Treatment Procedures / Treatments for children



When Should Dental Care Start?

Proper dental care begins before a baby's first tooth appears. Just because you can't see the teeth doesn't mean they aren't there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.

Running a damp washcloth over a baby's gums daily will help clear away the harmful bacteria. Parents can brush kids' teeth as they come in with an infant toothbrush, using water with just a smear of toothpaste until they are about 2.

Around 2, most kids can spit while brushing. Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, with supervision, until around age 5.

Even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren't practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but can harm the baby's teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby's teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all of the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in.

Parents and childcare providers should help young kids set specific times for drinking each day because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth.

Preventing Cavities

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that a child's first visit to the dentist may take place by the first birthday. At this visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques (you need to floss once your baby has two teeth that touch) and conduct a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap.

Such visits can help in the early detection of potential problems, and help kids become used to visiting the dentist and overcome fear.

Topical Fluoride

If a child seems to be at risk for cavities or other problems, the dentist may start applying topical fluoride even before all teeth come in (this also can be done in the Pediatrician's office). Fluoride hardens the tooth enamel, helping to ward off the most common childhood oral disease — dental cavities (also called dental caries).

Cavities occur when bacteria and food left on the teeth after eating are not brushed away. Acid collects on a tooth, softening its enamel until a hole or cavity forms. Regular use of fluoride toughens the enamel, making it more difficult for acid to penetrate.

Although many towns require tap water to be fluoridated, others don't. If your water supply is not fluoridated or if your family uses purified water, ask your dentist for fluoride supplements. Most toothpastes contain fluoride, but toothpaste alone will not fully protect a child's teeth. However, be careful as too much fluoride can cause tooth discoloration. Check with your dentist before supplementing.

Discoloration also can occur from prolonged use of antibiotics, and some children's medications that contain a large amount of sugar. Parents should encourage kids to brush after they take their medicine, particularly if the prescription is scheduled for a long time.

Brushing at least twice a day and routine flossing will help maintain a healthy mouth. Kids as young as age 2 or 3 can begin to use toothpaste when brushing, under supervision. Kids should not use a lot of toothpaste — a pea-sized amount for toddlers is just right. Parents should always make sure that kids spit out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it in.

As your child's permanent teeth grow in, the dentist can help seal out decay by applying a thin wash of resin to the back teeth, where most chewing occurs. Known as a sealant, this protective coating keeps bacteria from settling in the hard-to-reach crevices of the molars.

Dental research has resulted in better preventive techniques, including fillings and sealants that seep fluoride, but seeing a dentist is only part of good tooth care. Home care is equally important. For example, sealants on the teeth do not mean that a child can eat lots of sweets or skip daily brushing and flossing — parents must work with kids to teach them good oral habits.

If Your Child Has a Problem

If you are prone to tooth decay or gum disease, your kids too may be at higher risk. Therefore, sometimes even the most diligent brushing and flossing will not prevent a cavity. Be sure to call your dentist if your child complains of tooth pain, which could be a sign of a cavity that needs treatment.

New materials mean pediatric dentists have more filling and repair options than ever. Silver remains the substance of choice for the majority of fillings in permanent teeth, though other materials, such as composite resins, are gaining popularity. These resins bond to the teeth so the filling won't pop out and can be used to rebuild teeth damaged through injury or conditions such as cleft palate. Tooth-colored resins are also more attractive.

But in cases of fracture, extensive decay, or malformation of baby teeth, dentists often opt for stainless steel crowns. Crowns maintain the tooth while preventing the decay from spreading.

Orthodontia

As kids grow older, their bite and the straightness of their teeth can become an issue. Orthodontic treatment begins earlier now than it used to, but what once was a symbol of preteen embarrassment — a mouth filled with metal wires and braces — is a relic of the past. Kids as young as age 7 now sport corrective appliances, and efficient, plastic-based materials have replaced the old-fashioned metal.

Don't be afraid to question the dentist. Giving your child an early start on checkups and good dental hygiene is an effective way to help prevent this kind of extensive dental work. Encouraging kids to use a mouthguard during sports also can prevent serious dental injuries.

As kids grow, plan on routine dental checkups anywhere from once every 3 months to once a year, depending on the dentist's recommendations. Limiting intake of sugary foods and regular brushing and flossing all contribute to a child's dental health. Your partnership with the dentist will help ensure healthy teeth and a beautiful smile.

Scaling and CleaningM

Scaling and cleaning are used to remove built-up debris from the teeth. This may include food particles, soft plaque or hard calculus (caused by the continual accumulation of minerals from saliva and plaque – sometimes referred to as tartar). The dentist or hygienist then cleans and polishes the teeth using a rotating brush with abrasive paste. This helps treat and prevent gum disease. You will be given instructions on how to keep up your oral hygiene between appointments, as this is important to help maintain healthy gums.

Fissure sealants

Sealants protect the teeth from decay. Any tooth that has deep grooves or fissures can be treated, but the most commonly treated teeth are the molars and premolars.

A sealant is a durable liquid plastic that is painted on to the biting surface of a cleaned tooth. It forms a physical barrier that stops food and other bacteria from collecting in the fissures of the tooth. Fissure sealants are commonly recommended for children, as they reduce the risk of decay in permanent teeth.

Dental fillings

Tooth decay that has caused a cavity is treated with dental fillings. The dentist uses a drill and other tools to remove the decay. The cavity is cleaned, dried and sealed with a filling material.

A variety of materials are available for filling the cavity. You will be given advice on the most suitable material, based on the size and location of the required filling. A common choice is tooth-coloured filling material, which can restore the aesthetic appearance of the tooth as well as its shape and function.

Root Canal Treatment

Root Canal Treatment is a procedure that replaces a tooth’s damaged or infected pulp with a filling. The ‘pulp’ is a sensitive tissue that provides oxygen, nutrients and feeling to the tooth. It is housed in the hollow centre of a tooth (pulp chamber), along with blood vessels and nerves. Once a tooth is fully formed, nutrition for the tooth comes from the tissues surrounding the root and the tooth can function without its pulp.

During the root canal treatment, the pulp is removed from a tooth. The dentist cleans and shapes the root canals with a drill and small files. The tooth’s interior is cleaned, dried and packed with a filling material that goes all the way down to the end of the root. An artificial biting surface is created for the tooth out of dental amalgam, composite material or a crown. This also protects the tooth from fracture, which can occur after the root canal treatment.

 

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