The importance of visiting the dentist twice a year
Professional care is necessary to maintain oral health; infants, children and adolescents are no different. Just as you take your infant to the pediatrician for the well visit exams, it is also important to establish a dental home for your infant with a pediatric dentist. Having a pediatric dentist early provides a foundation for preventive education and oral health care to be built upon throughout life.
Just as your pediatrician reviews growth and development milestones with you, we also review the dental growth and development of your infant. Early detection and management of oral conditions can improve a child’s oral health, general health and well-being and school readiness. Also, early diagnosis of developing malocclusions may allow for timely intervention and treatment.
So, what are we checking for and doing at each dentist visit? In general, at each visit we will review their general health/growth and ask if there is any pain or questions that you have regarding their teeth. We check the areas around the outside of the mouth and also the jaw. We check inside the mouth to make sure the gums and other tissues are healthy and we review proper home care for the teeth and gums. We check for cavities and make sure teeth are growing in as they should and their jaw is growing normally. We also assess their risk of developing cavities and this determines how often we need to see them for routine cleaning appointments, fluoride application and how often we need to take x-rays. We note how comfortable they feel in our office and how they behave in the dental office. During the visit we note their speech and language and if we see something that is out of the ordinary, then we recommend a referral to the pediatrician and/or speech therapist.
The most common period of exam is every 6 months, although some may require exam and preventive measures more frequently. What is so magical about six months? Well, cavities do not happen overnight, they take on average about 6 months to 1 year to progress from the outer part of the tooth (enamel) to the next softer layer (dentin) and from there they can progress very quickly and end up causing the tooth to break down with normal chewing and this leads to pain for your child. This is why it is so important to have regular checkups at a pediatric dentist.
We review injury prevention. If your infant or toddler falls and hurts there teeth or gums, it makes the stress of the situation a lot easier if you already have a pediatric dentist that you have visited and you can simply call them to have your child evaluated right away instead of waiting in an emergency room or searching through the phone book or internet for a dentist at the time of injury.
We also review oral habits and sucking habits at the dental visits. As they become teens, we review substance abuse and intraoral/perioral piercings. Unfortunately, smoking and smokeless tobacco use almost always starts during adolescence. If we detect signs of use during the exam, we can provide referrals to help stop this unhealthy habit.
We want your child to grow up with a healthy mouth and to like visiting the dentist. We also want you and your child to know about what is happening in their mouth and why!
Dr Reid is a Pugh Award distinguished board eligible pediatric dentist. She earned her pediatric specialty training through UCLA’s program at San Diego Rady Children’s Hospital. She has also served our servicemen as a Dental Officer at the Marine Corp Air Station, Miramar in San Diego. She’s also mommy to 5 year old Ezra. To follow her monthly blog posts, follow her at PediatricDentistSanDiego.com.