We all know that it is important to go to the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups, but did you know that your dentist is doing much more than cleaning during your appointment? The health of your whole mouth is important, and your dentist conducts a variety of screenings to determine the status of your oral health. In addition to cavities and gum disease, a dentist can even find signs of sinus infections, diabetes and oral cancer. Pediatric dentists have additional things to look for, since children’s mouths are continually growing and changing.
There is a lot to be learned by a simple visual inspection. Dentists can see if your tongue is healthy because it will be pink and covered with small nodules, and healthy gums look pink and firm. However, red swollen gums that bleed easily indicate a problem. Your child’s dentist can easily see if teeth are growing in correctly, and whether their jaws and teeth align well.
The health of soft tissues in the mouth involves more than just your gums and tongue. Cheeks, throat, tonsils, gums and even your neck are examined by your dentist for signs of infection, cancer or other symptoms of disease.
Teeth are made of layers and with an inspection of the outer layer of enamel your dentist can determine if there are cracks, chips or decay that need to be treated. X-rays allow your dentist to inspect your teeth more deeply and evaluate the health of the enamel and the inner layer of dentin. Once decay gets through the enamel it spreads quickly through the dentin to the root, and many teeth have been saved by early detection of cavities through x-rays. Early detection can prevent larger fillings and root canals or extractions.
Dental x-rays are also necessary to screen for many potential problems as children grow. Impacted teeth, improper alignment, missing adult teeth and problems with the bones and roots can all be found much earlier with x-rays. Early detection of many of these issues allows your child’s dentist to treat the problem earlier, which usually means that treatment is not only easier, but also costs much less.
When you feel your dentist or hygienist poking your gums and saying numbers, they aren’t actually trying to make you bleed. The probing has a legitimate purpose called periodontal screening which allows them to assess the health of your gums. There is a tiny pocket between your gums and teeth before the gum attaches to the tooth. Once a year, your dentist measures and records the depth of these pockets to monitor your gum health. Gum disease or bacteria make these pockets deeper and allow food, plaque and bacteria to accumulate which makes the problem even worse and also causes cavities. If left untreated, the pocketing leads to bone loss, and eventually loss of the affected tooth. The good news is that periodontal disease (gum disease) can be prevented and treated with good oral hygiene and regular exams and cleanings.
Unfortunately, even children get gum disease. This is a reason why it is important to bring your children in for regular checkups and to teach your children how to brush their teeth the right way. Proper brushing technique cleans bacteria and plaque from these pockets every day, so they cannot build up.
Special training allows your child’s pediatric dentist to identify orthodontic problems early. Improper bite, poor alignment, and crowded or impacted teeth are some of the problems that can be detected and monitored. If your child’s dentist thinks early treatment is needed they may refer you to an orthodontist. When treated early, many developing orthodontic problems take far less time and work to correct, resulting in less pain and trouble for your child and you.
Obviously, a large part of the visit is cleaning the teeth, which includes scraping off plaque and tartar. Then after your teeth are cleaned and flossed, they are polished. Did you know that polishing is not just to make your teeth look pretty and shiny? It also makes them smooth which helps prevent plaque accumulation.
Another important thing your dentist does at your checkup is developing and teaching preventative strategies. Your dentist cannot keep your mouth healthy simply by cleaning it every six months! While your dentist will clean and treat your teeth, most of the work is up to you. The dentist will help educate you and your child about the best preventative measures, so your teeth stay healthy and last a lifetime.
The most important thing they will recommend is good oral hygiene, which includes brushing at least twice a day and flossing once every day. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush protects your gums and tooth enamel from unnecessary pressure and replacing it every 3-4 months keeps your mouth healthiest. Brushing at a 45-degree angle to your gums helps keep those pockets between the gums and teeth clean. A good diet is also essential to a healthy mouth. Drinking plenty of water, getting the right amount of calcium, and avoiding foods high in sugars and simple carbohydrates are all strategies that help protect your teeth and mouth.
Your child’s dentist can recommend ways to teach your child good oral hygiene habits. They may also suggest protecting your child’s teeth with fluoride treatments to protect the tooth enamel or sealants, which alter the natural anatomy of a tooth to prevent food impaction.
Mouth guards are another important preventative measure. A well fitted sports mouth guard will provide superior protection mainly due to its fit. If it fits well, the athlete will wear it while playing, and it will provide protection for their teeth. If you or your child grind or clench at night, a night mouth guard will protect teeth from increased wear, and can prevent headaches and other complications associated with this problem.
With all the things a pediatric dentist needs to monitor and assess, and since children grow so quickly and their mouths are constantly changing, it is important that children have a dental home. At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we have created a unique, entertaining environment where your child can feel comfortable, with a professional, caring team you can trust. Visiting the same dentist for regular checkups allows us to monitor changes and better assess your child’s oral health. A dental home also helps your child to feel safe and comfortable with a dentist you both can trust. We would be honored to become your child’s dental home. Next time you bring your child in, remember all the things we are doing to make sure your child’s mouth stays healthy with a beautiful smile!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.