Pediatric dentistry is an area of dentistry that focuses on the oral health of children. Starting good dental hygiene habits early in life is important. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, more than 50% of children under the age of nine have had at least one cavity in their baby teeth, and…
Are There Different Types of Children’s Oral Health Exams?
Starting around age one, children should have their teeth examined by a pediatric dentistry professional on a routine basis. Oral health exams can help keep your child's teeth and gums in better shape by allowing for early detection and timely treatment when needed. There are different types of dental examinations, and each has its place in maintaining your child's oral health.
Types of oral health exams
There are many terms that may be used to describe oral health exams, and they can sometimes be used interchangeably. However, these are the proper terms and definitions for the different types your child will likely experience.
Oral health screenings
A dental screening is a quick visual check that involves inspecting only the visible surfaces of the teeth and gums. Screenings are usually performed by doctors or nurses in a medical setting, often as part of a routine health checkup. These quick examinations are usually just to see that a child's mouth is developing normally. While a doctor will not diagnose or treat dental conditions, they can identify obvious abnormalities and may recommend a visit to a pediatric dentistry office as a result.
Preventive oral health exams
These types of appointments are what often come to mind when you think of an oral health exam for children. Regular preventive checkups typically occur once every six months as part of your child's dental care routine. These are done by a dentist and involve a detailed examination of the teeth and gums using dental tools and imaging. Periodontal measurements may be taken from time to time, and the dentist will also take note of which baby and permanent teeth have erupted, along with their current position in terms of alignment.
Diagnostic oral health exams
If your child develops symptoms that point to a potential problem, a dentist can perform a diagnostic evaluation to determine the root cause. These are often quick because they only require an inspection of a specific area in most cases. In addition to a visual exam, X-rays may be required as well.
What to expect at your child's routine oral health exam
For routine preventive oral health exams, the appointment often begins with any necessary X-rays. These are usually done first because it is easier for a child to sit still towards the beginning of an appointment. Typical pediatric patients need X-rays once every year or so. Those with tooth decay may need imaging every six months.
Once X-rays are complete, the dentist will likely continue with a brief visual examination by identifying all erupted teeth and taking note of any signs that point to potential issues, such as alignment problems or damage from decay or injury. Then, your child's teeth are thoroughly cleaned and, if possible, scaled to remove tartar buildup. Once the teeth are clean, a final examination will take place to check for staining and soft spots along the gum line and in the crevices of the teeth.
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