The Importance of Regular Checkups and Cleanings for Kids
Oral health affects overall health! Cavities and other oral conditions can be painful and interfere with eating, speaking, and can negatively impact your child’s self-esteem. A healthy smile keeps your child on track developmentally and positively influences overall health and confidence. That’s where Preventative Dentistry comes in. Maintaining good oral hygiene and going to the dentist for regular checkups not only saves your child a lot of pain, discomfort, and inconvenience, but also saves you a lot of time and money. Prevent the problems before they start! How is this possible? Regular teeth cleanings and dental exams are recommended for all infants, children, and adolescence every 6 months in order to maintain your child’s oral health. Here at Sycamore Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry, we offer various types of preventive services that are specifically designed to keep your child’s teeth, gums, and mouth healthy.
Preventive Dentistry Involves:
- Routine dental visits every 3-6 months (more often if your child is considered “high risk” for developing cavities)
- Monitoring oral health and development
- Professional dental cleanings to remove accumulated plaque and calculus, or “tartar”
- Fluoride treatments, when necessary
- Taking dental X-rays when recommended
- Sealants to prevent cavities on high risk tooth surfaces
- Oral health education
- Protection against injuries and contact sports, such as a mouthguard
- Managing oral habits such as pacifier use and thumbsucking
- Guiding erupting teeth when intervention is needed
Teach your child the 2-2-2 Rule!
☻ Brush 2 times a day
☻ Brush for 2 minutes each time
☻ See the dentist 2 times per year
Dental Exams and Cleanings
Preventing Problems Before They Start
The health of your child’s teeth and mouth is very important to the wellbeing of his or her entire body, and while routine brushing and flossing at home is necessary to keep your child’s smile looking its best, visiting the dentist for a comprehensive exam and cleaning is essential. The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommend that your child visit the dentist every six months to ensure his or her teeth stay healthy and smile stays beautiful. These visits typically include a dental exam and professional cleaning, as well as X-rays and a fluoride treatment, when recommended.
By routinely seeing a Pediatric Dentist for exams and cleanings, your child can:
✓ Prevent tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and developmental problems with their teeth and jaws
✓ Avoid costly and extensive dental treatment
✓ Have white teeth by reducing the staining from food and drinks
✓ Shorten time spent at the dentist (and therefore, more time in school!)
✓ Encourage healthy growth and development so your child can have a smile that will last a lifetime
During your child’s exam, Dr. Sarah will keep track of his or her teeth, gums, and jaw bones for signs of cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Another important part of the exam is checking growth, development, and how the teeth align. Dr. Sarah may also want to take X-rays, depending on your child’s dental development, risk for cavities, history of trauma or injury to any teeth, and other problems not visible on the surface during the clinical exam. X-rays are important because they help us see what’s happening in between teeth as well as beneath the surface of the teeth and gums.
Teeth cleanings and professional polishing treatment are part of your child’s preventive program and should be done every 6 months. We use special paste to polish teeth and remove any plaque and visible staining. Sometimes, additional scaling is needed to remove calculus, or “tartar,” build-up that has accumulated over time. The cleaning always includes flossing in between teeth and will frequently end with a fluoride application to protect the tooth structure from cavities.
Vitamins for Teeth — Give your child the best protection against cavities!
Did you know that a professional fluoride treatment helps to keep teeth healthy and strong? Fluoride is a mineral that is naturally found in water and many foods. It is also effective at preventing cavities by coating teeth and strengthening their surface, which acts like a coat of armor to fight off harmful bacteria and tooth decay.
Dr. Sarah may recommend the use of professional and/or home fluoride treatment for the following reasons:
☻ Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth
☻ Fair to poor oral hygiene
☻ To remineralize, or strengthen, areas of teeth that are prone to decay
☻ Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake
☻ Inadequate exposure to fluoride
☻ Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions or medications
☻ Previous or recent history of cavities
How can fluoride prevent cavities?
When carbohydrates (sugars) are consumed, bacteria in our mouth feed on them and produce harmful acids. These acids attack the enamel of our teeth — especially in kids who are frequent snackers, do not brush and floss adequately at home, take certain medications, or produce less saliva. These repeated acid attacks result in cavities, ultimately leading to deterioration in tooth structure and eventually an infection. Fluoride protects the tooth’s surface from acid attacks and reduces the risk of childhood tooth decay, while promoting a healthy mouth and smile!
What is really happening when a fluoride treatment is applied?
There are two important dental functions that occur when fluoride is applied:
1. It helps prevent mineral loss from tooth enamel and
2. It promotes remineralization of enamel and essentially becomes incorporated into the tooth structure, providing strength and extra protection against tooth decay
Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent cavities! It’s important to brush at least 2x/day, floss regularly, eat nutritious meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit your pediatric dentist every 6 months.
Should my Child be using fluoridated toothpaste?
Yes! As soon as the first tooth appears, we want you to help your child use a fluoridated toothpaste, twice daily. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends:
✓ For kids under 3 years old: use a “smear” or “rice grain” size amount
✓ For kids between 3-6 years old: use a “pea” size amount
Kids should be encouraged to spit out any extra fluid after brushing to avoid fluoride consumption. This part might take time and practice. But don’t worry! If your child is unable to spit and you may use a tissue to gently wipe the excess toothpaste foam away.
How are X-Rays taken?
Younger children are sometimes placed in their parent’s lap and we give proper protection for both the child and parent. Older children (and sometimes the very cooperative young kiddos) can sit by themselves on the chair during this process. Although digital X-rays have a lot less scatter radiation compared to other versions, everyone in the room is protected through the use of lead aprons. We also use smaller, softer X-rays to make the process easier for little ones.
Why are Dental X-Rays so important?
While visual inspection with an explorer can identify surface cavities, taking an X-ray is the only way to detect interproximal cavities, or cavities in between teeth. Also, X-rays can show Dr. Sarah how much the cavity has spread within the tooth, if the tooth may need a baby root canal or a simple filling, or if any teeth have signs of trauma or infection present. It can also help us determine if there are any extra teeth or any teeth missing developmentally.
Are Dental X-Rays safe?
The short answer is, yes. The latest dental X-ray tools and techniques are designed to limit your child’s exposure to radiation and every precaution is always taken to safeguard your child. Remember, X-rays are not typically needed at every visit and we use the principle of ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) to decrease your child’s exposure to any radiation. If you’re worried about radiation exposure, just know that our digital X-rays give off a very small amount of radiation. For example, two dental bitewings is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure when traveling on an airplane for 4 hours or a day of background exposure (natural radiation from the sun, soil, rocks, buildings, air and water).
Sealants — Keep those deep grooves cavity free!
Did you know that having sealants on your permanent molars can reduce the risk of cavities by 80%?
Sometimes brushing is not enough, especially in those hard-to-reach areas where teeth tend to have deep pits and grooves. It’s not always easy to get a toothbrush to thoroughly clean these spots and if left alone, these tiny cracks can easily develop tooth decay. Sealants give your child’s teeth extra protection by creating a smooth surface where food easily sticks to, helping to keep those teeth cavity-free.
Dental sealants are made of a plastic resin material that are bonded to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, making those areas that we call “pits and fissures” as smooth as glass. As a result, these areas are less likely to harbor plaque, and therefore, decrease the risk of developing cavities. With sealants, brushing becomes easier and more effective at maintaining a healthy smile.
Applying dental sealants is usually quick and painless! Most kids find the process very easy and we can usually apply sealants the same day as your child’s exam and cleaning. If your child is a little more nervous, we may recommend scheduling a separate appointment so we can spend a little more time to help ease your child’s anxiety and make the process go as smooth as possible.
When should my child get sealants?
Sealants are typically applied to your child’s teeth after their permanent molars have come through the gums, usually between 6-7 years old when the first molars appear and between 12-14 years old for the second molars. Pediatric dentists recommend dental sealant application as soon as these teeth emerge to prevent the likelihood of your child’s teeth developing cavities. It’s more common to seal “permanent” teeth rather than “baby” teeth. However, every patient has unique needs and Dr. Sarah will help you decide which teeth should be sealed and when is the best time for your child to get sealants.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants usually last from 3-5 years, although it is not uncommon to see adults with sealants still intact from childhood as long as they were good at maintaining their oral hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly. Dental sealants only provide protection when fully intact — so if your child’s sealant chips or comes off, it is best to have it repaired or replaced. Dr. Sarah will keep an eye on those sealants and let you know if this happens when your child comes in for their 6 month checkup.
When does it become a problem?
Dr. Sarah will carefully watch the way your child’s teeth grow in and how the jaws develop to be sure any oral habits aren’t negatively affecting your child’s development. Persistent finger sucking and pacifier use can cause long term problems so we may recommend intervention beyond 3 years of age.
How do I stop my child’s habit?
If your child has not stopped these habits by the age of 3, it’s important to intervene. Talk to your child about what can happen to their teeth and jaws if they continue. Dr. Sarah can also encourage your child to stop and give you some great take-home tips and advice.
For now, below are some other ideas you may consider:
Recognize and praise your child when they are not sucking their thumb
Practice self-awareness. When your child is sucking their thumb, ask if they realize they are doing it. If the answer is no, help your child recognize that and find a different soothing tool, like a blanket or toy
Help your child understand that they are growing up and one day they won’t suck their thumb anymore. Ask questions like “Do you think (insert favorite cartoon character) sucks their thumb?”
Start a progress chart to track oral habits
I’ve tried everything — now what?
Dr. Sarah is happy to review all the option available to you and your child so that your kiddo can finally kick that pacifier or thumbsucking habit. Make sure to discuss this with her at your next visit or call us if you ever have any questions!
Mouthguards and Sportsguards: Protecting those pearly whites
Is your kiddo a passionate athlete? If they’re regularly participating in sports where physical contact is a possibility (like football, soccer, and hockey to name a few), it’s important to keep their smile safe from trauma and incidental harm. Our custom-made mouthguards work just like a helmet or kneepads – they provide durable protection for growing teeth and gums so that you can relax on the sidelines. Better yet, they’ll fit much more comfortably and may provide better protection than a “one size fits all” model that comes from the nearest athletics store.
Dental Care for Special Needs Children
A dental practice for every child
The team at Sycamore Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry is trained to take care of children with special needs. We provide dental care for children with a range of developmental, medical and behavioral challenges, including, but not limited to, anxiety, sensory issues, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and developmental and speech/language delays.
Dr. Sarah and her team will communicate with your child in a method that they are most comfortable with. By establishing our office as their Dental Home, special needs patients and their parents learn individualized preventive oral health practices that significantly reduce their risk of preventable dental disease.
Dr. Sarah and her team will spend any extra or necessary time with patients of special needs, establishing trust and relationships built on sensitivity and credibility. Every family will be greeted by a calm, sensory-friendly environment that caters to all dental and orthodontic needs for all ages.