anxiety. *Keep it positive! Anytime you discuss the dentist, don’t share your own anxieties and fears with your child.

First Visit By Age One

Children should begin seeing a pediatric dentist either when they get their first tooth or by the age of one. On average, children will get their first tooth between 6-12 months of age.

Children who begin visiting the dentist at an early age typically have a positive outlook about the dentist and begin practicing good dental hygiene at an early age. This is also a great way to educate both parent and child about dental habits and to establish a dental home to take your child in case of any dental emergencies.

Why Baby Teeth Matter

Contrary to popular thinking, a child’s primary teeth ― more commonly called “baby teeth” ― are as important as their permanent adult teeth. Primary teeth usually begin appearing when a baby is between six months and one year of age. Primary teeth help children chew and speak. They also hold the space in both jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.

Cosmetically, a healthy smile can also help with your child’s self-esteem. Children can be embarrassed, or be teased, due to less-than-perfect smiles caused by dental decay. Make sure your child is confident in their smile by brushing twice a day, by flossing at night, and by visiting their dentist every six months.

Your Child’s First Appointment

Ideally, your child’s first dental visit should be within six months of the eruption of his/her teeth. You can make the first visit to the dentist an enjoyable and positive experience. Let your child know that the dentist and staff will explain what they are going to do and that they will answer any questions. The less “fuss” concerning the visit, the better.

We recommend that you avoid using words that might cause unnecessary fear, such as needle, pull, drill, or hurt. Rest assured that our highly trained staff will choose the right words and that we will deliver each message in a comforting manner.

One question that parents often ask us is, “Are we allowed in the room where you are treating my child?” While many offices vary in their responses, we answer with a resounding, “YES!” We consider ourselves to be in partnership with you in providing your child with a foundation for a lifetime of good oral health, and, as partners, we respect your knowledge of your children and trust that you will respect our decisions and recommendations for their care.

Please do not be concerned if your child cries. Children may be afraid of anything new and strange. We pride ourselves on our gentle, understanding, and caring approach and are experienced with all types of behavior.

We strive to make each and every visit to our office a fun one! For your convenience prior to visiting our office, please print the New Patient Paperwork, complete the information, and bring it with you to your first visit.

Expectant Moms

There is new research suggesting a link between gum disease and pregnant women and premature, low birth weight in babies. According to research by the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, there are more premature babies born every year linked to gum disease than there are to smoking and alcohol combined.

Therefore, it is very important for expectant moms to practice good dental hygiene. They can do so by regularly visiting their dentist and by flossing and brushing for two minutes twice a day.

Moms with poor dental hygiene are also more likely to pass the bacteria that cause cavities to their children. It is very important that once your little one is born, that you do not share eating utensils or put your mouth on your baby’s toys, bottles, or pacifiers.

Routine Cleanings and Exams

Good home-care habits are vital to your child’s oral health, and bi-yearly cleanings are essential to maintaining his or her smile. During your child’s bi-yearly check-up and cleaning, Drs. Ellis, Green, and Jenkins will remove plaque and buildup that regular brushing and flossing can miss. They will also examine the development of your child’s teeth to ensure continued dental health and will offer wise counsel about at-home care that you and your child can understand and implement in his or her daily routine.

In-Office Treatment

Most of our patients are able to have their teeth examined, radiographed (X-rayed), cleaned, and restored in our traditional office setting. Our doctors and staff are trained to handle all types of behavior in the most caring environment possible. Nitrous oxide inhalation sedation and various behavior guidance techniques usually provide a comfortable environment for your child.

Hospital Treatment

We have hospital privileges at Palmetto Health Richland. The doctors feel very fortunate to have received the training required to perform hospital-based dentistry and are happy to give your family this option, if necessary.

In the hospital dentistry setting, your child would be sedated under general anesthesia by an anesthesiologist. In this manner, the dentist is able to perform all necessary dental procedures while the patient is safely monitored by trained anesthesia personnel.

In order to make sure families feel comfortable with their hospital visit, our office provides a hospital coordinator to answer any questions and to correspond with both the surgery facility and the insurance companies.

Tooth Brushing & Flossing

Good oral care starts at home, so it is very important to follow good tooth brushing and flossing practices. It is also important to BRUSH FOR TWO MINUTES TWO TIMES A DAY and to FLOSS BEFORE BED! If you eat high carbohydrate foods, especially sticky candy, brushing after these treats will also help keep your teeth healthy. Follow these tips below to ensure that you and your child remain cavity-free.


  • Parents should brush their baby’s teeth with a small, soft toothbrush as soon as teeth erupt.
  • Parents should brush their child’s teeth until they are at least six years of age.
  • Use a pea-size amount of toothpaste on your child’s toothbrush.
  • Children should be assisted with brushing their teeth until they have the manual dexterity to tie their own shoelaces ― typically around 6-8 years of age.
  • Hold your child’s toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and move the brush in slow, circular motions.
  • Brush all inner, outer, and chewing tooth surfaces. Parents, your child may need help reaching their back teeth to ensure that they are brushed correctly and to avoid cavities.
  • After brushing your child’s teeth, make sure you brush their tongue and the roof of their mouth, too! This will remove any oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay and bad breath.


  • Flossing teeth at least once a day ― preferably before bedtime ― will remove any food wedged between the teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach.
  • Using around 18 inches of floss, wind the ends around your middle finger on each hand.
  • Hold the floss tightly, with about 1 inch of floss between your two hands.
  • Glide floss between the teeth. When you reach the gums, curve the floss into a C against the tooth and pull the floss away from the gums, scraping the side of the tooth. Repeat on another side of the tooth.
  • Once you are done flossing, make sure you thoroughly rinse your mouth to remove and loosen any plaque or food particles.

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is normal behavior for babies and small children; it is a natural reflex. Babies begin sucking their thumbs even before they are born, and it provides a sense of security for them.

Thumb, finger, and pacifier sucking affect the teeth and jaws in the same way. Pacifier habits can be easier to break than finger sucking. We recommend children stop the use of pacifiers between 18-24 months of age. Normally, finger sucking habits end between 4-6 years of age.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s thumb or pacifier sucking habits, please contact our office today.

Baby Bottle Decay

Baby bottle decay occurs when liquids that contain sugar, including breast milk, are left in your baby’s mouth for an extended period of time. The front top teeth will develop small holes or dark spots that can cause your child pain and make it difficult to eat.

Children should be weaned from the bottle and from nursing between 12-14 months of age.

Children who sleep with bottles (containing anything other than water) are more susceptible to cavities. The enamel of your child’s new teeth is destroyed when the sugar in drinks combines with saliva, pooling around the teeth during the night.

Cavity Prevention

Babies should be weaned from the bottle by their first birthday to prevent bottle decay.

You should brush your baby’s teeth with a small, soft toothbrush as soon as teeth erupt. Parents should brush their child’s teeth until the child has enough manual dexterity to tie their own shoelaces with ease; this typically occurs around age 6-8 years of age.

Children should avoid juice and other sugary drinks, such as sodas, as they are major causes of tooth decay. White milk with meals and water throughout the day are the best beverages to ensure that your child maintains a healthy smile.

Gum Disease

Gum, or periodontal, the disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss, and bone damage. Gum disease usually starts with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of the disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease worsens to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is very preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.

Teens & Oral Care

Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. That is why it is so important to take good care of your teeth as middle school and high school students. You have your permanent teeth now, and they are meant to last you for the rest of your life.

In order to keep your smile healthy, follow these tips below:

  • Choose healthy foods to eat.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks. If you do have a sugary snack or drink, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with water afterward.
  • Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day.
  • Floss daily.
  • If you are active, wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco― this increases your likelihood of mouth sores and mouth cancer.
  • In order to avoid chipped teeth and infections, do not pierce your tongue, lips, or cheeks.

Special Needs Patients

Drs. Ellis, Green, and Jenkins have been treating special needs children for over 50 years. Our pediatric dentists have had special training to assist special-needs children. We are able to customize our service to meet your child’s specific needs, and we want to make sure that every child has a positive dental experience.

Dental Sealants

Sealants are thin plastic coatings that protect the chewing surfaces of permanent molars. These teeth have tiny grooves and pits that are difficult to clean. Food and plaque build up in these areas causing bacteria to form, which can lead to tooth decay. The sealants seal out food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.


Your child will have two sets of teeth throughout his/her life. The primary (baby) teeth will typically break through the gums around 6-8 months of age. Usually, the first two teeth to appear are the bottom two, central incisors. The top four front teeth are usually the next to erupt. Typically, your child will grow a total of 20 primary teeth by the time they are three years old.

Around the age of six, your child will begin to get permanent teeth. By the age of 12-14 years, all permanent teeth, except for wisdom teeth, will grow in. Wisdom teeth will usually begin breaking through around 17 years old. There are 32 permanent teeth. It is very common for wisdom teeth to be extracted to avoid overcrowding.

Please refer to our Tooth Eruption Chart to mark the growth of your child’s teeth!

Two Rows of Teeth

Once your child’s permanent teeth start growing in, you may see a “double row” of teeth. This occurs when the permanent tooth grows in behind the baby tooth.

This is a common occurrence, and we usually advise the following:

  • Have your child wiggle their loose baby tooth often throughout the day.
  • Have your child eat an apple. It may help pull the loose baby tooth out for you!

If the tooth does not come out after 1-2 weeks, if the child is in pain, or if you have any concerns, please contact our office. The tooth may need to be extracted.