Kids need to see their dentists just as frequently as adults do. Starting dental exams and cleanings from the time when your child gets their first teeth helps them establish a lifelong oral care routine and a dental home.
What to Expect During a Pediatric Dental Visit
When you take your child to see a pediatric dentist, a comprehensive exam, x-rays will be taken based on the child’s age and needs, and a cleaning may be provided.
The exam includes, but is not limited to, reviewing the child’s mouth, teeth, tongue and neck making sure that development based on age is progressing appropriately.
A dentist will examine your child's teeth and gums, and look for signs of cavities or gum disease. They'll also note how many primary teeth your child has. If your child has started losing primary teeth and getting their permanent teeth, the dentist will check to make sure the permanent teeth are coming in correctly.
The dentist may also take x-rays of your child's teeth. X-rays let them inspect the roots of the teeth and see if there are any cavities forming between the teeth.
In addition to a comprehensive cleaning, questions will be asked about brushing and flossing at home. The dental team will give you and your child a quick tutorial on the best way to brush and floss the teeth and other things you and your child can do to prevent cavities.
Knowing what to expect during the cleaning helps you prepare your child for it. Here's how a dentist is likely to clean your child's teeth.
Removing Plaque and Tartar
The first step in the cleaning process will involve removing plaque and tartar from the surface of your child's teeth. The dental professional will use a metal scraper to remove the plaque and tartar. Since the tool can look a little scary to small children, it can be helpful to explain to your child what it is and why it's used.
You might want to hold your child's hand or comfort them during this stage of the cleaning. If they are very young, you might hold them on your lap while the cleaning takes place.
Polishing the Teeth
After successfully removing the plaque and tartar from the tooth surface, the child’s teeth will be polished to get them to really shine. The polishing step also removes stains from the teeth, helping your child get a brighter smile.
Usually, a small drill with a rubber cup attached to the end will be used to polish the teeth. In addition, polishing paste will be used, which might be available in a variety of flavors.
Using a Fluoride Treatment
Many dentists also offer pediatric patients fluoride treatment, in the form of fluoride varnish. The varnish helps to build up and strengthen the tooth enamel and can help to prevent tooth decay.
If you decide to have your child receive fluoride treatment, varnish will be painted on each of the child's teeth, using a small brush. The treatment doesn't hurt, and only takes a few minutes.
Your child can eat and drink right away after getting fluoride treatment, but you might be asked to wait several hours or even overnight before brushing their teeth.
Most dental offices recommend a dental checkup and professional cleaning every 6 months to make sure growth and development is on point and to make sure your child maintains their healthy bright smile.