Updated on February 7, 2024
5 min read

Pediatric Dental Exams & Teeth Cleanings

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Regular dental checkups are essential to maintaining a child’s dental health. Pediatric dentistry focuses on providing comprehensive dental care for children and adolescents. Regular dental visits help ensure that they maintain strong and healthy gums. 

Pediatric Dentistry: What You Need to Know

As children get older, oral care needs change. Their regular dental examinations should be tailored to their age and overall health. 

Dental exams for children should be scheduled at least every six months. A pediatric dentist or dental hygienist will clean your child’s teeth and take x-rays of their mouth during the exams.

After the teeth cleaning, they apply fluoride and/or sealants to protect their teeth from decay. For younger children, proper brushing and flossing techniques are also typically discussed.

Dental Treatment for Babies (6mo to 1yr)

Pediatric dental exams should begin six months after a baby’s first tooth eruption. This typically happens between 6 months and one year of age.

The earlier a baby visits a dentist, the better their oral health will be in the long run.

As babies reach childhood, they will have healthy oral care habits ingrained into their lifestyle and are less likely to develop gingivitis, deep cavities, and other oral health conditions.

A pediatric dental exam for babies between 6 months and 1 year of age consists of:

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Examination

Allowing a baby to drink from a bottle in bed has extreme oral health risks. This is called bottle rot.

A dentist will examine a baby for signs of bottle rot and then recommend proper cleaning and eating habits to prevent it.

The cavity-causing bacteria can also spread to other baby teeth. It also increases the likelihood of permanent teeth getting cavities when they erupt into the mouth.

Pacifier Use and thumb-sucking habits

Dentists can also check for signs of thumb-sucking, which can cause misalignment of the teeth. If the habit persists past 4 years old, your dentist may prescribe a dental appliance for your child. 

Basic Oral Care Practices

A pediatric dentist typically demonstrates proper oral care techniques. These may include proper brushing methods and how to wash the gums properly. They also discuss drinking and eating habits during the exams.

Fluoride Use

During dental exams, pediatric dentists assess how much fluoride a baby gets through their diet. Then, they will adjust your child’s fluoride intake as needed. 

Fluoride may help prevent early decay and prevent future decay. The mineral can inhibit bacterial metabolism. It also inhibits the demineralization of enamel and promotes the remineralization of enamel.

Dental Care for Toddlers, Children & Teens

Primary teeth fall out between 6 and 13 years of age, and permanent teeth begin to grow in.

During this stage, children need to have established oral hygiene practices. They should also visit a dentist every six months for exams and routine teeth cleanings. 

A pediatric dental exam for children between 6 and 13 years of age consists of:

Oral Health Screenings & X-rays

Pediatric dentists use X-rays to aid in diagnosing disease or damage that isn’t visible during a normal dental exam.

X-rays help catch oral conditions and diseases early, such as cavities and gum disease. They aren’t usually taken every six months unless a child has a high disease risk.

Panoramic Dental X Ray Of Human Teeth

Cavity Restorations

If a child has a cavity, a pediatric dentist will set up another appointment to restore the tooth.

Depending on the severity of the decay, restorative treatment options include:

amalgam filling NewMouth

Pre-Orthodontic Treatment Recommendations

Once all permanent teeth grow completely, orthodontic treatment may be needed if an adolescent has misaligned or crooked teeth. Treatment options include clear aligners, such as Invisalign, and braces.

There are many times when orthodontists will intervene before all permanent teeth erupt. General and/or pediatric dentists may recommend an orthodontic consultation by age 7—which is 5 to 7 years before all permanent teeth erupt.

Preventive Treatment Options for Children and Adolescents

Preventive dentistry focuses on preventing oral diseases and keeping the teeth strong throughout life. These treatments protect children from developing cavities, gum disease, and other oral health conditions.

During a dental exam, a pediatric dentist may use a combination of preventive treatments, including:

Professional Teeth Cleanings

Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash regularly helps remove plaque buildup. However, not all bacteria can be removed with a normal toothbrush.

During in-office teeth cleanings, a pediatric dentist removes any plaque and tartar on the surfaces of teeth and between teeth. They’ll use special tools to scrape away plaque and tartar that regular toothbrushes can’t reach.

Professional Fluoride Treatment

There are two types of professional fluoride treatments available today, including topical and systemic:

  • Topical fluoride includes gels and varnishes that dental hygienists apply during teeth cleanings.
  • Systemic fluoride comes in a pill form and is usually prescribed to children who are fluoride-deficient

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in rocks and soil that helps prevent tooth decay and strengthens tooth enamel. 

Because of these decay-fighting properties, small amounts of fluoride have been added to tap water. Fluoride is added to certain toothpaste, mouth rinses, and dental materials.


Sealants are applied to newly erupted primary or permanent teeth to protect them against cavities. 

The thin-coating helps keep acid, bacteria, and food particles out of teeth surfaces. Treatment is painless and completed during one office visit.


Proper pediatric dental care is essential for growing children and adolescents. A child’s dental needs change as they grow older, and staying current on their oral health is essential.

Regular visits to a pediatric dentist will help ensure your child’s teeth develop correctly and remain healthy.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Fluoridation Facts. American Dental Association, 2018.
  2. Koch Göran et al. Pediatric Dentistry: a Clinical Approach. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2017.
  3. Nowak, A.J. Pediatric Dentistry: Infancy through Adolescence. Elsevier, 2019.
  4. Recommendations for using fluoride to prevent and control dental caries in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR Recomm Rep, 2001.
  5. “5 Reasons Why Fluoride in Water Is Good for Communities.” The American Dental Association (ADA). 
  6. “Six-Year Review of Drinking Water Standards.” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2020.
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