If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken your children to the dentist – or you have a little one that has never been, you may notice that things have changed since you were a kid. Many dental offices are more kid-friendly than ever, offering video games for the children (and adults!) to pass the time in the waiting room and TVs to watch while they’re getting dental work. But, there have also been changes in the actual practice of children’s dentistry over the past twenty years. You probably never received dental sealants as a child, or had topical fluoride treatments. If you had your wisdom teeth removed, more than likely it was because they were causing a problem, but today those teeth may come out sooner to reduce the risk for complications.
Here’s a sampling of what’s new in pediatric dentistry:
Back teeth may have a biting surface and crevices that are hard to clean and, depending on the depth of the crevice, bacteria and food can get lodged in the tooth and cause cavities. When applied to these surfaces, a dental sealant makes the pitted and grooved area of a tooth smooth and easy to clean. If your child has shallow crevices, sealants might not be indicated, but if you’ve ever given your child a sandwich and later saw that the food was still stuck on the teeth, your child could benefit from sealants.
Sealants are easy to apply–we paint them onto the teeth, and the sealant bonds with the tooth’s enamel with the help of a curing light. No shots! No problem!
Ingested fluoride works on teeth that haven’t yet come into the mouth, those that haven’t erupted yet, but it has no effect on the teeth already in the mouth. A fluoride treatment using a gel or varnish incorporates the fluoride into the outer surface layer of the tooth. It does have to be repeated though because it gets worn off. There are many studies that have been done that show repeated fluoride treatments at the dentist office significantly reduce the incidence of cavities, so this is why we apply it several times a year on our high cavity-risk patients. There is a difference in fluoride concentration contained in toothpaste and fluoride treatments. The fluoride in toothpaste is much less concentrated. If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask. Most insurances cover this fully as well!
Should they stay or should they go? That’s the question kids and parents face.
Our group starts evaluating the wisdom teeth early to see if there’s room for the teeth to come in properly, without causing problems. If a tooth looks like it won’t come in properly, we sometimes suggest removing these teeth sooner rather than later to make the removal easier. The less chance the tooth has to develop, the shallower the roots will be and the easier the extraction.
Parents should discuss with their child’s dentist the risks and benefits associated with leaving wisdom teeth in or taking them out.
We are seeing patients at a younger age possibly then when you were a child. In fact, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that the child’s first exam is at one year of age or 6 months after the eruption of the first tooth. This allows us to discuss the importance of diet and oral hygiene with the parents, evaluate the child for risk factors but, more importantly, it helps start a relationship between the child and the dentist at an early age. We have found that if you’ve built a positive relationship, children are more willing to accept necessary treatments in the future. Too many people are scared of the dentist because their first experience ever was for a filling or an extraction when they were a child.
I like to make dental visits fun and positive, so that the children enjoy coming to see me and learning how to have a healthy, cavity-free smile! If you have any questions about your kids and dental care, feel free to email me at the office and I’ll get back with you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
~Dr Jim Mason, Pediatric Dentist at HealthPark Dentistry