What Is the Significance of Regular Dental Exams and Cleanings for Children?

March 1, 2021

Regular dental exams and cleanings are essential for everyone, including children, as a part of preventive health care.

During a dental exam for children, the dentist or hygienist cleans your child’s teeth and evaluates their risk of tooth decay. Exams may include applying sealants or fluoride to reduce the chances of corrosion. Dental exams for children may also include dental x-rays and other diagnostic procedures.

Your child’s diet and other oral hygiene habits are discussed by the dentist or hygienist who demonstrate appropriate brushing and flossing techniques. Other topics addressed by the professionals may include preventing oral injuries and the health risks associated with tobacco use, substance abuse, and oral piercings for adolescents.

Why Are Regular Exams Performed?

Regular dental exams protect your child’s oral health. They enable your child’s dentist to detect problems early when treated successfully and provide tips for caring for their teeth.

When Must Children Have Dental Exams

How frequently your child needs dental exams is determined by many factors. The child’s age, health, and risk of tooth decay are considered by the dentist when recommending a timeline for the exams. However, you can view the following guidelines for your child:

Between six months to one year. The child’s first dental exam is better scheduled immediately after the first tooth erupts and no later than their first birthday recommends the AAPD and the ADA. Expect an examination of your child’s teeth and gums during the well-baby checkups.

Toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents. Six months is the most common interval recommended for regular dental checkups by the American Academy of pediatric dentistry. However, considering your child’s risk factors for oral health problems, your child’s dentist may recommend fewer or more frequent visits.

How to Prepare for Your Child’s Dental Exams and Cleanings

Before you consider scheduling your child’s first dental exam, think whether you are comfortable visiting your family dentist or prefer taking your child to a pediatric dentist to receive specialized dental and oral care for children from infancy to adolescence. Remember, pediatric dentists have kid friendly offices and equipment specially designed for children.

Help your child prepare for the dental exam by:

Scheduling your child’s visit carefully. You must schedule the dental exam at a time when your child is fully rested and most likely to cooperate.

  • Listen to your child. Encourage your child to share concerns about visiting a dentist or undergoing teeth cleaning for children.
  • Be positive. When speaking to your child about the dental exam, avoid using expressions like pain, shot, and hurt. Make the child understand that the dentist uses special tools to ensure their teeth are healthy. Remind your child that you also visit the dentist without mentioning any adverse dental experiences you may have had.

What Can You Expect During the Dental Exam?

What happens during the dental exam varies according to the child’s age and treatment requirements.

For children between six months to one year:

The dentist or hygienist places your child on a table or exam chair or asks you to hold your child on your lap during the exam. The dentist or hygienist will:

  • Evaluate your child’s oral and overall health, eating and drinking habits, and the risk of tooth decay.
  • They remove stains and deposits from a child’s teeth, gently scrubbing with a wet brush or cloth.
  • Demonstrate appropriate cleaning techniques.
  • Assess how much fluoride your child receives through diet and oral hygiene products and recommend fluoride supplements if necessary.
  • Evaluate the effects of habits like pacifier use and thumb sucking.

Toddlers, school-age children, and adolescents.

During every dental exam, the child’s oral hygiene and overall health are evaluated by the dentist or hygienist, along with their eating and drinking habits and the risk of tooth decay. Besides providing teeth cleaning for children, the dentist or hygienist may:

  • Take digital x-rays if required and perform other diagnostic procedures.
  • Apply sealants to permanent molars and other back teeth vulnerable to decay.
  • Look for issues to identify whether your child’s upper and lower teeth fit together correctly.
  • Restore cavities or tooth defects.
  • Counsel the child on the impact of thumb sucking, nailbiting, or jaw clenching.
  • If necessary, recommend pre-orthodontic treatment with a unique mouthpiece or braces to help straighten or adjust your child’s teeth and bite.

As your child gets older, counseling about oral health risks is also incorporated with dental exams. Children receive guidance about drinking sugary beverages, smoking, chewing tobacco, oral piercings, and refraining from wearing mouthguards when involved in contact sports.

Regular dental exams and cleanings help your child to develop excellent dental hygiene practices, which they carry throughout their lives. They are also beneficial to ensure they have healthy and durable permanent teeth after they grow up.