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How Often Should Children Have Dental Checkups?

Parents are advised by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) to arrange biannual visits for children and should begin approximately after the emergence or the first tooth.

These crucial visits make it possible for the dentist to spot any new development in the child’s mouth, check if there are changes in the gums and teeth conditions, and keep advising parents on improved oral care strategies.

For children who are particularly prone to tooth decay, or exhibit early symptoms of orthodontic problems, the pediatric dentist may choose to schedule additional visits in such cases.

What is the purpose of dental checkups?

The first aim of the pediatric dentist is to ensure that the child has a “good dental home.” In the event of a dental emergency, the children can access treatment at a location with which they are comfortable and familiar.

Second, the pediatric dentist meticulously keeps track of the progress of the child’s dental health and jaw development. Generally, painful dental conditions do not occur suddenly. Understanding the dental history of the child will help the pediatric dentist to anticipate future problems and address them before they occur.

Third, during the visits, the pediatric dentist can educate children and parents. Sometimes the pediatric dentist may want to introduce a couple of factors aimed at enhancing tooth health – for instance, xylitol, fluoride supplements, or sealants. Other times, parents are asked by the pediatric dentist to change the oral or dietary behavior of the child – for instance, reducing sugar intake, helping the child make a switch from sippy cups to adult-sized drinking glasses, or even removing an intraoral piercing.

Finally, tiny cavities in baby or primary teeth can only be spotted by taking dental X-rays. Though the child may not be in any significant pain, these tiny cavities, if not treated, can quickly turn into tooth decay, large cavities, and finally, childhood periodontal disease. Dental X-rays are only recommended by the dentist when there’s a suspicion of orthodontic irregularities and cavities.

Are checkups necessary if my child has healthy teeth?

When it comes to the condition of a child’s teeth, things can change quickly. Even if the teeth were certified healthy six months before, changes in oral habits or diet rapidly make them prone to misalignment or decay.

Aside from visual examinations, a comprehensive dental cleaning is conducted by the pediatric dentist during each visit. These cleanings prevent the buildup of debris and plaque between teeth. While it’s important to maintain good home cleaning routine, these professional cleanings are an additional way of maintaining a healthy smile.

During the routine visits, the pediatric dentist can check the child’s fluoride levels. A varnish or fluoride gel is often applied to teeth after each cleaning. Topical fluoride prevents mineral loss and remineralizes the teeth. Take-home fluoride supplements are also given to some children (especially those in places where their community water lacks fluoride).

Finally, dental sealants may be applied to the child’s back teeth (molars). This substance is usually brushed onto the molars to seal out harmful acid, bacteria and debris.

For questions on scheduling a child’s dental checkups, please consult your pediatric dentist.

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