Why might your family dentist refer you to a pediatric dentist, and what are the most common pediatric dental procedures?
Pediatric dentists undergo an additional two or three years of training after dental school in order to provide specialized care to infants, children, and people with special health care needs. They receive targeted training in growth and development, psychology, and behavior management, which helps them treat children with a personalized touch that a regular dentist may not have. A pediatric dentist may also be recommended if a family dentist finds a child’s needs difficult to address.
Brush up on the most common dental procedures for kids to make the most of your child’s next dentist appointment!
Child Dental X-rays
Why do kids need dental X-rays? Dental X-rays help your dentist diagnose and treat oral conditions, like periodontal (gum) diseases and cavities. They allow the dentist to visualize what they may not be able to detect with their eyes alone. Dental X-rays may also be taken to monitor the development of permanent teeth buried deeper in jawbones and to observe growth patterns in facial bones. Because their mouths grow and change so rapidly, children often need X-rays more frequently than adults.
At what age should kids start to get dental X-rays? Unlike taking your child to the dentist by age 1, there is no specific age for a first dental X-ray exam. It will depend on how healthy (or unhealthy) your child’s teeth and mouth are. Kids with lower risk and little history of past dental problems need them less frequently than those at high risk or with a lot of existing dental work.
Are there any risks related to getting X-rays done? X-rays can pose a risk because they use low levels of radiation. To reduce the level of exposure, dentists use lead aprons and shields to protect children during the process, and only take X-rays when the diagnostic benefits outweigh potential risks. All radiation can be damaging, and the effect is cumulative over a lifetime, but dental X-rays are generally considered safe when taken according to guidelines. Click here for information about getting dental X-rays during pregnancy.
Sealants for Kids
Brushing and flossing will always be key to help remove food and plaque from your teeth. However, a toothbrush can’t always reach deep into grooves (called pits and fissures) that may have formed, especially when in young hands. When food and plaque are allowed to sit, this leads to cavities. Sealants offer a better solution when it comes to preventing cavities, which is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood.
Why do kids need sealants? During preventive care exams, a dentist or hygienist will remove plaque and tartar. As they examine the health of the teeth and mouth, they may place sealants on teeth that have the highest risk for tooth decay.
According to the CDC, 38% of kids ages 12 to 19 have dental sealants. Children at higher risk for tooth decay will benefit the most, so ask your dentist about your child’s risk for dental disease.
At what age should kids start to get sealants? Sealants are most effective when applied to decay-susceptible biting surfaces as soon as the teeth come in. Both adults and children can benefit from sealants, but they can have a stronger impact if used at an earlier age.
A child’s permanent molar teeth come in between the ages five and seven, with their second permanent molars come in between ages 11 and 14. Ideally, they would get sealants on their molars immediately upon the permanent molars emerging. Many Delta Dental plans provide coverage for sealants on a child’s permanent first and second molars; check your specific plan details for more information.
Fluoride Treatments for Kids
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to plaque, bacteria, and sugar in the mouth. Kids can get fluoride through tap water, certain toothpastes and mouth rinses, and treatments applied by a dentist. It’s estimated that 90% of the Wisconsin population that drinks tap water receives the benefits of optimal fluoride levels.
About 20% of children between the ages of five to 11 years old have untreated tooth decay, but fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third of cavities in baby teeth. When you prevent cavities, you prevent the overall health concerns and dental problems that are associated with poor oral health at a young age.
Professional fluoride treatments are applied quickly and easily as a varnish, gel, or foam. Fluoride treatments at the dentist are more concentrated than your traditional mouthwashes or toothpastes. As with sealants, professional strength fluoride treatments are not always necessary for every kid, so talk with the dentist to see if your child is at higher risk for tooth decay. If your child needs fluoride, your dentist can provide a fluoride plan based on their specific needs.
Looking for more information on pediatric dental benefits? Head to this link.