any people don’t believe that the care of baby teeth is a vital concern. This assumption could not be farther from the truth, however. The dental wellness of a youngster has a tremendous effect on their dental health throughout their lifetime. Teaching little ones good oral hygiene and healthy eating habits early in life establishes long-term health and a successful smile.
The condition of a child’s teeth is directly related to their general welfare. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains, “Oral health is critically important to the overall health and well-being of infants, children, and adolescents.” Due to the neglect of oral hygiene in children, “caries [cavities] is one of the most common chronic diseases in children – 5 times more common than asthma… Twenty-three percent of children aged 2 to 5 years and 56% of children aged 6 to 8 have caries, and many school hours are lost each year because of dental problems related to caries.” These statistics are chilling, but there is a way to prevent this from happening to your child.
At Dr. Craig Armstrong’s Houston dental practice, we’re committed to caring for children’s dental health. The first step to giving your child a healthy smile is education. In the following blog, we’ll cover some of the common dental procedures for children in order for you to better understand what your kiddo may need.
Cleanings and Examinations
Whether it’s for a child or an adult, a preventive care visit includes a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar, as well as a thorough examination from Dr. Armstrong. During these visits, we teach our pediatric patients the basics of dental health and how to care for their teeth. For example, we often give our younger patients our custom teeth brushing chart to encourage taking care of their smiles. The more they know about oral hygiene, the better they can implement healthy brushing, flossing, rinsing and eating routines. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends bringing your child to the dentist for his or her first appointment “when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday.” After this visit, the AAPD urges parents to take children for “a check-up every six months… in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems.”
As their adult teeth grow in, many children discover they need braces to correct crookedness and a misaligned bite. The following factors can contribute to a child’s need for orthodontic treatment:
· Genetics – If parents or siblings needed braces, it’s likely the child will, too.
· Injury – Dental trauma can push teeth out of place.
· Thumb-sucking – This common childhood habit should be discouraged, as it can pull the teeth and jaw out of alignment.
· Early or late tooth loss – The way a child’s teeth come in can have a big impact on his or her need for orthodontia.
The American Dental Association (ADA) notes, “since abnormal bites usually become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12, orthodontic treatment often begins between ages 8 and 14.” Since youngsters’ teeth are still growing in, they’re easier to adjust – “Treatment that begins while a child is growing helps produce optimal results.”
While straighter teeth are typically more aesthetically pleasing, orthodontic treatment is far more than cosmetic. Children who need braces but don’t get them are at higher risk for tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. In addition, postponing treatment can affect speech and lead to abnormal wear on tooth enamel.
There are two basic types of orthodontic treatment available. Traditional braces consist of small metal or plastic brackets cemented to the center of the tooth. A wire connects these brackets. Every so often, the patient has the braces tightened so that the teeth and jaw gradually shift into proper position. Many young patients have traditional braces. When children wear bracket and wire braces, they must take special care to avoid food that can permanently stain or damage teeth, such as chewing gum, gummy bears, corn on the cob, and taffy. In addition, children with braces must be careful not to eat too many sugary sweets, which tend to cause plaque build-up. If plaque is allowed to build up around brackets, decay can occur.
The other style of available braces are clear, plastic aligners such as Invisalign. These can be removed, which makes eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing much easier. The trays are custom-made based on digital imaging and a personalized treatment plan. Each patient usually receives 20-29 aligners per arch. These types of orthodontia offer advantages, but they are more appropriate for teenagers than young children. Because they can be easily taken out, it requires discipline to wear them for the appropriate 20-22 hours per day.
As noted above, decay is quite common amongst children. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports, “42 percent of children [aged] 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary [baby] teeth” and “23 percent of children 2 to 11 have untreated dental caries,” which means that their decay is only worsening. Even beyond decay, children’s teeth can become cracked, broken, or worn. Dental fillings help stop the progress of decay and maintain children’s oral health.
If Dr. Armstrong discovers dental damage, he will most likely recommend a filling. It’s important for children to understand what this procedure entails in order to reduce anxiety. The steps for this treatment are relatively simple:
1. Often, your child will receive a numbing medication in order to prevent discomfort. Sometimes we will apply a topical anesthetic to prepare the area for the injectable anesthetic.
2. Dr. Armstrong will use a drill, or in some cases, a laser, to remove decay. The drill, or handpiece, has metal cones in various sizes that can cut through and modify enamel.
3. We will prepare the tooth for the filling by applying a liner of composite resin.
4. Dr. Armstrong will etch the tooth with an acid gel, creating tiny holes. He will then fill the tooth with composite material and a bonding material.
5. We will shine a bright light on the resin to harden it and make it strong.
6. Dr. Armstrong will polish the tooth and ensure that it is the proper shape.
After a filling, your child may experience some slight sensitivity in the tooth, especially when it is exposed to air, cold, or sweet foods. It typically takes about two weeks for the sensitivity to disappear completely.
While Dr. Armstrong is happy to place a filling if necessary, it is ideal to avoid decay altogether. We often recommend dental sealants to help protect children’s teeth. These are thin, plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth most at risk of cavities (usually the molars in the back of the mouth that are more difficult to reach when brushing and flossing). Sealants provide an extra layer of defense against plaque and cavities. Fortunately, applying sealants is a quick and simple process. If your child needs a sealant, Dr. Armstrong will clean the tooth, dry it, apply a bonding agent, rinse it, dry it, and carefully paint the sealant on before setting it.
In order to monitor children’s developing smiles and determine what type of treatment they may require, Dr. Armstrong often takes x-rays of our pediatric patients’ teeth. Typically, we recommend that children have x-rays about once per year, but these can be more frequent if needed. Our Houston dental practice uses advanced digital x-ray technology to minimize radiation and take more accurate images.
Set Up Your Child’s Smile for Success
Children’s dental procedures can help them begin, continue, and enjoy outstanding oral health. Contact our Houston dental practice today to find out more about our pediatric procedures and schedule an appointment with Dr. Armstrong!