Preparing for your child’s dental visit can be a difficult job if you don’t know what to expect. While each patient is unique and has different needs, this post outlines the general principals we use for different aged children to give you a better idea of what we will be doing with your child during their visit to North Creek Family Dentistry.
Age 0-2: We want to see your babies as soon as they have teeth. However, we keep our expectations from our littlest patients very low. We have two main goals at this age. The first is to get children used to visiting the dentist so that when they are older, these visits are already routine and they understand that the visits will be a positive experience. The second goal is to educate parents about caring for their baby’s teeth. We discuss diet, hygiene, exposure to fluoride, and any concerns the parents have. Usually at this age, Dr. Cattle will get a quick peak inside the mouth to make sure teeth are developing normally. If the baby allows, she will also brush their teeth and apply fluoride. We want this to be a very positive experience, and so we try not to push the baby outside of their comfort limits.
Age 3-13: These kiddos are officially considered children, as they usually have at least some of their baby teeth remaining. For this age group, we take developmental x-rays as needed, which usually include x-rays of the front teeth for small children (age 3-4) and a panoramic x-ray showing all the teeth in the mouth by the age of 7. When the molars are touching each other (around age 5) we also will want to take cavity-detecting x-rays of the back teeth annually. Since baby teeth have thinner enamel, cavities can grow rapidly in children, so it is especially important not to fall behind on these visits. Just like with adults, we want to complete an exam, professionally clean teeth, and apply fluoride once every six months. When permanent molars begin to erupt around ages 6 and 12, we may also want to do sealants, or protective fillings to cover the grooves of the molars and prevent cavities on these teeth. We keep an eye on growth and development to make sure teeth are erupting as planned and that no intervening treatment is necessary. We also look at the alignment of teeth as they erupt to start assessing the need for orthodontics.
Age 14 and older: Because most of these teenagers no longer have any baby teeth, kids begin to get “adult” cleanings at age 14. At this age, cleanings typically take a little longer because there is more tartar to clean off. This is generally because saliva production (which naturally helps clean teeth) starts to slow down compared to early childhood, and oral hygiene at home is often still not perfected, leading to more accumulated plaque and tartar. We may also start taking gum measurements to assess the child for signs of periodontal problems. Many of these children are receiving orthodontic care, making teeth even more challenging to clean, and so it is very important that we continually review oral hygiene instructions for brushing and flossing at home. For later teens and young adults, we may take a panoramic x-ray to assess the need for wisdom teeth removal. As with adults, we like to take cavity detecting x-rays every year to catch early signs of disease. We continue to discuss healthy habits that will lead to healthy adult teeth. In Nebraska, children reach legal adulthood at age 19. For children 18 and under, we do need parental permission to complete any treatment.
If you have specific questions about what to expect for you or your children at our office, give us a call at 402-413-0505. We want you to feel as prepared as possible and like to avoid surprises for your family. We love our patient family, and will treat your children as we want our children to be treated!