Prophylaxis (also known as dental cleanings)
Comprehensive dental exams and cleanings are recommended once every six months for all patients.These visits help identify any tooth decay or early signs of gum disease or oral cancer through diagnostic X-rays and physical examination. Early detection of these conditions can help ensure effective treatment and prevent permanent damage.
Regular cleanings help keep gums healthy and teeth cavity-free. A dental cleaning includes removal of tartar and plaque, which can build up and cause inflammation and disease if left untreated. The teeth are also polished during a cleaning to remove stains and further buildups of plaque that may not be removed during regular tooth brushing.
Fluoride is a natural substance that helps strengthen teeth and prevent decay in patients of all ages. It is found in water sources, certain foods (meat, fish and eggs), and in toothpastes, rinses and professional treatments from your dentist. Sufficient fluoride treatment is most important for children, to ensure extra protection against cavities in their developing teeth.
Your dentist may use fluoride treatments for patients who are at an increased risk of tooth decay, including those with:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Active cavities
- White spots due to braces
- Poor diet
- Tooth enamel defects
- Beginning stages of cavities
Fluoride treatments are administered at your dentist’s office. It is applied to the teeth in gel, foam or varnish form either in a tray or painted directly on the teeth. Children may also be given fluoride supplements to take in small doses each day, especially if there is not a sufficient amount of fluoride in their regular water supply. Children may also be given prescription fluoride gel to use at home to decrease tooth decay.
After most fluoride treatments, patients should not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes to increase the fluoride’s direct contact with the teeth. Fluoride treatments are often repeated every three, six or 12 months, depending on each patient’s individual needs.
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to the surface of the tooth to protect the grooves of the teeth from decay. Decay often begins in these grooves because they are hard to clean and susceptible to a buildup of plaque. Sealants create a smooth surface that fills deep grooves and makes the tooth easier to clean.
Sealants are applied in children once the six-year molars are present, or any time between the ages of 6 and 16. Sealants are applied by cleaning the selected tooth and then painting the sealant onto the tooth enamel, where it will harden and bond to the tooth and protect it from decay. This procedure takes just a few minutes and is painless. Baby teeth can be sealed as well for children, which are proven to prevent decay.
There is no one method for protecting your teeth from disease and decay. It is important to take care of your teeth each and every day, and to seek professional cleanings on a regular basis. With the help of an experienced dentist, many patients do not need further dental treatment and can successfully maintain their dental health with these simple steps.
Oral Hygiene Instruction
Tooth decay doesn’t discriminate by age. It can affect adults, teens and even your infant or toddler. As parents, it’s our role to set our children on the path of good oral health. Cavity prevention is a vital part of that.
When food remains on the teeth, it is consumed by bacteria that are naturally present in the mouth. These bacteria convert the food into acid, ultimately contributing to the production of plaque, a sticky substance that clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque will harm the enamel of the tooth, creating cavities.
Tooth decay is a serious problem and can ultimately lead to infection, pain and loss of teeth. Here are a few simple steps you can take to prevent tooth decay in your child:
- Never put your baby to sleep with a bottle containing anything except water. Putting your child to sleep with a bottle containing juice or milk is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to early childhood cavities.
- Start to teach brushing habits once a tooth appears in your child’s mouth.
- Supervise toothbrushing. A child under two years old should not use toothpaste with fluoride. An adult should assist a child in toothbrushing until six years of age.
Eating a balanced diet plays an important role in your dental health, too. Brushing and flossing help keep your child’s teeth clean and gums healthy but good nutrition is necessary to help boost the immune system. When your immune system is strong, your child is less vulnerable to developing oral disease.
A child’s eating habits can profoundly affect their dental health. Carbohydrates, sugars and starchy foods such as cake, candy, bread or pretzels can cause the bacteria in the mouth to produce acids, which then attack the teeth. Treats are best provided at the end of a meal, when increased quantities of saliva can wash away their residue. Snacking between meals without brushing afterward gives bacteria a perpetual source of fuel to feed on. This leads to the development of plaque and eventually tooth decay and cavities.
Oral Habit Counseling
Persistent harmful habits can affect the growth of the teeth and jaws and cause abnormalities. Thumb sucking and pacifier use are very common self-soothing behaviors in babies, but can be detrimental to the alignment of the teeth if it continues as children get older. Parents can help stop oral habits by comforting an anxious child and offering them praise when they are not sucking. You can ask your dentist to explain to your child how oral habits can affect the mouth to discourage the behavior. When necessary, patient counseling, behavior modification therapy or a preventive appliance can be helpful.
Tongue thrusting is a habit in which the tongue moves to a forward position in the mouth during swallowing. It can cause an open bite and other orthodontic issues. Sometimes, a night guard or another appliance can correct the problem. In other cases, oral therapy is necessary to train the patient to change the tongue’s posture.