Pediatric Dental Services
Because the caries process (cavities) can progress rapidly, it is important for the dentist to perform regular exams on your child. In many situations we can catch a cavity early and repair it much more easily. In order to establish the best oral healthcare plan for your child, we will provide a thorough oral evaluation and comprehensive review of your child’s diet and brushing habits. Here are just a few of the things we look for at each of our exams.
- Oral Hygiene
- Dental Growth and Development
- Oral Cancer and Other Pathologies
- Evaluation of Old Fillings and Other Dental Work
- Gingivitis and Gum Disease
Teeth Cleaning and Fluoride Treatment
Once at our clinic your child will receive a thorough cleaning of his/her teeth (also known as a dental prophylaxis). We have special instruments and toothbrushes that allow us to get teeth extra clean and shiny to help your child maintain a healthy and happy smile.
During the cleaning process we will:
- Remove Plaque – Plaque is the yellow-white material that builds up on teeth. Because plaque is so sticky, it builds up quickly on the teeth and if left alone, can cause cavities, gum disease and bad breath.
- Remove Stubborn Stains – Our toothpaste has special materials in it that allow us to remove superficial stains more effectively than standard toothpaste.
- Remove Tartar (calculus) – Calculus is hardened plaque that can build up above and below the gum line. It is difficult to remove and requires special instruments only found at the dental office.
- Educate you and your child on proper brushing and flossing techniques
X-rays are a very important component of a dental exam. They allow us to see areas of the teeth that are not visible to you and me. They also allow us to see how well the permanent teeth are developing before they even come into the mouth and, in some cases; x-rays can detect cysts and tumors in their early stages. At each exam, we will determine which x-rays, if any, will be required. Dental x-ray machines are much safer today than ever before. With your child’s health and safety in mind, we use a state-of-the-art digital x-ray system that uses very little radiation. To put this into perspective, the amount of radiation your body gets on an airplane ride from the east coast to the west coast is more than the amount you will receive from our dental x-ray machine. When considering the benefits of x-rays compared to the minimal risk involved in their use, it is clear why we take regular diagnostic x-rays.
Pits and grooves are normal structures on the chewing surface of teeth that can trap plaque and bacteria that is not easily cleared by brushing or rinsing. Sealants are made of a tough plastic-like material (resin) that adheres to the tooth surface. The sealant is painted onto the pits and grooves to “seal” out the plaque and bacteria to help protect against cavities. Studies have shown greater 50% reduction in the occurrence of new cavities when sealants are used in conjunction with good oral hygiene. Though sealants are usually placed on the permanent first molars, some children may benefit from having them placed on other back teeth as well.
- Sealants are a great way to reduce the risk of cavities on the chewing surfaces of teeth. Remember it’s always cheaper to prevent than to repair!
- They are white so they blend in well with the tooth color.
- Sealants are not permanent and will typically last 3-5 years under the best of conditions. In children with poor oral hygiene and certain oral habits, they may wear or chip off earlier.
Once bacteria have established themselves in the mouth, they will produce acidic by-products that create holes (cavities) in your teeth. The weakened tooth structure and bacterial infection must be removed to prevent the process from progressing. After removal of the infected tooth structure, we use only ADA (American Dental Association) approved materials. Read more on Fillings and Crowns for Kids.
Also known as a “cap”, the crown covers the tooth to provide added strength for severely decayed teeth. After removal of the decay, the tooth is shaped to allow the placement of the crown. These crowns differ from adult crowns because they are completed at one appointment. Crowns are very durable because they cover the entire tooth. The complete coverage strengthens and protects the remaining tooth structure. They are the best chance of survival of a tooth that has had a baby root canal. Crowns come in silver or white (tooth-colored). If the cavity is large enough to require a crown, the best prognosis (chance for success) will be achieved by placing a crown. Placing a filling on a tooth that has been weakened extensively will likely result in fracture, recurrent decay, and loss of that tooth.
This procedure is indicated when the cavity has reached the nerve of the baby tooth. After accessing the nerve of the tooth, we will remove the infected tissue and place a medicine that helps the remaining nerve tissue heal. Because these procedures are simpler than the adult version, they take very little time to complete.
This procedure will often help in situations where your child has been having dental pain. It is also a great alternative to removing the tooth in certain situations. However, while this procedure carries an 85-90% success rate, there are situations where the nerve is so badly infected by the cavity that it does not respond to this treatment. In these cases, it becomes necessary to remove the tooth and discuss the need for space maintainers.
The only alternative to this treatment is removal of the offending tooth. Because the natural tooth is responsible for keeping space for the permanent tooth we recommend saving it if possible. In cases where extraction is chosen, we will discuss the need for a space maintainer.
Space maintainers are devices made of metal and acrylic that are designed to hold space for erupting permanent teeth after premature loss of a “baby” tooth. Placing a space maintainer after premature removal of a baby tooth will give your child a better chance of avoiding the orthodontic problems associated with premature tooth loss.
Extractions are the last resort for treatment. We reserve extractions for teeth that have been determined to be non-restorable. At the time of the extraction we will evaluate if a space maintainer will be necessary for your child. Read more on Preventing Tooth Extractions in Kids.