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