Children should start seeing the dentist for regular cleaning appointments around their first birthday. These regular cleaning appointments are important to remove any tartar and plaque buildup from the teeth. However, as your toddler wiggles around in the dentist's chair, cleaning is not the only thing that's going on. Here are some other aspects of tooth and dental care that are taking place during a kids' cleaning appointment.
Checking for Cavities
Parents sometimes assume that if their toddler gets a cavity, they'll know. But cavities don't usually cause the obvious symptoms, like pain and smelly breath, until they are really big or deep. Your child's dentist can detect cavities long before you or your toddler will notice them. And this is a good thing, since it means those cavities can be filled early, before they do cause any pain or put the tooth at a bigger risk.
The assumption that cavities in baby teeth don't matter is incorrect, too. Your child needs those teeth to eat and talk for the next several years, so it is important to detect and fill any cavities that do develop.
Checking for Gum Disease
While your toddler is in the chair with their mouth open, the dentist and hygienist will also be looking at their gums. If they see any signs of redness, inflammation, or soreness, they may diagnose your child with gum disease.
This is more common than you might think, but the good news is that it's very treatable. Usually, it just means that you need to do a more thorough job of brushing your little one's teeth. If you've been letting them handle their own brushing, it may mean you should step in and brush for them more often. Start flossing, too. Your child's dentist may also prescribe a rinse they can use to treat the gum disease. It's important to treat the condition promptly so it doesn't lead to pain or tooth loss.
Teaching Tooth Care
Most family dentists also spend a few minutes of every appointment teaching the child about tooth care. As your child grows older, they'll give them a little more information. The dentist may show them a better way to hold the brush, tell them what teeth to spend more time on, or tell them to brush a little longer. While you, as a parent, could probably teach your toddler many of these lessons, kids do tend to listen better when the advice comes from a dentist.
For toddlers especially, regular cleaning appointments are about more than just cleaning the teeth. Make sure you schedule these sessions for your child. Contact a local family dentist to learn more.