Children have a higher risk for cavities than adults because baby teeth have a much thinner outer surface of enamel than adult teeth. Cavities are formed when bacteria living in our mouths digest carbohydrates and sugar in the drinks and foods we ingest, turning them into acid that erodes the surfaces of the teeth. The brown and black holes left behind are cavities and they can spread from tooth to tooth and mouth to mouth. Therefore regular dental cleanings are very important for children as soon as they begin to get teeth. Professional cleanings remove plaque from the teeth, help prevent cavities, and identify cavities that have already formed.
We recommend bringing your baby to a dentist to establish a “dental home” when the first teeth erupt, or by age one, whichever comes first. By creating this relationship, you have a trusted resource for all your child’s oral and dental needs. We will check the growth and development of your infant’s teeth, gums and jaws, give you tips and tricks for feeding and cleaning his/her teeth and be here in the event of an emergency.
Starting at age one!
We recommend dental exams and cleanings at least every six months to help your children avoid cavities, and so that any cavities that we do find can be easily treated before they get too serious. Depending on your child's age and needs we will either use a professional "spin brush" or prophy angle and cleaning paste (with fun flavors), or we will use a manual toothbrush and other hand instruments to remove any plaque or tartar buildup. At cleaning visits we may also take X-rays, offer oral hygiene counseling and nutritional information and apply professional fluoride treatments. Dental exams for children are tailored to the specific needs and sensibilities of each child. We use kid-friendly words to describe what we are doing in a playful and patient manner. We want to make each visit as positive as possible to foster a lifetime of good dental experiences.
Fluoride has been used by dentists to prevent cavities since the early 1900s and became incorporated into public drinking water sources throughout the US in the mid-1900s. It is considered by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the top ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century because it has been shown to lower the rate of tooth decay by 25% in children. Fluoride works by a few different methods to prevent and reduce cavities: 1) it prevents the “bad” bacteria in our mouths from making acid that erodes tooth enamel; 2) it strengthens enamel to resist acid erosion; 3) it deposits minerals into previously eroded areas to “remineralize” and reverse early cavities. However, fluoride swallowed in excess, like most things, can be harmful. People who live in areas with groundwater that has high naturally occurring fluoride levels are more likely to have a condition called “Fluorosis”, where the enamel becomes discolored and mottled. That is why public water sources carefully control the amounts of fluoride in the tap water. Commercially available fluoridated toothpastes and mouthwashes also have the optimal amounts of fluoride for prevention, and should never be swallowed. The topical varnishes we use in our office at check ups stick to the enamel as soon as they are applied so very little gets ingested. We recommend using a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day to brush your child’s teeth. If they still cannot spit the toothpaste out, we can discuss alternate methods of applying topical fluoride that will reduce swallowing.