Children as they grow up encounter many milestones in their life. One among them is the development and eruption of teeth. Parents usually pay absolute attention to the growth and health of the child. However, most parents overlook dental care and hygiene, which often leads to rapid tooth decay and early tooth loss. Such dental incidents can have a significant impact on the confidence of the growing child.
With the advances in the dental field, pediatric dentistry has come a long way to provide secure and quick dental care to children. Moreover, pediatric dentists play a crucial role in educating children and teaching the habits of good oral hygiene.
Generally, the first dental visit of a child should be immediately after the first tooth erupts in the mouth. Early dental visits also help to take away the fear and anxiety factor from the child’s mind. As the child becomes familiar with the dental staff with frequent dental visits, he starts to relax and enjoy the process.
Today’s article will highlight the importance of oral health check-up in children. Furthermore, we will discuss the correct time and preparations as parents to comfort the child before a dental visit.
What is the necessity of routine dental check-ups in children?
Routine dental check-ups are essential for maintaining the health and hygiene of the child of any age group. It is a fact that the foundation for healthy permanent teeth is typically built during the earliest years of growth hand development. Therefore, the earlier you can get started with dental hygiene for your children and family, the better off you’ll be. (1)
Several reasons make a routine dental visit essential for the oral health of children –
Prevention of tooth decay and cavity formation
Children are usually at a high risk of developing tooth decay and cavities. However, routine dental check-ups, professional teeth cleaning, and fluoride treatments typically help to reduce and eliminate the risk of tooth decay in children.
Failure to follow up with the routine dental check-ups may cause significant damage to the tooth structure. Moreover, it can lead to unnecessary pain, discomfort, and health issues. (2)
Promote good oral hygiene
Regular dental check-ups are an excellent way to allow parents to speak to dental professionals about their child’s oral hygiene. This way, the dentist can provide useful advice and suggestions to prevent cavities in the future.
Educate on good oral habits
Usually, dental professionals like pediatric dentists and dental hygienists are highly trained and knowledgeable. They provide accurate information on the patient’s current dental conditions, which promote better dental hygiene practices for both the parents and the growing child.
Why should you go to a pediatric dentist?
Pediatric dentists are specialists who have been trained for two to three additional years beyond dental school. This additional training primarily focuses on –
- The management or treatment of a child’s developing dental problem
- Child behavior modification
- Observation of physical growth and development
- Treatments for children with special needs of children’s dentistry.
Although any type of dentist can address a child’s dental needs, a pediatric dentist, his or her staff, and even the office environment are much more suitable and pleasing to care for children and provide a comfortable experience.
When is the right time to go for a routine dental visit?
Ideally, it is recommended to have a first dental visit after the first tooth erupts in the mouth. This usually happens during the first six months to one year after birth. However, several factors might determine how frequently a child should have a dental exam –
- Ages 6 months to 1 year – as mentioned above, this is the ideal recommended time for scheduling a child’s first dental check-up. This is the time when the first tooth erupts. Additionally, it is also considered the time after the first birthday of the child. (3)
- Toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents – children under this age group are usually advised to schedule regular dental check-ups, commonly in every six months per year. This sums up to a total of two dental visits per year. However, the dentist might recommend more frequent visits depending on the child’s oral health problems.
What should the child expect during a routine dental check-up?
Usually, dental experiences can vary depending on the child’s age and treatment needs. Let’s take a closer look at what a child of a particular age group should expect during a dental examination –
Children between the age of six months to one year
During the first dental visit, the dentist might place the child on a table or dental chair. Sometimes, the dental professional may ask the parent to hold their child on their lap during the examination. This is followed by –
- Evaluation of the child’s oral hygiene and overall health.
- The child’s drinking and eating habits
- Check on the risk of tooth decay (4)
- Removal of stains or deposits on the child’s teeth by gently scrubbing with a wet toothbrush or wet cloth
- Demonstration of proper cleaning techniques
- To assess the child’s daily intake of fluoride and determine the use of oral hygiene products with a fluoride supplement. Moreover, evaluate the need for a professional fluoride treatment
- Check for sores or bumps on the child’s tongue, inside the cheeks, and on the roof of the mouth
- Evaluation of oral habits such as prolonged use of a pacifier, tongue thrusting, and thumb sucking
Toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents
Children of this age group are usually more mature and understanding. During each regular check-up, the dentist will continue to evaluate the child’s oral hygiene and overall health. Moreover, he will also assess the drinking and eating habits. Additionally, the dentist will determine the risk of tooth decay. Besides cleaning your child’s teeth, the dentist might also do the following –
- Take digital dental X-rays, if necessary, to get an insight into the underlying development of an abscess or cyst
- Apply sealants. Sealants are thin; protective plastic coatings usually applied to permanent molars to reduce tooth decay(5)
- Restore tooth cavities or tooth fractures
- Look for malocclusions, misalignment and bite problems
- Counsel the child about the impact of thumb sucking, jaw clenching or nail-biting
- Recommend therapies to break the habit
- Recommend pre-orthodontic treatment, such as a unique mouthpiece, or orthodontic treatment, such as braces, to straighten the child’s teeth
As the child grows older, dental exams might include counseling about the oral health risks associated with the following:
- Diet control which may consist of excessive consumption of sugary beverages
- Smoking or Chewing tobacco
- Eating disorders
- Oral piercings
- Use of mouth guard for children who play contact sports
- Possibility of wisdom tooth removal for children above 16 years of age
What can parents do to make the dental visit pleasant for children?
Usually, children are fearful and anxious when it comes to visiting a doctor or any healthcare professional. Therefore, be mindful of their feelings and try the following ways to provide your child with a better clinical experience –
- It is best to schedule early morning appointments so that young children are alert and
- Try to explain a general idea of what to expect, especially for preschoolers.
- Explain why it is essential to go to the dentist.
- Build excitement and understanding.
- While your child may be coming to terms of understanding the importance of dental visits, prepare yourself to discuss any concerns you may have for your child’s oral health with the dentist. (6)
- Be mindful of your dental anxieties; do not relate those fears or dislikes to your child.
- Parents should always morally support their children by staying calm during the dental examination. This is because often, children can pick up parents’ anxieties and become anxious during the procedure.
- Provide all the details of the child to the dentist in terms of health history. For example, if you are coming for a tooth filling, you must tell the dentist about the child’s behavior. Inform the dentist if the child is stubborn, challenging, or fearful in such situations.
- Observe your child’s reactions. For example, young children of 10 to 24 months of age may get upset when taken away from the parents. Similarly, children between the age of two to three years may be able to cope with a brief separation from parents.
How to maintain children’s oral hygiene?
Some of the essential tips for keeping your child’s teeth healthy may include:
- Assist your child in brushing their teeth until the age of seven or eight years old. Make sure to clean the teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once before sleeping at night.
- Supervise your child’s brushing as they tend to swallow the toothpaste quite often. Also, keep a check that they brush every surface of the tooth.
- Be creative with your recipes and cook nutritious foods that include low-sugar snacks such as vegetables, cheese, savory foods.
- Avoid less healthy, high-sugar snacks like sweet biscuits, sugar water, flavored yogurts, candy.
- Avoid sugary or acidic foods and beverages, which may include soft drinks, fruit juice, and flavored milk, especially between meals.
Take away message
The oral health care needs of children are different from that of the adults. Children are usually unaware of the importance of cleaning teeth regularly. Often, they indulge in eating sugary food that may damage their teeth and gums. Therefore, it is essential to take your child to routine dental visits.
Routine dental visits are an excellent way of minimizing the risk of tooth decay and gums disease in children. Moreover, it helps to promote good oral health habits and educate children on the importance of maintaining good hygiene throughout their life.
Another benefit of routine dental visits is that it removes the fear and anxiety that children usually have towards dentists. It makes them more comfortable and familiar with the environment and dental procedures. However, it requires a tremendous parental contribution to prepare the child for dental visits. Moreover, to inform the dentist about the child’s oral health and habits.
If you haven’t got your child’s dental examination done till now, contact your pediatric dentist today ad schedule a routine dental appointment and enhance the smile of your child.