Regular checkups every 6 months helps your child by identifying any issues early and allowing ample time to correct them, usually with a simple cleaning or fluoride treatment. If any issues are detected, x-rays can determine how deep they go, and we can help resolve them.
Checkups are recommended every six months by pediatric dentists in Houston to check on the progress of a child’s developing teeth. We examine the teeth, looking for any abnormalities such as cavities, plaque, and other issues. We also examine the soft tissue of the gums to make sure there are no problems below the surface. The checkup can be rather in-depth, as we want to assess their overall oral health, and includes the following:
- Examination – The visual exam looks at the teeth and gums. We may ask about the child’s diet and recommend some changes to keep your child’s teeth in excellent condition.
- X-Ray (Radiographs) – An x-ray is recommended once per year, and they are used to check below the surface for possible issues.
- Cleaning – A thorough cleaning will remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the chances of cavities forming and teeth wearing down.
- Fluoride Treatment – This treatment may be applied to further protect the teeth from decay.
Regular checkups and fluoride treatments will greatly reduce the chances of your child developing dental diseases. Proper brushing techniques and regular oral care at home also reduce those chances; a thorough cleaning and fluoride treatment at the dentist will remove deep set plaque and tartar, as well as strengthen teeth. Without a thorough cleaning, tartar can build up in hard to brush places, leading to tooth decay or gingivitis.
Dental exams are how we determine the overall health of your child’s teeth. We look for signs of decay or disease, counsel you and your child on proper diet and oral hygiene habits, and apply fluoride treatments or sealants to help protect teeth.
Just like with adults, pediatric dental exams screen for any possible issues while gauging the overall oral health of the child. We look at the teeth and gums, checking for any signs of tooth decay or dental diseases. For children who don’t have all of their teeth yet, we will also count the number of teeth that have erupted (sprouted from the gums), and check the amount of space available for remaining teeth. Likewise, we examine the space available where a primary (baby) tooth is lost to ensure enough room for the adult tooth to come in.
We will ask some questions regarding the child’s diet and oral hygiene in order to get a better understanding of how well their teeth are being maintained. We can teach proper brushing techniques as well as show how to floss, which will remove far more plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums. If the child has become active in sports at school, we can show how to prevent oral injuries. Exams should be performed every 6 months after the first tooth erupts, but based on your child’s diet, oral care, and lifestyle, the frequency of visits may be more or less often than that.
There are a few key things to remember when bringing your child in for an exam:
- Careful Timing: Schedule your appointment for a time when the child will be well rested.
- Positivity: Avoid using words like “pain,” “drill,” or even “exam.” Positive words like “checkup” and “healthy” will help keep children more calm.
- Listening: If your child has a fear about coming to the dentist, let them voice it. Remind them that you also visit the dentist and it’s only to make sure they’re healthy.
Dental exams are very simple procedures that just look at the condition of teeth. Sometimes, a more in depth exam may be needed, such as getting an x-ray, but even these are very simple. Additionally, there may be cleanings and fluoride treatments, or possibly applying a sealant to teeth to protect the most vulnerable areas of teeth.
X-rays help us pinpoint issues that may lie inside the teeth or gums, and they also give us an idea of how teeth fit together when the jaw is closed. Through x-rays, we can determine if certain medical actions need to be taken.
A physical examination can only see the surface of teeth and gums, which can hide things like gingivitis or tooth decay. Radiographs, commonly known as x-rays, allow us to see much deeper into the mouth. We can see the inside of teeth and gums, and this helps us make sure they are healthy or determine the root cause of any issues.
X-rays are used not only to check for tooth decay and other diseases, but they can help map the space the teeth take up.
- Bitewing x-rays – Can show the back teeth and where they touch each other. The spots where they touch are more susceptible to tooth decay, and as such need more attention. These x-rays are recommended as soon as the first and second molars begin touching each other, and subsequently every 12 months after. In children with a high risk of developing dental disease, it is recommended they get bitewing x-rays every 6 months.
- Periapical x-rays – Look directly at a tooth, usually to determine how far tooth decay has spread. If there is an infection, the periapical x-ray can also examine the surrounding bone to determine if the infection has reached the bone. These x-rays are also good for monitoring the development of roots in the teeth and gums.
- Occlusal x-rays – These x-rays show how the upper and lower teeth fit together.
- Panoramic x-rays – Takes a photo of the whole mouth. This allows us to assess the development of teeth and jaws.
X-rays are a form of radiation, and great care is taken to limit a child’s exposure to it. There is very little risk involved with the use of x-rays, particularly when exposure is limited, but without them, it can be impossible to determine an exact cause for an infection, or we might miss a sign of dental disease. Your child’s well-being is very important to us, and we will take every step necessary to ensure their safety during x-ray procedures.
Professional cleanings use specialized tools for removing plaque and tartar buildup on teeth. We clean all around and in-between teeth, where tooth decay is more apt to form. These cleanings are more advanced than typical home care, though both play a role in keeping your child’s teeth healthy.
Keeping your child’s teeth clean reduces the amount of plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth, which leads to tooth decay and disease. Proper brushing and oral hygiene at home reduces the likelihood of this buildup becoming an issue, but even the most vigilant brushing and flossing at home can miss some spots.
Cleanings at the dentist use specialized tools that remove plaque and tartar, even in tough to reach places. The process is simple and painless, so your child has nothing to fear from a regular cleaning. In fact, regular visits with cleanings can acclimate them to our staff, and if any other issues need to be addressed down the line, they will be less likely to resist treatment.
Pediatric dentists recommend that professional cleanings should be performed once every 6 months, though that may be longer or shorter, depending on your child’s oral health and their risks for tooth decay and disease.
- During a Cleaning
We like to show a child how we will clean their teeth using visual aids, like an oversized set of teeth and toothbrush. Interactivity with the child, including letting them ask questions, forms a bond with them and shows that there is nothing they need to be afraid of. Parents are welcome to join their children if it makes the child feel more comfortable.
- After a Cleaning
We’ll explain how you can help keep your child’s teeth clean at home through proper brushing techniques. Other factors like the amount of toothpaste to be used will also be discussed. Children of different ages will have different levels of capability for cleaning their own teeth, but with some help, they can be prepared to take care of a healthy smile.
Fluoride is an important part of oral health. It forms a mineral shield around teeth and protects them from tooth decay and infections. Some children may not get enough fluoride through drinking water or brushing their teeth, so a fluoride treatment may be needed to replenish lost minerals.
Fluoride is a mineral that is found naturally throughout the world. It is also one of the leading elements that protects teeth from decay. Fluoride, along with other minerals, form a protective shield around teeth, helping to resist bacteria that lead to tooth decay, infections, and diseases. As children consume sugary drinks or food, the sugar feeds bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria multiply and produce plaque, which wears away the minerals protecting teeth, and eventually wear away the enamel. Once the enamel is gone, tooth decay sets in.
Fluoride treatments restore lost fluoride on the teeth, strengthening the shield and the teeth themselves. Too little fluoride means the teeth won’t be strengthened, while too much fluoride can cause a discoloration, called dental fluorosis. We take great care to ensure your child receives the proper amount of fluoride. This will give them enough fluoride to strengthen the teeth, but not cause discoloration.
Daily Fluoride Use
- Toothpaste: We’ll instruct parents on how much fluoridated toothpaste to use at home. Typically, for infants, toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice is recommended, while for toddlers and older, a pea-sized amount is best.
- Drinking Water: Many towns and cities have fluoride in the drinking water to replenish fluoride lost over time with children. If your child doesn’t drink water, their fluoride levels are likely low. Also, if they only drink bottled water, they may not be getting enough fluoride to strengthen teeth, particularly the permanent teeth that come in as the child grows. In these cases, it can be especially important to get a professional fluoride treatment once or twice a year.
Food and Drinks: Some foods and drinks actually contain a fair amount of fluoride as well, such as creamed spinach, infant formulas, white grape juice, and juice drinks made in cities with higher fluoride levels in water. Overuse can cause issues, so it’s important to regulate your child’s diet and ensure they are getting the right amount of fluoride.