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Dental diseases are some of the most common infections a child will ever experience. Fortunately, most of them are also preventable with regular dental care. Professional cleanings are one of those essential services.
During your child’s six-month checkup, we’ll perform both an exam and a dental cleaning. For the dental cleaning portion of the visit, one of our hygienists will work at your child’s pace to remove buildup, stain, and discuss age-appropriate home care.
Dental Cleanings for Children
Although children aren’t prone to periodontal disease the same way adults are, they still develop tartar and plaque buildup on their teeth. Without removing these deposits regularly, they can contribute to gingivitis, bad breath, and social concerns.
During your child’s dental cleaning, we’ll gently lift away buildup and use a soft polishing cup to buff off any superficial staining. You’ll probably notice that as their adult teeth come in, they look slightly darker than their baby teeth. This is completely normal, as permanent teeth have a naturally thicker layer of yellow “dentin” under the enamel.
Our hygienists will also use your child’s recent dental X-rays to screen for buildup or bone loss, which are indications to aggressive gum infections. Although rare in children, it’s not unheard of. Be sure to let us know if your child has any pre-existing or underlying medical concerns.
Age-Appropriate Oral Hygiene
As our hygienists are cleaning your child’s teeth, they’ll discuss proper brushing and flossing (in an age-appropriate manner, of course.) Until your child has the dexterity to tie their own shoes, parents will want to help them brush and floss each day.
For younger children, we recommend brushing in a circular pattern focusing on one or two teeth at a time. It’s important to clean close to the gum lines as well. If there is any bleeding, it’s likely due to gingivitis. Regular brushing twice per day (for two minutes at a time) should help to improve the symptoms within a couple of weeks. Should symptoms persist, we may need to screen your child for a pediatric version of gum disease.
Flossing as a child is usually less complicated, especially if there are nice wide spaces between the teeth. If the teeth are crowded, flossing is more important than ever, due to the increased risk of tooth decay. A handheld, disposable floss pick works well for younger children. Once adult molars start to erupt, transitioning to traditional floss or a water flosser may be better.
In-Office Fluoride Treatment
After your child’s teeth are completely cleaned, we’ll apply a professional fluoride treatment. The fluoride will either be a wipe-on gel, tray, or thicker varnish that’s applied with a small brush. As a concentrated version, professional fluoride helps to remineralize weak or decalcified enamel throughout your child’s mouth, making it more resistant against tooth decay.
For kids who are considered “at risk” for cavities — such as those in braces, who have constantly recurring decay, or a family history of cavities — we might also prescribe a fluoride to use at home each night.
Depending on which type of fluoride is applied, we may ask that your child not eat or drink anything for up to 30-60 minutes after their dental hygiene appointment.
Should Your Child be Using Fluoride Toothpaste?
ADA recommendations for fluoride toothpaste emphasize the need for this natural mineral during your child’s tooth development. Like calcium, teeth need fluoride to be strong and cavity resistant. In addition to drinking fluoridated tap water (side note: many bottled waters do not contain fluoride), use a fluoride toothpaste daily.
For young toddlers or preschoolers who may not be able to spit or rinse well, use a rice-grain sized smear of fluoride toothpaste. Older children and adults can use a pea-sized amount on their toothbrush.
Dental Cleanings by Age 2
We want every child’s experience in the dental office to be a positive one. To minimize dental anxiety, we believe preventative care should start as young as possible. Even though your child will hopefully already be visiting us for exams as young as age 1, we want to try to transition them into cleaning appointments by the time they’re 2-3 years old. We’ll work at your child’s pace to make these visits as relaxing and comfortable as possible. With access to comprehensive preventative care, we can help your child avoid unnecessary gum disease, tooth decay, and potential emergencies later on in the future.
A Place for Everyone in Your Family
Schedule everyone’s six-month checkups under the same roof. Contact us today to reserve an appointment for your child. Call (617) 527-6061 or request an appointment online.