You may already know how important regular dental visits are for keeping your children’s teeth and gums in good shape — besides brushing and flossing, a checkup every 6 months with a kids teeth cleaning might be the best thing you can do for your child’s oral health. But what you might not know is that there’s a strong relationship between oral health and overall health, so taking good care of your child’s mouth is a big part of taking care of your child’s whole body.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AT MY CHILD’S DENTAL CHECK-UP?
Your child’s age typically dictates what preventive procedures will occur at their visit. Children less than three years of age usually do not tolerate much more than a clinical exam wherein the doctor “counts” teeth and examines all the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. As children mature beyond the age of three, their ability to reason and tolerate more involved preventive procedures increases. A clinical exam along with a kids teeth cleaning and fluoride treatment can be expected at every check-up visit. X-rays are taken periodically and their frequency is determined by your child’s risk factors along with their stage of growth and development. The purpose for all this is to detect early signs of disease in the mouth to either the teeth and or gums. A regular checkup can even be good for your pocketbook. Identifying and treating minor problems like cavities early on can spare you the time and expense of more complicated dental procedures such as a tooth extraction, crowns or root canal. Lastly, some non-dental conditions have symptoms that appear in the mouth. A dental examination can reveal signs of vitamin deficiencies or more serious conditions such as diabetes or oral cancer.
HOW ARE THE TEETH CLEANED?
Although home-based tooth brushing and flossing help remove a sticky film of bacteria called plaque, only a professional kids teeth cleaning for your child provided by a pediatric dentist or dental hygienist can thoroughly clean the teeth and remove the hardened plaque (called calculus or tartar) that builds up on them. A series of metal hand instruments called scalers are used to clean the tartar off the teeth. After the teeth have been cleaned, they are polished to remove plaque and stains on the tooth surface. The polish contains a mildly abrasive substance and fluoride, and is applied using a small rotating rubber cup or brush attached to the dental hand piece. Clean teeth help support healthy gums which in turn help support a healthy body.
HOW DO SEALANTS WORK?
Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is difficult – sometimes impossible – to clean the tiny grooves and pits on certain teeth. Food and bacteria build up in these crevices, placing your child in danger of tooth decay. Sealants for kids “seal out” food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.
HOW LONG DO SEALANTS LAST?
Research shows that sealants can last for many years if properly cared for. Therefore, your child will be protected throughout the most cavity-prone years. If your child has good oral hygiene and avoids biting hard objects, sealants will last longer. The doctor will check the sealants during routine dental visits and recommend re-application or repair when necessary.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT LIKE?
The application of a sealants for your kids is quick and comfortable. It takes only one visit. The tooth is first cleaned. It is then conditioned and dried. The sealant is then flowed onto the grooves of the tooth and allowed to harden or hardened with a special light. Your child will be able to eat right after the appointment. There are no “shots” or “drilling”.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The treatment is very affordable, especially in view of the valuable decay protection it offers your child. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants. Some companies, however, have age and specific tooth limitations. Check with your benefits provider about your child’s coverage or come in and we can help you figure out your exact cost for your child.
WHICH TEETH SHOULD BE SEALED?
The natural flow of saliva usually keeps the smooth surfaces of the teeth clean but does not wash out the grooves and fissures. So the teeth most at risk of decay – and therefore, most in need of sealants – are the six-year and twelve-year molars. Many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage. Any tooth, however, with grooves or pits may benefit from the protection of sealants. Talk to your pediatric dentist, as each child’s situation is unique.
IF MY CHILD HAS SEALANTS, ARE BRUSHING AND FLOSSING STILL IMPORTANT?
Absolutely! Sealants for kids are only one step in the plan to keep your children cavity-free for a lifetime. Brushing, flossing, balanced nutrition, limited snacking, and regular dental visits are still essential to a bright, healthy smile.