According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should start receiving dental care after their first birthday. Dental checkups are crucial to your child’s development and general health. Visiting a pediatric dentist early in life can also prevent cavity development and tooth misalignment, among other dental issues later in life. Washington Dental, a seasoned Carson-based dental practice, offers compassionate and quality dental care and is skilled in dealing with children’s dental health from infancy through adulthood. Our pediatric dentists emphasize education and prevention, working with families to teach proper oral health habits. We are dedicated to putting you and your minor child at ease during all visits. With a friendly, family-focused staff and a state-of-the-art facility, we can provide your child with the highest quality of dental care in a safe, stress-free, and comfortable environment.

This article explores different pediatric dentistry options, the importance of proper oral hygiene, and tips for maintaining your child’s dental hygiene.

Dental Cleaning

Pediatric dentists recommend scheduling your child’s initial dental visit once their first tooth is visible. From there, your child should have regular checkups and cleanings every six months.

Here is what to expect during the dental cleanings:

  1. First, your skilled pediatric dentist will introduce themselves and briefly explain the dental procedure to the minor.
  2. The dentist can perform diagnostic testing to capture images to ensure they do not miss cavities or other abnormalities. They will also conduct a thorough exam of soft tissues in the mouth.
  3. The next stage involves cleaning, and your dentist will use an electric spinning tooth polisher to clean your child’s teeth with a fun flavored toothpaste. Additionally, the physician will check for tartar and plaque and remove them to prevent tooth decay.
  4. Finally, the dentist will advise on different at-home oral hygiene practices to follow. They can also suggest dental sealants or fluoride varnish to protect your child’s teeth from cavity development.

Digital Imaging

Digital dental imaging is an integral component of diagnostic and preventive dental care.

Your dentist can use a dental x-ray, an electric toothbrush, a tooth counter, a dental water jet, a saliva ejector, or an electric toothbrush to understand what is occurring beneath your child’s gums and teeth.

Dental imaging helps dentists to:

  • Detect tooth decay between teeth they cannot see during a routine exam.
  • Plan an individualized treatment plan.
  • Evaluate abnormal growth.
  • Examine your child’s gum tissues, bite, and jaw to identify potential dental issues.

Digital dental imaging is ideal for children with little space between their back teeth.

Dental Sealants

Teaching your minor child how to floss and brush their teeth daily is the most effective way to prevent cavities and build oral hygiene habits they will practice into adulthood. Nevertheless, placing dental sealants is another option that reduces the likelihood of decay by approximately 80 percent in molars.

The grooves in your child’s teeth are narrow, making them hard to clean. Also, without regular, thorough brushing, plaque can form on the tooth’s surface and, over time, create a cavity. As their name suggests, dental sealants are thin, protective coatings that adhere to and seal the chewing surface of teeth, protecting the teeth. They also create a smooth surface to keep food debris out.

Your child’s first molar will appear at age six, while second molars will break through around age twelve. Sealing the teeth earlier can prevent cavity development, saving you money and time in the long run.

Placing dental sealants is a painless and straightforward process. Your dental healthcare provider will clean your child’s tooth before drying it and putting an acidic gel on it. The gel will rough up the tooth surface, forming a robust bond between the sealant and the tooth. Next, the professional will rinse off the gel, dry the mouth, and apply the dental sealant to the tooth’s grooves. Finally, the dentist will use a blue light to cure the sealant.

It would help if you took care of sealed teeth like unsealed teeth. Your baby should continue brushing and flossing their teeth and visiting their pediatric dentist regularly.

Do Sealants Have BPA?

While dental sealants have a little BPA, it is not enough to harm your child.

Typically, an individual gets more exposure to BPA by touching a receipt, coming into contact with dust, or applying cosmetics.

Space Maintainers

If your baby loses their baby tooth due to dental trauma, extraction, or decay, you might not think much about it. After all, permanent teeth will replace the baby teeth. While it is true, it is also correct that losing baby teeth too early can result in challenges for permanent teeth. Consequently, your dentist can recommend a space maintainer.

The oral appliance maintains the gap a missing tooth leaves behind. It can be made of acrylic or metal.

It can be removable or fixed into your child’s mouth. A removable space maintainer is identical to orthodontic appliances, while a fixed space maintainer is bonded to the mouth. A space maintainer’s primary role is preventing neighboring teeth from shifting into the gap. The dentist will remove it after your child’s permanent tooth starts erupting.

Other complications that space maintainers prevent from occurring include the following:

  • Increased risk of teeth being affected or erupting improperly.
  • Speech impediments.
  • Overlapping, overcrowding, or crooked permanent teeth.
  • Increased need for orthodontic treatment later.
  • Misaligned bite (malocclusion).

There are various kinds of space maintainers a pediatric dentist can recommend, including the following:

  • A unilateral space maintainer is tailored to fit on one side of your child’s mouth and wraps around the existing tooth. It has a metallic loop extending into the gap the missing baby tooth leaves behind.
  • Crown and loop space maintainer — While identical to a unilateral space maintainer, it uses a crown over your juvenile’s existing tooth instead of wrapping around it.
  • Distal shoe space maintainer — Your dentist will insert it into the baby’s gum line. The oral appliance is ideal for the initial permanent molar.
  • Lingual space maintainers — Dentists use lingual space maintainers if your child has several missing teeth. They will cement it to the insides of your child’s molars before connecting it to the lower front teeth.

Although your child requires the oral appliance for a short duration, you should help them take care of it. You should wash removable space maintainers and rinse with lukewarm water daily. If the minor has fixed space maintainers, they should avoid hard, sugary, crunchy, and chewy foods.

Fluoride Varnish

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens your teeth and bones. It is found in oral rinses, toothpastes, and water supplies like tap and natural water. Most people reach their fluoride threshold by using mouthwash regularly, drinking water, and brushing twice daily.

What about an infant who cannot brush their teeth? How can they prevent tooth decay? One practical option is fluoride varnish, a liquid coating that dentists apply to children’s teeth.

Applying Fluoride Varnish

Your pediatric dentist will first clean and dry your child’s teeth. Next, they will dip a tiny brush into the fluoride varnish and paint it on your child’s teeth. The solution will adhere to the teeth after encountering saliva.

The dental procedure is less time-consuming.

Your dentist can re-apply fluoride varnish every three (3) months. Sometimes, pediatricians recommend and apply the solution to children too young to begin visiting dentists regularly.

Children allergic to pine nuts or colophony can be allergic to fluoride varnish. If you are worried about any potential allergic reaction to the treatment, please consult the dentist before the procedure.

How Fluoride Varnish Works

Fluoride varnish will flow into the crevices and tiny cracks in the tooth enamel, making it stronger. The primary function of the procedure is to prevent tooth decay from forming while delaying the progression of decay that has begun.

It repairs children’s teeth with conventional restoration processes like capping, drilling, or filling. However, if the cavity is too huge, the treatment alone is inadequate to repair the tooth damage, and a traditional restoration option will be needed.

Aftercare Instructions and Guidelines

After the procedure, your child should avoid brushing until the next day, hot beverages, and chewy, sticky foods for up to six (6) hours following their treatment.

It is wise to book a late afternoon dental appointment for your child to reduce the duration they will go without nourishment.

Will Fluoride Varnish Discolor Your Child’s Teeth?

Fluoride varnish can discolor teeth slightly. However, in the following days, after brushing, the teeth will retain their original color. Brushing removes the outer coating, while a layer of varnish will remain on the child’s tooth enamel.

Dental Emergencies

Dental accidents can happen at any time, anywhere. Knowing what constitutes a dental emergency will ensure your baby gets immediate medical attention to protect their dental health. The section below discusses specific indicators for your child to visit their pediatric dentist immediately.

Bleeding or swollen gums

Dental injuries to internal oral tissues like a puncture, laceration, or wound in the child’s mouth are emergencies. Clean the injury site using warm water, and if your child’s tongue is bleeding, wrap it in gauze to put pressure on the wound.

Knocked-Out Tooth

If the minor child sustains a sports- or accident-related injury and their tooth is knocked out, seek immediate medical attention. Here are steps to take to preserve it:

  • Please pick up the child’s tooth by its crown.
  • Rinse the permanent tooth with water.
  • If possible, gently place the minor’s tooth back into the socket and hold it in place.
  • If you cannot hold the tooth into place, put it in a glass of milk.
  • Contact your dental office.

Loose Tooth

Traumatic impact, like a hard fall, can loosen a permanent tooth. Push your child’s loose tooth back into the socket and call your dentist. Obtaining immediate dental attention reduces the risk of infection or losing the tooth permanently.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is an infection that develops in the tooth’s root. The condition creates a pocket of pus that, if left untreated, can cause:

  • Fever.
  • Breathing challenges.
  • Facial swelling.
  • Pain when biting.
  • Tooth sensitivity.
  • Persistent toothache.

Loose or Lost Dental Fillings

You should schedule an emergency dental visit if your child’s fillings become lost, dislodged, or loose. Whenever a dental filling moves from its original position, it exposes the tooth underneath. It can result in extreme sensitivity in the tooth and encourage bacteria growth, which can cause tooth decay.

Severe Toothaches

A toothache can be mild or severe.

Sometimes, the pain can be due to a piece of food sticking in your baby’s tooth. In this case, rinse their mouth thoroughly. Also, analyze their mouth for food debris and use dental floss to dislodge it.

Call your pediatric dentist immediately if the toothache is due to an abscess or cavity. Avoid applying ice directly to the minor’s gums or teeth since it can burn sensitive tissues. Instead, use a cold compress to relieve discomfort and reduce swelling.

Dental Pulpotomy

Your child could have pulpitis if they complain when sweet, hot, or cold things touch their teeth. Pulpitis is an inflammation of the pulp due to untreated cavities.

Your dentist can recommend a pulpotomy after discovering that the child has caries, which have affected the crown’s pulp. The rationale behind performing this procedure is to preserve the tooth and its pulp. However, if the tooth pulp is severely damaged, the physician will perform a tooth extraction or pulpectomy.

What to Expect During the Dental Procedure

The dentist can numb the area around your child’s tooth by injecting local anesthesia or sedating your child.

The pediatric dentist will remove tooth decay around and on the teeth to prevent pulp contamination. Then, they will open the pulp chamber by drilling the dentin and the enamel.

Drilling will result in bleeding, which indicates the pulp is healthy. Your dentist will not perform tooth extraction or pulpectomy if the pulp chamber is dry or filled with pus.

Next, they will remove the coronal pump. Simultaneously, they will use wet cotton swabs to stop the bleeding and clean the site. The bleeding should stop within a few minutes.

If the bleeding does not cease, the pulp in the root is unhealthy; tooth decay has affected it, and pulpotomy is not ideal.

After the bleeding stops, the dentist will treat the radicular pulp and cover it with ferric sulfate or formoterol.

It is normal for your child to experience swelling or pain after the dental procedure. Your compassionate dentist will prescribe painkillers.

Finally, the dentist will seal the pulp chamber using zinc oxide eugenol before restoring it with a crown.

Your Baby’s Initial Dental Visit

Begin early!

Your baby’s initial dental appointment should happen after the first tooth becomes visible, but not later than their one-year birthday.

Why so soon? When your child develops teeth, they could develop cavities. Taking early charge of your baby’s oral health helps guarantee a beautiful smile.

Getting Ready for the Dental Appointment

To have your infant ready before the dental visit, talk with them about what goes on at the dental office and maintain a positive demeanor. Have your baby try opening their mouth to prepare them beforehand because the pediatric dentist will count and inspect their teeth.

Also, watching videos or reading books regarding the initial dental visit could aid your infant in being fearless and confident.

As a parent, it helps to plan. When booking an appointment, request patient forms; filling out the relevant paperwork at home saves you time and is more convenient.

Things to Expect At Your Child’s Dental Visit

Your child’s dentist will examine the condition and development of your baby’s teeth and jaw. You can sit with your baby in your lap if your child is unable to or resistant to sitting in the dental chair alone.

After the examination, the dentist will clean your baby’s teeth and provide you with tips for everyday care.

It is normal for children to cry and wiggle during dental examinations; initial dental check-ups are new to them.

Tips For a Fulfilling Dental Visit

For a successful dental appointment for your child, you can:

Role-Play with Your Baby

Role-playing helps relax your kid. Set aside time before a dental consultation to organize a make-believe dental practice.

Use a favorite stuffed toy and pretend to do what a dentist does, counting and brushing their teeth. Explain through your actions, including why observing good oral care habits is essential. Then, change roles by allowing your child to be a dental practitioner using a toy or stuffed animal for demonstration.

Tag Along a Friend

Your baby’s friend can be a favorite toy or stuffed animal. If that is the case, carry it to the dentist’s office. A familiar, dear friend makes them feel secure and safe.

Be Positive

If your baby dreads or is anxious about going to the dentist's office, assure them it is okay and applaud them for being courageous and overcoming their fears.

As a guardian/parent, focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong.

Patient Education on Proper Oral Hygiene Practices

Teaching your baby how to care for their oral health can be difficult, especially when they are reluctant to accept it. However, with the proper measures, you can equip your child with a solid oral care routine that guarantees excellent oral health.

Some oral health habits to practice include the following:

Brushing Your Child’s Teeth

Good oral hygiene should begin in your child’s infancy. You should always wipe your baby’s gums with a slightly wet washcloth after eating formula or breastfeeding. Doing so creates an early foundation for a healthy mouth care routine.

When your child begins feeding on solids and teething starts, use a finger brush. The brush is made of rubber, soft-bristled, and fits into the index finger well. Rub the finger brush on your child’s emerging teeth and gum line.

Following your baby’s initial dental visit, start using a toothbrush. You can also start brushing your child’s teeth after the central incisors erupt. Ensure the toothbrush is tiny and has soft bristles.

When brushing, use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Excess fluoride in children is harmful and can lead to fluorosis. Consult your dentist on the appropriate amount for your child.

Dental Flossing

You should start flossing when your baby has two (2) touching teeth, which can be around two to three years.

The flossing must comply with your dentist’s recommendations. Juveniles require flossing assistance until they are eight to ten years old.

Brushing your child’s teeth consistently and correctly removes plaque. Nevertheless, brushing alone cannot remove plaque in unreachable places, like underneath the gums and between teeth. On top of clearing plaque, other benefits of flossing include:

  • Removing food particles that stick to the teeth and underneath the gums.
  • Polishing the tooth surfaces.
  • Eliminating bad breath.

For more effectiveness, a baby should floss two to three times a day.

Sippy Cup Use

A sippy cup is handy when transitioning from bottle feeding to adult drinking. Nevertheless, a sippy cup filled with soda, juice, sweetened water, breast milk, or milk can cause small quantities of sugary fluid to swirl around your child’s teeth. It means acid will continually attack their enamel. You should avoid using it until your child is twelve months old or immediately after they have the motor skills to hold a drinking glass.

Tips on Teaching Your Baby Good Mouth Care Hygiene

At the tail end of their toddler years, you must increase your efforts in teaching your baby the benefits of proper oral health and hygiene practices. Need help with where to begin? Start with the following tips for educating your baby on good oral health practices:

  • Allow your kid to brush and floss independently, but supervise them until they are eight when they can brush effectively. You can have them brush while standing before a mirror to see themselves as they brush.
  • You can use a physical timer or a toothbrush timer app that lets your kid brush their teeth for two minutes every session.
  • Brush alongside your baby. Demonstrate to them how to brush, including their mouth’s back.
  • Talk to your baby about the consequences of not brushing their teeth or not brushing them enough. Also, explain the different factors that lead to tooth decay and cavities and why it helps to avoid bad oral hygiene practices. Use non-scary words and child-friendly language.
  • Fun, baby-themed, tasty toothpaste, and toothbrushes assist in getting your kid happy about oral health care.
  • Oral practices should not be dull. Instead, create a fun atmosphere for brushing and flossing for your kid. You can make things interesting by making it a game, brushing together as a family, and listening to tooth-brushing songs.
  • Maintain regular cleanings and appointments with your child’s dentist to ensure healthy gums and teeth. The dentist will also review their flossing and brushing progress.
  • Instead of punishing the youngster for thumbsucking, reward them whenever they do not. If you notice they suck whenever they are anxious, work on alleviating the anxiety by creating diversions instead of paying attention to the thumb-sucking.

Contact a Knowledgeable General Dentist Near Me

Dental care is crucial for overall health and ensures brilliant and beautiful smiles. Excellent dental care starts young. At Washington Dental, we aim to help Carson’s families develop positive attitudes about dental care. We achieve this by offering a relaxed, fun, and supportive environment for you and your child that eliminates uncertainties and assists your child in understanding the importance of taking care of their oral health. Additionally, we believe that education is crucial to a lifetime of beautiful and healthy oral health and can assist you in understanding and addressing your baby’s dental needs, like brushing, flossing, and nutrition. Please contact us at 310-217-1507 to learn about our dental practice and the various pediatric treatments we offer.