Preventive care is essential for maintaining good oral health. It involves a combination of practices, habits, and activities such as brushing your teeth, flossing, eating healthy foods, and visiting the dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. One of the most effective preventive treatments for children is the application of dental sealants. These are translucent, plastic-like materials that a pediatric dentist can easily spread over the teeth to prevent cavities from forming and spreading.
If the ridges on the chewing surfaces of the teeth are deep, the sealant will stay in place. Space maintainers are another important preventive treatment in pediatric dentistry. These specialized dental appliances are made of plastic or metal and are customized to fit the nuances of your child's mouth. They keep the empty space open after the loss of a tooth.
Additionally, pediatric dentists recommend that children wear mouth guards when playing sports to protect their teeth and gums from physical contact. The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) all recommend that children see a dentist to set up a dental office before their first birthday or within six months after the eruption of the first primary tooth. This is known as establishing a dental home and it includes referrals to dental specialists when appropriate. Early identification of risk indicators and implementation of preventive oral health practices at an early age can reduce or prevent the progression of tooth decay.
The typical costs of comprehensive oral care visits for preschool children are considerably lower than the cost of emergency room treatment or extensive restorations that require sedation or treatment with general anesthesia. The proper position of the child is essential to perform an effective and efficient clinical examination on a young child. In general, the knee-to-knee position should be used with children ages 6 months to 3 years, or up to age 5 with children who have special health care needs. Children over 3 years old can sit forward on their caregiver's lap or sit alone in a chair.
Examiners and caregivers must work together so that the child goes smoothly from interview to exam. It is important to establish a partnership between medical and dental professionals to increase patient awareness of the importance of establishing a dental office before the child's first birthday, assessing the risk of tooth decay, and coordinating care. The AAP's “Guidelines for a Bright Future for Monitoring the Health of Infants, Children and Adolescents” provide extensive information, education and training opportunities and materials on pediatric oral health for a wide range of professionals.