When a dental team has watched primary teeth develop and have kept an eye out for any possible problems, a child’s needs are much more likely to be obvious to them just because of the familiarity with the patient.
At about six years old primary teeth will start to loosen as the adult teeth form and erupt, it’s a very important stage for monitoring dental spacing. Now is the time to make sure the child is able to handle their oral hygiene routine on their own. It is still very important to monitor how well they do with brushing and flossing. Something that might impress them would be to get some disclosing agent for them to swish periodically after they have finished cleaning their teeth. When they can see the areas that have been missed they can be instructed again on how to reach those specific areas better. This is also a good time to expand the hygiene routine a little with more instruction on gentle gum, palate and tongue brushing.
Regular topical fluoride treatments will be essential to help strengthen the enamel on the adult teeth as they erupt. A good fluoride tooth paste will help between visits to the office and supplements might be suggested in cases where necessary. While too much fluoride can cause chalky white spots on teeth, these cases are rare and your family dentist can easily determine any related problems with your regular checkups.
This is a time when sugary snacks are very hard to avoid as children are now in school and not under a parents or care taker’s supervision for many hours of the day. It can help to encourage sugar free snacks at home but kids are going to eat candy. Parents can mitigate some of the damage by reminding a child that if they do have a sugary snack there is a need to clean out their mouth afterward if at all possible. It may surprise some of you that sugars are also found in milk, fruits and vegetables. Some people don’t understand the decay process, however, and don’t realize it is not caused by the sugar alone. Decay is actually encouraged by sugar but the plaque that is formed on the teeth daily is like a bonding agent for the sugar and provides the food for bacteria. The resulting acids start the demineralization which is the beginning of what is commonly called a cavity. It’s probably best just to remember that the bacteria in our mouths eat when we do.
One thing that is proving immensely helpful as a deterrent to decay is the application tooth sealants. As adult molars appear a simple application of sealant can be done in the office that will reduce the vulnerability of these teeth. Molars are more subject to decay due to the deep crevices in them. The treatment is painless and often covered by insurance as the health insurance industry has learned the efficacy of sealants against cavities thereby lessening the risk for more expensive fillings. Sealants will need to be checked periodically but tend to last from three to five years and can easily be replaced when worn down or missing. When compared to repairing decay with drilling and filling they are well worth the effort.
Children between the ages of six and twelve are at a higher risk of injuries to the mouth as they get more involved with sports activities. Mouth guards are a must, particularly in any contact sport and are encouraged in any sport where impact of any kind may occur. If a tooth is knocked out or broken for any reason the damage is visible enough that parents usually do not hesitate to get help or a referral from their family dentist. Unfortunately, sometimes a loosening of a tooth by trauma is ignored to the detriment of the tooth. Prompt appropriate treatment of dental injuries is the key to saving injured teeth. In the case of a loosened tooth sometimes a simple splint can be applied to stabilize the tooth until it has a chance to heal. An initial x-ray will be needed to help determine the depth of damage then further assessments for sensitivity and vitality of the tooth or teeth will be done as the healing takes place. It is a small inconvenience when compared to a possible root canal later on.
The things your family dentist and dental team can help you with for your child of six to twelve are:
Watching possible problems with adult tooth eruption and counseling on hygiene.
Apply important fluoride treatments to strengthen those important new adult teeth.
Instruct on the connection between diet and decay with a little third party counseling. (Because you know parents are not as influential as a child matures).
Your family dentist may prescribe sealants on adult molars to help with the mitigation of decay of these vulnerable teeth.
We can be there if there are any injuries to mouth or teeth that may need to be assessed.
We will be happy to answer any questions you may have with other matters concerning your families’ dental care and needs. That is what it great about letting us get to know your whole family.
Paul M. Wagenaar, DDS
7400 E. Arapahoe Rd #203
Centennial, CO 80112