When should my child start getting their teeth cleaned?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends you take your children to the pediatric dentist by their first birthday or when their first tooth erupts. Since there are so few teeth, these appointments will be more of a dental examination to make sure things are developing correctly. By the age of 2, most baby teeth have probably grown in. That’s when dental cleaning will become more of a focus at the pediatric dentistry appointments.

Even though your baby won’t necessarily need very much dental cleaning before the age of 2, it’s still important to see the pediatric dentist. The doctor needs to go over the parents’ and families’ medical histories. You can also expect to go over infant oral hygiene (yes, they need it, too!) and nutritional counseling.

What happens at a pediatric dental cleaning?

At Epic Dentistry for Kids, we want our young patients to feel safe and comfortable, so we take the extra effort to explain the dental cleaning procedure to children before we operate. The unfamiliar dental equipment can be daunting to children, so our pediatric dentists will explain what each tool does and even let your child touch them! If you want to prep your child for the cleaning earlier, here’s what they can expect:

  1. Dental exam: Your child is most likely already familiar with a dental exam if they have been visiting the dentist since their first birthday. The pediatric dentist will conduct a visual examination of the oral cavity and take x-rays to check for impacted teeth, cavities, gum disease, etc.
  2. Plaque and tartar removal: After the dental exam, the pediatric dentist will perform a professional cleaning to remove built up plaque and tartar. Despite you and your child’s best efforts, calculus sometimes builds up in the nooks and crannies that you can’t reach with a regular toothbrush. The pediatric dentist will use a scaler to scrape away these deposits around the gum line. If there is mild bleeding, your child may have a mild gum disease called gingivitis. Not to fear, this disease can be fixed with routine flossing and brushing.
  3. Professional brushing: Here comes the easy part! The pediatric dentist will demonstrate the correct way to brush to remove any remaining tartar or plaque. Older children will also receive a minor fluoride treatment if the dentist chooses to use a fluoride toothpaste.
  4. Professional flossing: Lots of children skip flossing because they don’t know how to do it. The pediatric dentist will show your child how to floss correctly as he gets the last of the grainy, fluoride toothpaste out of your child’s teeth.
  5. Rinsing: At last, the dental cleaning will end with an antibacterial mouthwash to leave your child’s mouth feeling fresh and minty.

How do I take care of my child’s teeth?

If you want your child to have a positive experience at the dentist’s office, set them up for success! Good dental hygiene starts in the home. Routine cleanings can be quick and easy if your child regularly practices healthy oral hygiene habits.

Brushing

Brushing teeth correctly is both simple and complicated. Practice brushing with your child twice a day to remove cavity-causing bacteria. Kids should brush for at least 2 minutes at a time in circular motions, covering as much tooth area as possible.

Flossing

Nobody wants to be told they have dental decay or cavities. One of the best ways to avoid this is by flossing! Many people skip this step because they think brushing is sufficient, but it’s nearly impossible to remove food debris from between the teeth by brushing alone. Flossing removes plaque buildup and harmful bacteria that can cause gum disease.

Fluoride

A powerful way to strengthen enamel and prevent cavities is by using fluoridated products. While fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in water and other substances, getting an extra boost through topical products, like mouthwash and toothpaste, can be helpful, too. Ask the pediatric dentist when it is a good time to start introducing fluoride into your child’s dental health routine.

Mouthwash

Rinsing the mouth after eating is a good habit to get into, especially if your child doesn’t have the opportunity to brush their teeth at the moment. Whether they’re just rinsing with water or using mouthwash, this simple act can help flush away food particles that can cause bad breath and cavities.

Dietary habits

Dental health is also greatly affected by diet. Incorporate foods with lots of vitamins and minerals, like fruits and vegetables, to remineralize your teeth. Fibrous foods, like carrots and apples, can also naturally clean the teeth of plaque. Yogurt and cheese are also great sources of calcium for the teeth, plus they can balance the pH of the mouth, making it a less hospitable environment for bacteria.

For cavity-prone kids, reduce the amount of sugar and refined carbs in their diet. Bad bacteria feed off these substances and create acids that damage the teeth. Try sugar substitutes like stevia, honey, or xylitol.

Does dental cleaning make teeth whiter?

While the pediatric dentist can remove yellow tartar from the teeth, it won’t make a huge difference. We don’t recommend getting whitening treatments for children, because their baby teeth will fall out eventually and it can be harmful to their gums if it’s done too often. To keep your child’s teeth from staining, avoid highly pigmented foods or drinks, like coffee and turmeric. If these items are consumed, brush and rinse the mouth immediately after.

How often should my child get a dental cleaning?

Kids should be visiting the dentist every six months for a dental exam and routine cleaning. Start scheduling biannual appointments early on, so they can build good habits early on.