Pediatric Dental Exams
Children should visit the dentist for a cleaning and exam every six months just as adults do. The first visit should take place no later than a child’s first birthday or preferably after the first teeth erupt. Dr. Luce will look inside your child’s mouth at the first exam without using any type of dental instrument. The appointment gives your child a chance to become accustomed to visiting the dentist and gives you peace of mind knowing everything is on track with your child’s oral health.
Dr. Luce will spend time at infant appointments discussing baby bottle tooth decay, pacifier use, and thumb-sucking. Babies whose parents allow them to go to bed with a bottle have a much higher risk of tooth decay. The reason for this is that all drinks except water contain a small amount of sugar, even formula made specifically for babies.
A baby who drinks a bottle lying down each night exposes the teeth to bacteria that can eventually cause tooth decay. The bacteria can spread throughout the mouth and increase the likelihood of the child developing cavities in the permanent teeth.
As for pacifiers and thumb-sucking, Dr. Luce urges parents to work with their children to break the habit no later than their fourth birthday.
Prolonging the habit beyond that point is likely to cause problems with alignment as the child’s permanent teeth start erupting in the next few years.
What to Expect from a Typical Pediatric Dental Exam
During the first part of the exam, a dental hygienist from our pediatric dental practice in Seminole, FL will clean your child’s mouth and take a few X-rays. Dr. Luce will review the X-rays and inspect your child’s mouth closely for tooth decay and other potential dental health problems. Our team also checks the alignment of your child’s teeth at each appointment and monitors tooth eruption from infancy to late childhood.
Dr. Luce typically applies sealants or offers fluoride treatment with younger patients. These extra measures help to prevent their primary teeth from decay and premature loss. They also ensure that permanent teeth remain healthy from the start. We close the appointment by spending several minutes during the appointment instructing young patients how to brush and floss their teeth properly.
If the child is too young to manage their own oral healthcare, we work with parents to ensure they know the best techniques for brushing and flossing their child’s teeth. Most neurotypical children can take full responsibility for their own oral healthcare starting around age six. However, parents should continue to supervise the process until the child gets into the later elementary years.
What All Parents Should Know About Sealants and Fluoride Treatments
Sealants contain a thin coating of material that dries on the teeth and helps to protect them from damage caused by acid, bacteria, and food particles. Your child does not feel anything while Dr. Luce applies the sealants, but they remain effective for years at keeping cavities at bay.
Most people do not consume enough fluoride in their diet to reap the benefits of this naturally-occurring mineral, especially children. Some municipalities add a small amount of fluoride to tap water. However, millions of people no longer receive fluoride through water because they drink bottled water instead of turning on the tap. Toothpaste and mouthwash manufacturers sometimes add fluoride to their products, and the mineral is present in small amounts in certain foods.
Dr. Luce usually offers fluoride treatments in the form of a gel that he paints onto a child’s teeth. Children who are deficient in fluoride can benefit from a prescription for fluoride pills that Dr. Luce will provide upon approval from a parent.
Dental Check-Ups for Teens and Pre-Teens
Appointments at this age typically follow the same format as earlier appointments but with less emphasis on instructing children how to brush and floss their teeth. Dr. Luce will spend a few minutes talking about the oral health dangers of tobacco and nicotine, since peer pressure can be heavy at this age for children to experiment with smoking or chewing.
The pre-teen and teenage years are also a good time to start orthodontic treatment for children who need it, since most have all permanent teeth by this point. We urge parents who think their child may need orthodontic treatment in the future to schedule a consultation around age seven.
Be a Good Example for Your Child
Whether parents have good or bad habits, children emulate them as they learn about life. Your kids will come to know that oral healthcare is important if they see you brush and floss your teeth every day and enjoy sweets in moderation. They also pick up your attitude about going to the dentist. If you seem anxious or avoidant about it, your child will too.
Before your child’s first dentist appointment, take the time to show them what to expect through play. Be sure to take a relaxed and casual approach towards it and answer all your child’s questions honestly. When scheduling a dental appointment for your child, we recommend choosing a morning opening to ensure that your child feels fresh and has recently eaten. Children tend to be less cooperative with our dental team in Seminole, FL when they are tired or hungry.