Prophylaxis, X-rays, and Examination
Teeth cleaning (prophylaxis), X-rays, and examination by a dentist are all part of a patient’s prevention program. Bacteria in the mouth, called plaque, cause decay if not properly cleaned from the teeth. Although it may be possible to for a patient to remove most plaque with traditional home care methods (ie. toothbrush, floss, and mouth rinse), many pediatric patients have difficulty maintaining a plaque-free state for extended periods of time. Periodic cleanings by a dental professional are important to remove plaque, hardened plaque (calculus) and stain from the teeth, polish hard surfaces to minimize the accumulation and retention of plaque, and introduce dental procedures to the young child and apprehensive patient.
Appropriate x-rays are a valuable tool in oral health care. In general, children need x-rays more often than adults. Their mouths grow and change rapidly, and they are more susceptible than adults to tooth decay. In our pediatric dental office, X-rays are typically taken on a yearly basis to detect developing cavities between the teeth. Also, x-rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.
The developing dentition should be monitored throughout eruption and at regular clinical examinations. Unrecognized dental disease can result in exacerbated problems, which lead to more extensive and expensive care. The most common interval of examination is 6 months; however, some patients may require examination and preventative services at more frequent intervals. Evaluation by a dental professional and reinforcement of preventative activities contribute to improved overall oral health.
Most cavities in children are found on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These teeth have deep grooves and depressions, which make them extremely difficult to clean of food and cavity-causing bacteria. Dental sealants protect these susceptible areas by covering the crevices of the back teeth with a clear or white resin material. Sealants create a much more cleansable area and “seal out” food particles and bacteria from residing on the tooth surface; thus reducing the risk of decay.
Placing sealants is easy and comfortable for the patient. The tooth is first cleaned, conditioned, and dried. The material is flowed onto the grooves of the tooth and hardened with a light. The patient is able to eat right away. Sealants last for several years but must be checked at regular dental appointments.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that is safe and effective for preventing tooth decay. Fluoride that is ingested through water, food, or supplements is incorporated into developing tooth structure. The tooth enamel becomes stronger and more resistant to acid from cavity-causing bacteria. Fluoride that is applied to the outside of teeth (from toothpaste, mouth rinse, gels and varnish) prevents loss of minerals from tooth enamel and promotes replacement of minerals that have been lost due to acid attacks. Topical fluoride is very effective in repairing early decay before it becomes an irreversible cavity. Fluoride also disrupts the bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities, reducing the amount of acid that is produced by these bacteria.
Central Oregon does not have a fluoridated water supply. However, not every child is in need of fluoride supplements. Therefore as a pediatric dentist in Bend, Oregon we determine each patients’ need for fluoride treatments individually. At Pediatric Dental Associates, we consider many factors prior to prescribing fluoride; the child’s age, risk of developing dental decay, and dietary sources of fluoride are important considerations. When fluoride supplements are prescribed, they should be taken daily to maximize benefit.
Pediatric Dental Associates uses the most appropriate fluoride protocols following routine teeth cleaning. Professionally applied topical fluoride treatments are proven to reduce the incidence of tooth decay. For children at higher risk of developing cavities, an “at home” regimen will be developed which may include a prescription strength formulation of fluoride toothpaste, fluoride mouth rinses, or brush-on fluoride gels.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is found naturally in various trees, fruits, and vegetables. Xylitol has the same relative sweetness as sugar but has fewer calories and no carbohydrates. Research has shown that xylitol inhibits the growth and acid-producing power of the bacteria that cause cavities. Intake of xylitol also reduces the adherence of bacteria to teeth. Xylitol can be a helpful component in reducing tooth decay if used on a consistent and long-term basis. Pediatric Dental Associates has a variety xylitol-containing products including chewing gum, mints, and toothpastes available for patients.