Going to the dentist is hardly on anyone’s list of favorite things to do, and it can be especially scary for children who aren’t used to regular visits. After all, dental procedures often require sharp metal objects poking around some of the most sensitive areas in your mouth. However, dental health has an impact on your overall health, and scheduling regular dental cleanings or checkups can prevent complications down the road. If you and your family haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you may be wondering what’s involved in dental cleanings and how to know it’s time for a dental checkup.
While it’s common to believe people should visit a dentist twice a year, the American Dental Association states that how often to schedule visits should be determined by a dentist. Some individuals do well with two visits a year. Others may have oral health conditions or build plaque at a faster rate than others — which requires more frequent visits.
If you or your child haven’t been to the dentist in a year or more, it’s time for a dental checkup. However, signs that something needs special attention include the following:
If gums bleed when teeth are brushed, it may be a sign of the early stages of gum disease. Left untreated, it could result in cavities and tooth loss. It’s also crucial to rule out any additional underlying health conditions that may be causing gums to bleed — such as a vitamin deficiency.
Bad breath is common right after waking up or after having a meal. But persistent bad breath can be a sign of periodontal disease. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, pockets will start forming between your teeth and gums, where food particles and plaque accumulate. The only way to remove it is to obtain a professional dental cleaning.
Molars are the teeth at the back of your mouth. Every tooth has several layers — enamel, dentin, and pulp (surface, middle, and internal, respectively). Failing to remove plaque and bacteria from teeth regularly causes the enamel to erode. Bacteria then continues to the dentin and does the same damage. If bacteria reach the pulp, you’ll experience intense pain.
If teeth are sensitive to either hot or cold foods and drinks, this may mean that the middle layer — the dentin — is exposed. Treating it before bacteria affects the pulp will help prevent cavities.
Prior to starting a dental cleaning, a dental hygienist will make a record of your child’s mouth — from the front and sides. This is done to spot any areas of concern from the get-go. The hygienist will conduct a physical examination of the mouth and review each tooth individually to determine whether there is any sign of gum disease.
Once the examination is complete, the hygienist will remove any plaque and tartar along pockets in the gum line, using an instrument called a scaler. This is considered the least enjoyable part of the cleaning since it’s when your child will feel this poking. If they have a lot of plaque buildup, they might also experience some bleeding. They will also hear scraping sounds as the plaque and tartar is removed from the surface of the teeth.
After plaque removal is complete, the hygienist will polish your child’s teeth with a power toothbrush and gritty toothpaste. This process is completely painless, and the teeth will feel noticeably smoother afterward. The hygienist will then thoroughly floss around every tooth.
The final steps include a fluoride treatment — which is applied to the teeth with what looks like a long cotton swab. When the treatment is done, your child will get to rinse their mouth with water and spit this into a small basin next to your chair. When this step is completed, the hygienist or a dentist will do a final visual inspection.
Taking a child to the dentist can be a tiring, embarrassing, and frustrating experience. At AC Pediatric Dentistry, we understand this, and that’s why we want to make the experience pleasant and fun for children. Call us today or request an appointment online.