Adult Teeth

Adult or permanent teeth begin to appear at around age 6 and are mostly erupted by age 16 years of age. During these years most of our patients have a mix of primary and permanent teeth. There are a total of 32 permanent teeth including the third molars or, wisdom teeth. Since these teeth must last a life time, it is important to protect them from decay and injury, to make sure that they are aligned properly for the jaw and chewing function as well as an attractive smile.

Our goal is to provide your child and teen with a solid foundation of dental health through education and the best preventative and restorative care. Dr. Atherton will recommend the best treatment for your child and teen depending on their health history, your child based upon your child’s health history, special health needs, dental needs, type of treatment required and emotional and intellectual development. Working with parents, our staff will help to promote good dental health.


Pediatric dentists have specialized trained to provide dental care for both children and adolescents including those with special needs. Adolescents have specific needs. They are experiencing growth in their faces and jaws, they are getting the last of their permanent teeth and they are most prone to snacking on unhealthy foods. Since appearance is very important to them, damage, decayed or poorly positioned teeth or jaws might make them more self-conscious. We provide a professional, sensitive and caring approach to restoring and guiding teeth, and teaching preventive dental health care through the teen’s high school years. When necessary, we will provide information on wisdom teeth, orthodontics, oral piercing and tobacco use.

Preventative and Restorative Care

May include some of the procedures listed below:

Prophylaxis involves removing superficial plaque, tarter and stain accumulated over a period of time. This is done by rotating a rubber-cup filled with an abrasive tooth paste against all exposed surfaces of tooth enamel. Tarter which is found below the gum line is removed by the dentist on examination. Kids get to choose what flavor they’d like for the cleaning, and believe it or not, they’re not too bad.

Fluoride is a mineral used to strengthen enamel which has been weakened by acids sitting against the tooth. Acid, if left on enamel, slowly dissolves the tooth surface by pulling minerals off of the tooth. You may even think of it like the tooth getting microscopic potholes across its surface. Over time, this dissolving action can lead to the development of a cavity, or a giant sink-hole. Fluoride basically acts like a plug, filling in those potholes to help prevent the cavity from occurring. Most people are exposed to fluoride in their water, food, and toothpaste, but by itself, it is usually not enough. Our in-office fluoride application makes up for the difference.

X-rays are taken as a diagnostic tool. Cavities which form between the teeth can often only be seen when taking these films. X-rays can also help us determine your child’s risk potential for future cavities. Cavities which grow very quickly tell us your child likely has a combination of many cavity-producing bacteria with a carbohydrate-rich diet.

Sealants are typically placed on molars with deep pits and grooves. These molars are at higher risk for getting cavities because the anatomy of the grooves allows for bacteria and carbohydrates to get packed down into them. Sealing a tooth is analogous to caulking your bathtub, where the grooves are filled in with a hard, white material that leaves the tooth feeling smooth. It is a relatively painless procedure and is recommended according to the anatomy of the tooth, oral hygiene of the child and potential risk factors the child may present at a particular dental examination.

Composite Resin Restorations are the “fillings” which go into the teeth once all of the decay is removed. They are tooth-colored and are bonded to the prepared tooth surface. Silver fillings, or amalgam fillings, are only very rarely used in our office on a case-by-case basis. Different materials have different strengths and weaknesses, and for the overwhelming majority of the time, the tooth-colored fillings are the treatment of choice.

Extractions of Teeth may be necessary for any number of reasons. Baby teeth that are over-retained, traumatized, abscessed, or potential crowding problems for future adult sometimes need to be removed. Space maintenance may be needed following extractions in some circumstances.

Space Maintainers maintain space to encourage future adult teeth to erupt into the mouth unobstructed. It is usually needed when a baby molar is lost prematurely. The type of space maintainer needed is dependent on the amount and location of space needed. Single tooth space maintenance is usually maintained with what is called a band and loop space maintainer. Multiple teeth space maintenance is usually accomplished with a lower lingual arch on the lower jaw or a palatal holding arch on the upper jaw. They are usually designed to remain in the mouth until the adult tooth or teeth erupt into the space being held for them.

Interceptive Orthodontics Dr. Atherton can provide early orthodontic intervention. This means we will monitor or head off any growth and development discrepancies that may impede the alignment or emergence of the primary or permanent teeth. Problems such as treatment include thumb sucking, cross bites, overbites, protruding upper teeth, open bites and / or crowded teeth can be corrected through the use of orthodontic appliances and techniques. As your child matures, we can help guide your child’s teeth with minor orthodontic corrections before they become a major concern. Beyond early or minor interventions, Dr. Atherton can provide an orthodontic referral for cases that require comprehensive orthodontic evaluation and treatment done by a board certified orthodontist.