It’s important for children to visit the dentist every six months for dental cleanings as soon as their first teeth erupt. These visits prevent tooth decay, but just as important, they help your child feel comfortable at our office and with our team. This is the best way to make sure dental visits aren’t traumatic or stressful! When it comes to cleaning children’s teeth, you might be surprised to learn that the process isn’t all that different from what happens during your own dental cleanings.
Removing Plaque and Tartar
Your child’s dental cleaning begins by removing plaque and tartar deposits from the surfaces of their teeth. Even with diligent brushing at home, plaque and tartar are inevitable, which is why good oral hygiene always means proper brushing and visiting the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning. The two go hand-in-hand!
Plaque is a sticky film that forms when food residue and bacteria combine, coating the teeth. If you’ve ever run your tongue along your teeth and noticed they feel “fuzzy,” plaque is to blame. Most plaque is removed through brushing and flossing, but any plaque that is left behind will eventually harden into tartar. The only way to remove tartar is with professional dental tools—and removing tartar is important because it causes tooth decay.
Removing tartar and plaque is a two-step process. First, we use an ultrasonic tool that uses a stream of water to blast away large deposits of tartar and plaque. We remove as much buildup as possible with this tool, as it’s fast, gentle, and effective. Usually, there are still small amounts of tartar or plaque along the gumline or between the teeth after using the ultrasonic tool; this is removed manually with a hand tool that scrapes away the buildup.
During a dental cleaning, we always floss between the teeth, too. This allows us to assess whether your child is doing a good job flossing at home, and it’s also an opportunity to teach them how to properly floss their teeth. If we notice that their gums are tender or bleeding during this step, it’s a sign that your child needs to floss more regularly at home.
Polishing the Teeth
Next, we’ll polish your child’s teeth using a gritty toothpaste in their choice of flavor and a high-powered polishing tool. This removes light stains from the surfaces of the teeth, and it also makes the teeth smooth—it’s the polishing that creates the fresh-from-the-dentist feeling we all know and love! That smooth surface also makes it harder for new tartar and plaque deposits to “stick,” keeping your child’s teeth cleaner between visits to our office.
Protecting the Teeth
After cleaning your child’s teeth, we’ll protect them by applying a fluoride treatment. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that’s important for the development of strong teeth and preventing tooth decay.