Prevention is always better than treatment. By actively preventing disease and decay through regular home care, professional dental cleanings and regular exams, you will maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.
In addition, effective prevention can help you avoid costly treatments in the future to remove decay, restore teeth and treat gum disease. Regular prevention is truly your best investment.
Dental examinations help to diagnose disease before it becomes hazardous to your health. In addition, regular examinations can save you money by alleviating problems while they are small and before they become expensive to repair, or in some cases, impossible to repair. Your dental examinations generally include the following:
- Oral cancer screening.
- Evaluation of growth and development.
- Orthodontic needs assessment.
- Gum disease evaluation.
- Visual examination of tooth decay.
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays to see cysts, tumors, invisible decay and other problems that can't be seen by the naked eye.
- Evaluation of status of current restorations (fillings and others).
We cannot express enough how important it is to see your dentist regularly.
Remember, preventing disease is always better than treating disease.
Professional cleanings (dental prophylaxis) form the foundation for preventing gum disease and tooth decay. In a professional cleaning, your child's dental team will:
Remove plaque from the teeth -- plaque is a sticky substance that forms in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria. Plaque sticks to teeth and causes tooth decay and gum disease.
Remove calculus (tarter) above the gum line -- calculus is plaque that has hardened on the tooth surface and is difficult to remove. (Calculus below the gum line indicates gum disease and requires a different procedure to remove it.)
Polish and remove stains from teeth.
X-rays (radiographs) are a vital and necessary part of your child's dental diagnostic process. Without them, many dental conditions can and will be missed. If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.
Our office policy on dental x-rays correlates with the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Generally x-rays are taken once each year. These annual x-rays detect cavities between the teeth and check on the development of roots and permanent teeth. If we are monitoring a traumatized tooth or a questionable area for decay, x-rays will be taken more frequently.
Beginning at approximately age six, a panoramic x-ray will be recommended. A panoramic film is taken every three years. This important x-ray shows the entire oral cavity including the upper and lower jaws, the tempromandibular joints and sinuses. This allows us to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone disease, evaluate the result of an injury, and plan orthodontic treatment if needed.
Our doctors and licensed staff members are extremely careful to minimize the exposure of your child to radiation. Our office uses high-speed film, lead aprons and modern equipment to filter out unnecessary radiation and restrict the x-ray beam to the area of interest. The risk of dental x-rays is far less than an undetected and untreated dental problem.
Are X-rays safe? Modern dental x-ray machines are very safe. We use only state-of-the-art, low radiation machines. The amount of radiation exposure your body receives on an airplane flight from Los Angeles to New York exceeds the amount of exposure you will receive from a modern dental x-ray machine. Contrast this minimal exposure with the risk of not finding an illness until it is too late, and you can see why we prescribe regular diagnostic x-rays.
Adequate home care is imperative if you want to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile and prevent costly dental treatment in the future. The goal of home care is to regularly remove the sticky film of bacteria called plaque from your teeth.
Elimination of food particles and bacteria from plaque can definitely help reduce tooth decay.
Infants: Cleaning their teeth can be a challenge but is still very important. Using a dampened clean soft cloth, gently wipe the plaque from the tooth and gum area. Doing this after each feeding is an important step in preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
Toddlers & Adolescents: Brushing with a soft toothbrush twice daily or after every meal is recommended. Adult assistance is suggested for most children under the age of five or six.
In order to remove plaque and food particles in between teeth, where a toothbrush does not reach, flossing is vital. Small flossing devices, which can be purchased at your local grocery store, are made to make flossing less challenging for children. Adult supervision is also recommended until your child develops a proper flossing technique, usually about 7 years old.
Always rinse thoroughly with water after brushing (or after meals if you are unable to brush.) You may occasionally use a mouthwash to rinse. Children may benefit from the use of ACT fluoride rinse, to help prevent cavities from forming in between the teeth. It is not recommended for children to use alcohol based mouth rinses.
To prevent decay, Dr. Baker endorse the use of protective sealants. These are applied to the chewing surfaces of childrens molars. Sealants ensure that food particles and bacteria will not build up in the grooves on the chewing surface of the tooth. To ensure that the surface of the tooth remains protected, sealants may need to be reapplied as needed.
A sealant is a shaded plastic coating that can be painted on the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the pre-molars and molars to prevent tooth decay. Sealants act as a barrier protecting the tooth from food, plaque and acid. However, decay can still form around a sealant or between teeth if not brushed or flossed correctly. Application of sealants is simple and painless. Placement is a three step process:
The tooth surface is thoroughly cleaned with a material called "soap"
- Drying agent "conditioner" is applied and air dried
- The sealant is "painted" on where it bonds to the tooth surface and is hardened with a curing "laser" light Proper care of the sealant will ensure optimum performance in protecting the teeth
- Avoid eating ice (finely crushed ice is fine, no cubes!)
- Avoid sticky or chewy food, including caramels, fruit chews, and taffy. Choose sugarless gum instead
- Practice daily brushing and flossing habits
Even with proper care, on occasion, a sealant may fall off between check-ups. If this happens, we will replace the sealant for up to three years, at no charge, as long as your child has visited us for routine six-month check ups.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance that can be used to strengthen your child's teeth and prevent tooth decay.
There are two primary types of fluoride used.
- Systemic: This type of fluoride is ingested and in the correct amounts will make developing teeth stronger. Too much systemic fluoride may cause fluorosis or varying colors of spots on the teeth.
- Topical: This type of fluoride is applied to the erupted teeth. It can be found in most toothpastes, many rinses or prescribed gels. Topical fluoride strengthens erupted teeth. It is important to remember, too much of either type of fluoride can be toxic and will cause vomiting.
We suggest that the water fluoride levels be tested. This information is necessary before making fluoride recommendations. Check with your local water utilities or public health officials for fluoride levels in your area. If these sources are not readily available, you may purchase a fluoride test kit from our office.
Fruits: Banana, Orange, Apple (No Raisins or Dates)
Vegetables: Carrots, Celery, Broccoli
Popcorn (Watch for kernels!)
Lemonade (With artificial sweetener.)
Fruit Juice (Non-sweetened)
Peanut Butter (Try with celery or apples.)
Sugar Free Soft Drinks
Substituting these for candy or cookies will help stop the decay process. These things must be readily available to your child, i.e., refrigerator or pantry, since there will be times when you will be unable to prepare a snack for them.
The more often the teeth are exposed to acid, the longer the total action of the acid and the greater the susceptibility to decay.
When sweets are selected, it is wise to remember that sweets with the longest retention period in the mouth are the most harmful. Examples of this are hard candy, bubble gum, cough drops, sticky caramels, etc., as opposed to a small chocolate soft mint. Naturally there is a high sugar content in all of the above, but the hard candy group and the sticky candy group will stay in the mouth longer and bathe the bacteria on the teeth in sugar for a much longer period.
If you give your child 'sticky foods' for snacks, make the snack during or immediately after a meal so that they can brush quickly afterwards. Afternoon and night time snacks should be limited to the suggested list.
Remember, the type of food, the frequency it is eaten, and how long it bathes the bacteria on the teeth are the three dietary guides for good dental health.