Regular dental checkups are a critical part of ensuring your child’s health and well-being. By taking a close look at your child’s teeth, a dentist is able to detect potential problems early on, which is when problems are easiest to treat. During a visit, you can expect the dentist (or oral hygienist) to thoroughly clean your child’s teeth and take an overall assessment of their oral health. This will help the dentist determine your child’s risk of tooth decay and other common issues.
Along with the cleaning process, the dentist may want to apply fluoride or a sealant to fight tooth decay, as well as perform an x-ray and/or other types of diagnostic procedures. Moreover, you can expect the dentist to discuss oral hygiene habits and diet, along with going over how to brush and floss their teeth effectively.
If your child is due for a checkup, now is the time to schedule an appointment with South Charlotte Dentistry. Below, we will discuss what the process might look like in more detail, as well as potential orthodontic procedures that could improve your child’s dental health.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A BACK-TO-SCHOOL CHECKUP
While regular dental checkups, which are typically every six months, are essential to oral health, getting one right before the school year starts is the best time for children. This is primarily because it helps to combat cavities—the most common chronic oral health disease found in school-age children. On the whole, more than 51 million hours of school are missed by children in the United States every year because of dental disease.
Along with reducing the likelihood of school absenteeism, the early detection and prevention of back-to-school checkups can help to keep your child from experiencing eating issues, speaking issues, pain, and many other difficulties throughout the year. So, be sure to plan ahead and schedule an appointment as soon as possible to make sure your child gets in!
YES, IT IS SAFE
With everything going on with the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering if now is a good time to send your child to the dentist. After all, it wasn’t long ago when dental offices across the country were shuttered, seeing only patients with serious cases like tooth pain and infections. However, now that restrictions have been loosened, dental offices are allowed to open for regular checkups.
And yes, it’s safe. In fact, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed that not a single case of COVID-19 has been transmitted in a dental office. Additionally, dental offices (including ours) are taking extra precautions recommended by the CDC to ensure the safety of patients and staff.
GETTING TEETH CLEANED
Let’s talk more about what you can expect when your child comes in for a teeth cleaning:
There will be a physical exam.
The first stage of your child’s dental checkup will most likely be the exam. This is where a dental hygienist will take a close look at the entire mouth. By using a small mirror, the hygienist will examine the teeth and gums for any potential issues, such as gingivitis. If they come across any concerns, the hygienist may call in the dentist to evaluate your child’s teeth and gums. Then, they will determine whether to proceed with the cleaning or take other action.
The hygienist will tackle plaque and tartar.
If the cleaning proceeds, the next step will be to address any plaque and tartar buildup. The hygienist will use the mirror along with a scaler to remove plaque and tartar in between the teeth and around the gum line. This scraping can be a little scary for school-age children, so it’s important to prepare them for this part of the process beforehand. And if there is an excess amount of tartar in the mouth, it may take a little longer for the hygienist to remove it.
Besides telling your child what to expect during the scraping process, be sure to enforce proper brushing and flossing habits at home, as this is the only way to prevent plaque from hardening into tartar. And when your child has tartar on their teeth, it must be removed by a professional. Thus, make sure your child understands the importance of brushing and flossing.
The hygienist will brush your child’s teeth.
Once all the tartar is removed from your child’s teeth, the hygienist will then brush them with an electric toothbrush. Unlike conventional electric brushes used at home, however, the electric brush your child’s hygienist will use is high-powered, which means that it does an excellent job of deep cleaning teeth, albeit the grinding noise can be loud and startling to children. This is another thing you will want to discuss with your child before the visit.
Along with the high-powered electric brush, your child’s hygienist will use a professional-grade toothpaste for the cleaning. Kids usually don’t mind this part, because the toothpaste tastes and smells like normal toothpaste. However, the texture is gritty, which helps to remove stains from teeth while also polishing them. This heavy-duty kind of cleaning is good to have done twice a year, but it’s important that your child knows not to brush too hard at home because it can erode the enamel of their teeth.
The hygienist will floss between your child’s teeth.
After the deep cleaning, your child’s hygienist will floss between your child’s teeth and gums. Not only does this step help the hygienist to spot any potential places where your child’s gums may bleed, but it also helps to remove any plaque, toothpaste, and other debris that was missed during the cleaning.
Your child will rinse.
Then, your child will rinse their mouth. This helps to rid their mouth of any leftover debris, and the liquid fluoride that your child’s hygienist will likely give them to rinse with will add another element of protection for your child’s teeth.
The hygienist will apply fluoride.
The final step of a basic teeth cleaning involves the dental hygienist applying a fluoride treatment to your child’s teeth, which is meant to protect them from cavities for three to four months. Most likely, your child will choose a flavor of treatment, and then the hygienist will place a mouthpiece filled with a foamy gel or sticky paste over your child’s teeth and let it sit for about a minute. Finally, the hygienist will use a small brush to apply a fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth, which will dry immediately.
Part of a checkup is evaluating the need for any orthodontic corrections. Braces are still one of the most popular such improvements, particularly among children.
The Benefits of Braces
Getting traditional braces can do wonders for your child’s smile and, more importantly, oral health. If your child has overcrowded teeth, crooked teeth, gaps between teeth, and/or poor alignment of the upper and lower jaws, braces are worth considering because of their proven history to work. Here are some of the long-term benefits that braces can yield for a child who needs orthodontic correction:
- They can help you chew food more easily.
- They can help you speak more clearly.
- They can make it easier to brush, floss, and clean teeth.
- They can reduce the frequency of grinding and chipping teeth.
- They can help prevent protruding teeth (and the injuries they can cause).
- They can reduce cavities and the likelihood of periodontal disease.
Along with these benefits, braces can also boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence. While these reasons may not be as dire as your child’s health, they do play an undeniable role in your child’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
The Best Ages for Braces
Your dentist should be able to evaluate your child and determine the best course of action as far as orthodontic corrections go. That is, they should be able to tell you whether braces or another type of correction will work best, and if it’s braces, then when to do it.
Generally speaking, it’s best for children to get braces while their head and mouth are still growing. However, it’s also essential that the child can shoulder the responsibility of maintaining their oral health through brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and knowing what foods and drinks to avoid.
Furthermore, the child needs to be able to identify and communicate any pain they may be experiencing. This leaves the middle school years (roughly ages 11-14) as the ideal period in which to get braces. Nonetheless, it’s never too late to get braces, as they can prove helpful for teens and adults as well.
Another common product for orthodontic correction is Invisalign. Rather than using metal or plastic brackets and rubber bands/wires to reposition teeth (as braces do), Invisalign (“invisible aligners”) treatment serves the same purpose by using clear guides that fit over the teeth. Therefore, they are far less noticeable than traditional braces.
But there are many more benefits to using Invisalign than mere aesthetics. Here are some ways that Invisalign can be a better choice over traditional braces:
They are easier to clean.
While traditional braces can prove very effective long-term, they are a hassle when you’re wearing them, and this is especially the case for children. With Invisalign, you don’t have to worry about the impossible task of keeping your brackets clean; instead, you simply remove the aligner trays and brush them with toothpaste and warm water whenever they need cleaning.
They are lower-maintenance.
When you have traditional braces, you have to take periodic trips to a dental office to get the rubber bands or wires tightened. This is unnecessary with the Invisalign treatment, as you will be given aligner trays for every phase of the process. Therefore, when it’s time, your child can just move onto the next aligner tray without having to visit the dentist.
They are more comfortable.
Braces are not known for being comfortable. And it’s not hard to understand why: The tension caused by the constant tightening of brackets, rubber bands, and/or wires hurts. Also, brackets can easily slip off or reposition to where they cut into your gums, tongue, or cheek. All of these issues are eliminated when you use Invisalign.
They don’t require adjustments for eating.
Eating and drinking are much easier with Invisalign because all you have to do is remove your aligner trays beforehand. Then, you can brush and floss your teeth like you normally would before reinstalling the trays.
Last but not least: Invisalign treatment is effective. It can lead to major improvements if your child has crowded teeth, gaps in teeth, crossbite, overbite, underbite, and other misalignment issues. This in turn can significantly reduce the rate and risk of your child getting cavities and gum disease.
Now is the perfect time to schedule a back-to-school dental checkup for your child at South Charlotte Dentistry. Remember what you’ve read about the cleaning process so that you can help your child prepare for the big day. Also, look into the differences between traditional braces and Invisalign, along with factoring in the opinion of your child’s dentist, so that you can make a sound decision if your child needs orthodontic correction. Most importantly, remember that it’s safe to pay us a visit!