Prevention is the cornerstone to excellent oral health. Regularly scheduled checkups, proper nutrition, brushing teeth at least twice daily, and flossing are the winning combination. Remember the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By preventing the disease from developing, you will save yourself and your child lengthy and costly visits to the dentist in the future.
Because the caries process (cavities) can progress rapidly, it is important for the dentist to perform regular exams on your child. In many situations we can catch a cavity early and repair it much easier. In order to formulate the best oral health care plan for your child, we will provide a thorough oral evaluation and comprehensive review of your child’s diet and brushing habits. Here are just a few things we look at during each of our exams.
- Evaluation of dental and oral development
- Detection of cavities and gum disease
- Screening for oral cancer, cysts, and other diseases of the mouth that might otherwise go undetected
- X-rays to aid in the detection of cavities and other diseases of the bone
At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, your child will receive a thorough cleaning of her teeth (also known as a prophy). We have special instruments and toothbrushes that allow us to get teeth extra clean and shiny to help your child maintain a healthy and happy smile. During the cleaning we will:
- Remove plaque: Plaque is the yellow-white material that builds up on teeth. Because plaque is so sticky, it builds up quickly on the teeth and if left alone, can cause cavities, gum disease and bad breath. Prior to removing the plaque we will apply a special dye to the teeth to demonstrate any problem areas your child may have with brushing.
- Remove stubborn stains: Our toothpaste has special materials in it that allow us to remove superficial stains more effectively than standard toothpaste.
- Remove tartar (calculus): Calculus is hardened plaque (not hard mathematical equations) that can build up above and/or below the gumline. It is difficult to remove and requires special instruments only found at the dental office.
- Provide a topical fluoride treatment.
- Educate you and your child on proper brushing and flossing techniques.
Fluoride is a substance that is found in most public water supplies in our communities. Use of fluoride has been proven to reduce the occurrence of cavities by up to 80%. Today, most dentists use a topical fluoride gel or foam that is placed in bulky trays that are difficult for most children to tolerate. The use of these trays also increases the amount of fluoride swallowed by your child. Ingestion of greater amounts of fluoride can actually upset your child's stomach, resulting in nausea and even vomiting. We use a state-of-the-art fluoride that carries all of the benefits without discomfort and the risk of ingestion. (See our Pediatric FAQs section to learn more about the pros and cons of fluoride.)
X-rays are a key player in dental exams. They allow us to see areas of the teeth and jaw that would otherwise be invisible to you and me. With x-rays we can see how well the permanent teeth are developing before they even come into the mouth and, in some cases, x-rays can help us diagnose tumors and other pathologies in their early stages. At each exam, we will determine which x-rays, if any, will be required. (See our Pediatric FAQs section to learn more about dental x-rays.)
Are They Safe?
Dental x-rays are much safer today than ever before. With your child's health and safety in mind, we use a digital x-ray system that uses up to 80% less radiation than dentists still using traditional x-rays. To put this in perspective, one day of fun in the sun (with sunblock) will expose you to the same amount of radiation found in 20 dental x-rays. Furthermore, you would have to take 10,000 dental x-rays in one year to exceed the maximum allowable dose. When considering the benefits of x-rays compared to the minimal risk involved in their use, it is clear why we take regular diagnostic x-rays.
Nutrition is another important component of the prevention puzzle. The food you and your child eat can have a direct impact on both your oral health as well as your overall health.
Bacteria called Streptococcus Mutans (aka “sugar bugs”), which can be found in virtually everyone’s mouth, cause cavities. These sugar bugs love to eat the refined sugars and carbohydrates found in our diets. As these little bugs digest the sugars, they produce acid, which will create holes (cavities) in your teeth.
The issue of childhood obesity has come into light over the past few years as well. Children just aren't eating as well and are exercising less than ever before. These poor habits put your child at an increased risk for developing gum disease, diabetes, and heart disease.
You can help combat both of these issues by taking an active role in your child's eating and exercising habits. Here are just a few tips:
- Eat 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables daily
- Drink 4 glasses (1 glass = 8 oz.) of water daily
- Eat/drink 3 servings of low-fat dairy daily (milk, yogurt, & cheese)
- Limit TV/video game time to less than 2 hours daily
- Participate in at least 1 hour of physical activity daily (walking, sports, biking, skating & dancing are just a few suggestions)