We know it can be daunting choosing a pediatric dentist for your little ones. That's why we put together this comprehensive guide on pediatric dentistry. Meet our Fairfax and Springfield pediatric dentists, Dr. Zletni, Dr. Kato, and Dr. Mondragon to learn about how pediatric dentistry can benefit your child.
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Meet Our Fairfax and Springfield Pediatric Dentists
Preventive Dental Care For Kids
The best place to start with preventive dental care with kids is when their teeth first start coming in. This can help prevent serious dental work down the road.
Safeguard Your Child's Smile with Regular Cleanings
Many parents are often mistaken in thinking that baby teeth do not require much care because they will eventually fall out, making way for your child's permanent teeth. Baby teeth, however, need to be cared for; they allow your child to chew food comfortably and safely and speak properly. The paths which baby teeth create in the gums will eventually guide a child's permanent teeth into position. Regular cleanings with our professional, experienced, and a gentle pediatric dentist will ensure your child's oral health and proper development.
What to Expect During a Child's Teeth Cleaning Appointment
Our dentists and staff recognize that childhood dental appointments will not only affect your child's health but also his or her perception of the dental office for life. We do our best to make dental visits fun and comfortable for your child. During the initial appointment, we work with the parents or guardians to assess your infant, toddler, or child's behavior and comfort level with our staff and office. Our pediatric dentist will evaluate your child's teeth and their progression. If any plaque or tartar buildup is found, we will gently clean your child's teeth. In addition, we will show you and your child the proper way to brush and floss teeth.
Scheduling Your Child's Teeth Cleaning Appointment
As infants, toddlers, and children grow and change quickly, we recommend children visit our pediatric dentist for at least two dental checkups and child teeth cleaning appointments per year. This ensures proper care of your child's oral health. Your infant should first see a pediatric dentist when his or her first tooth emerges or by the time of the child's first birthday. If your child experiences any oral pain or you notice any changes or symptoms, we encourage you to schedule an appointment for your child right away to diagnose and address any potential problems at an early stage.
Dental Sealants Can Help Protect Against Cavities
How Do Dental Sealants Work?
Thankfully, the process is extremely simple for both the dentist and the patient and it only takes a few minutes for each tooth. The whole process begins with a thorough cleaning. The back teeth need to completely free of any bacteria before the coating goes over them, otherwise, the bacteria will be trapped inside the sealant and rot the tooth over time. After the cleaning, each tooth will receive a priming solution before it gets the sealant. As soon as the solution has dried, the sealant is applied. To help it dry correctly, the dentist may use a special type of light.
When Should You Consider Dental Sealants?
A dental sealant is generally recommended as early as possible. Ideally, it should be as soon as a child’s permanent molars come in. There are children with different levels of risk though, so consult a dentist before you schedule the procedure. Dental sealants last for multiple years, but their life varies from person to person. They will start to wear away eventually and should be checked on from time to time to determine their effectiveness.
Dental Care For Kids To Prevent Serious Work Later
There is no question that the primary method of dental problem prevention in kids is regular flossing and good brushing combined with a healthy diet and fluoride exposure. All four elements contribute to healthy gums, removal of plaque, prevention of latent decay from sugar exposure, and strengthening of new teeth. The number one problem dentists see the most are multiple cavities in children and that comes from lack of care, poor diet, and too much sugar consumption. All three are part of a preventive care strategy and easily doable with very little sacrifice on the part of parents.
Proper Cleaning Technique
Much of the poor prevention problem has to do with brushing and flossing techniques. Kids frequently just brush laterally, which does little for the food trapped in between the slots of the teeth. And a lack of flossing or not going deep enough also means particles are missed. Instead, kids need to be taught to brush up and down as well as floss between every tooth, not just the front ones. This will heavily reduce trapped food and increase gum line health. Brushing in the morning and at night also reduces latent damage from sugar sitting overnight creating acids on the teeth enamel and provides significant preventive care one can easily perform at home.
What Exactly Is Fluoride Therapy?
Fluoride therapy is a specific process of administering fluoride to promote better dental health. Most people know that fluoride is good for teeth: it fights off tooth decay and promotes good hygiene. But most people aren’t aware of the different types of fluoride, and that they should be getting it from as many different sources as possible. Fluoride is present in toothpaste of course, but it’s also in foods you eat every day like eggs and fish.
How Does Fluoride Therapy Work?
The process requires the dentist to use foam, rinse or gel on the patient’s teeth. These packets go onto a foam tray which can be put over the teeth. Once the patient bites down on the tray, the fluoride is released onto not just the teeth, but also all the crevices inside the mouth (e.g., between the gums, into the pits of each tooth, etc.) It only takes a minute, after which the mouth is suctioned so the patient doesn’t swallow the element. Patients aren’t allowed to eat or drink for about a half-hour after the procedure.
When Should You Consider Fluoride Therapy?
Fluoride therapy is highly recommended for children because it’s critical for their developing adult teeth. It’s most effective when used twice a year on children up until the age of 16. However, adults can also benefit from fluoride because it is so effective at keeping teeth healthy. It’s especially recommended for adults who have dry mouth, gum disease, and frequent cavities. All of these conditions put people at risk for rapid tooth decay. Even people with crowns and braces should consider this treatment. They’re typically more at risk because a small part of the tooth will always be covered (making it more difficult to clean.)
A Bit Of Work Now Means A Lifetime Of Benefits
Kids who learn early how to brush right and floss regularly will carry the same habits over to their adult teeth and older years, making most of their dental visits about preventive care versus repair. That can mean maintaining their natural teeth longer, potentially avoiding gum disease damage, and having a healthier dental condition longer in life. Simple reinforcement of key practices has tremendous, long-lasting positive outcomes that have been statistically proven again and again.
Maintain Good Habits During The Adolescence Years
There is evidence that demonstrates how periodontal disease may increase during adolescence due to a lack of motivation to practice oral hygiene. Children who maintain good oral health habits up until the teen years are more likely to continue brushing and flossing than children who were not taught proper oral care.
Advice For Parents
Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment of periodontal diseases. Therefore, it is important that children receive a periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits. Be aware that if your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, this may be an early sign of systemic disease. A general medical evaluation should be considered for children who exhibit severe periodontitis, especially if it appears resistant to therapy.
An important step in the fight against periodontal disease is to establish good oral health habits with your child early. When your child is about a year old, you can begin using toothpaste when brushing their teeth. However, only use a pea-sized portion on the brush and press it into the bristles so your child won’t eat it. And, when the gaps between your child’s teeth close, it’s important to start flossing.
Serve as a good role model by practicing good oral health care habits and schedule regular dental visits for family check-ups, periodontal evaluations, and cleanings.
Check your child’s mouth for the signs of periodontal disease, including bleeding gums, swollen and bright red gums, gums that are receding away from the teeth, and bad breath.
If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with your child to change these now. It’s much easier to modify these habits in a child than in an adult. Since your child models behavior after you, it follows that you should serve as a positive role model in your oral hygiene habits. A healthy smile, good breath, and strong teeth all contribute to a young person’s sense of personal appearance, as well as confidence and self-esteem.
Special Needs Dentistry For Kids
Special needs dentistry refers to a dentist or office that has undergone additional training to work with children who have special needs. It's an umbrella term that refers to those with different physical, mental, or sensory impairments. Parents need to be careful about choosing a practitioner who has a general understanding of different conditions, but they also need to look for a professional with a natural empathy for patients who may have difficulty with a standard examination.
How Does Special Needs Dentistry Work?
There are a number of ways you should expect your dentist to alter their standard solutions for your child. For example, it may prove difficult to work with children with severe facial conditions, but the right dentist can find ways to overcome those challenges. You can expect consultation meetings to discuss what your child needs and how your child feels about being in the chair. Solutions may include everything from slowing down the pace of the exam to using anesthesia to reduce pain and general discomfort. The dentist will tell you more about how they'll approach the situation, so they can get feedback from you.
When Should I Seek Out Special Needs Dentistry?
If you feel your child requires extra attention beyond what a general level of care would provide, it's time to call a dentist who understands. Look for a professional who takes the time to learn about your child, and who will be completely transparent with you. Dental professionals and parents have to learn from each other to get the best results for the child. Ultimately, you're looking for someone who can not only make formal dental treatments easier for your child but who can also recommend long-term solutions for optimum dental care.
Pediatric Dental Emergencies
Pediatric dental emergencies are stressful for you and your child. If your child is experiencing dental pain, you’ll need to know what to do – fast. Some of the most common pediatric dental emergencies include: Broken, chipped, fractured teeth, knocked out teeth, loose or lost fillings, severe toothaches, sensitivity to pain, temperature or pressure.
Treatments for Pediatric Dental Emergencies
Emergency pediatric dentists specialize in quickly assessing and treating dental emergencies. They are typically available after hours and can make a same-day appointment. The specific treatment will depend on the particular emergency. If a tooth is damaged or broken, dental bonding, veneers, or a crown may be applied. If a tooth is knocked out, it can sometimes be put back in; otherwise, an implant may be recommended.
When Should I Seek Treatment for my Child?
When it comes to dental emergencies, time is of the essence. If you aren’t sure what to do, err on the side of caution and call the emergency dentist for a consultation. If a tooth is cracked, chipped, broken, or knocked out, you should call immediately. Gather any pieces of the teeth you can find and bring them with you. Tooth pain and sensitivity do not always require emergency dental care. However, when the pain becomes severe enough that it prevents your child from eating, drinking, or living a normal life, an emergency dental appointment is strongly recommended.
Sedation dentistry is simply the use of medication during oral surgery or other dental procedure to help a patient feel as comfortable as possible. It has sometimes been referred to as “sleep dentistry”, but that is not really true as patients are usually awake during the procedures except for those under general anesthesia. The sedation is most suitable for individuals with real fear or anxiety of visiting a dentist or sitting on a dental surgery chair, particularly children.
How is Sedation Dentistry done?
There are various ways in which sedation dentistry is administered including:
Inhaled minimal sedation- Here the dentist administers to you nitrous oxide (laughing gas) combined with oxygen through a gas mask that is placed over your nose.
Oral sedation- This can be used for minimal to moderate sedation. For minimal sedation, a pill (typically Halcion), is administered about half an hour before the procedure.
IV sedation- Here the sedative drug is given through a vein, enabling it to work more quickly and for the dentist to continually adjust the level of sedation.
Is Sedation Dentistry Safe For kids?
Sedation for dental procedures on kids is safe if done right. Nitrous oxide, which is administered through inhalation, tends to be the safest for kids and almost all dentists can administer it. It helps the kid remain calm throughout the procedure. Oral sedation also works for children, but there is only a small percentage of pediatric dentists who are trained on how to administer it. A pediatric dentist has to know how to ensure that the administered dosage is right for the child’s age and weight.
Special Pediatric Dentistry Procedures
Inlays and Onlays
When more than half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay.
What are dental inlays and onlays?
Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay, which is similar to a dental filling, is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.
Traditionally, gold has been the material of choice for inlays and onlays. In recent years, however, porcelain has become increasingly popular due to its strength and color, which can potentially match the natural color of your teeth.
How are dental inlays and onlays applied?
Inlays and onlays require two appointments to complete the procedure. During the first visit, the filling being replaced or the damaged or decaying area of the tooth is removed, and the tooth is prepared for the inlay or onlay. To ensure proper fit and bite, an impression of the tooth is made by the dentist and sent to a lab for fabrication. The dentist will then apply a temporary sealant on the tooth and schedule the next appointment.
At the second appointment, the temporary sealant is removed. Fairfax and Springfield pediatric dentists, Dr. Zletni, Dr. Kato, and Dr. Mondragon will then make sure that the inlay or onlay fits correctly. If the fit is satisfactory, the inlay or onlay will be bonded to the tooth with a strong resin and polished to a smooth finish.
Considerations for inlays and onlays
Traditional fillings can reduce the strength of a natural tooth by up to 50 percent. As an alternative, inlays and onlays, which are bonded directly onto the tooth using special high-strength resins, can actually increase the strength of a tooth by up to 75 percent. As a result, they can last from 10 to 30 years. In some cases, where the damage to the tooth is not extensive enough to merit an entire crown, onlays can provide a very good alternative.
Cleft Lip and Palate
During early pregnancy, separate areas of a child’s face develop individually and then join together, including the left and right sides of the roof of the mouth and lips. However, if the sections don’t meet the result is a cleft. If the separation occurs in the upper lip, the child is said to have a cleft lip.
A completely formed lip is important not only for a normal facial appearance but also for sucking and to form certain sounds made during speech. A cleft lip is a condition that creates an opening in the upper lip between the mouth and nose. It looks as though there is a split in the lip. It can range from a slight notch in the colored portion of the lip to complete separation in one or both sides of the lip extending up and into the nose. A cleft on one side is called a unilateral cleft. If a cleft occurs on both sides, it is called a bilateral cleft.
A cleft in the gum may occur in association with a cleft lip. This may range from a small notch in the gum to a complete division of the gum into separate parts. A similar defect in the roof of the mouth is called a cleft palate.
The palate is the roof of your mouth. It is made of bone and muscle and is covered by a thin, wet skin that forms the covering inside the mouth. You can feel your own palate by running your tongue over the top of your mouth. Its purpose is to separate your nasal cavity from your mouth. The palate has an extremely important role during speech because when you talk it prevents air from blowing out of your nose instead of your mouth. The palate is also very important when eating; it prevents food and liquids from going up into the nose.
As in cleft lip, a cleft palate occurs in early pregnancy when separate areas of the face develop individually and do not join together properly. A cleft palate occurs when there is an opening in the roof of the mouth. The back of the palate is called the soft palate and the front is known as the hard palate. A cleft palate can range from just an opening at the back of the soft palate to a nearly complete separation of the roof of the mouth (soft and hard palate).
Sometimes a baby with a cleft palate may have a small chin and a few babies with this combination may have difficulties breathing easily. This condition may be called Pierre Robin sequence.
Since the lip and palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to be born with a cleft lip, palate or both. Cleft defects occur in about 1 out of every 800 babies.
Children born with one or both of these conditions usually need the skills of several professionals to manage the problems associated with the defect such as feeding, speech, hearing, and psychological development. In most cases, surgery is recommended. When surgery is done by an experienced, qualified oral and maxillofacial surgeon the results can be quite positive.
Cleft Lip Treatment
Cleft lip surgery is usually performed when the child is about ten years old. The goal of surgery is to close the separation, restore muscle function, and provide a normal shape to the mouth. The nostril deformity may be improved as a result of the procedure or may require a subsequent surgery.
Cleft Palate Treatment
A cleft palate is initially treated with surgery safely when the child is between 7 to 18 months old. This depends upon the individual child and his/her own situation. For example, if the child has other associated health problems, it is likely that the surgery will be delayed.
The major goals of surgery are to:
- Close the gap or hole between the roof of the mouth and the nose
- Reconnect the muscles that make the palate work
- Make the repaired palate long enough so that it can perform its function properly
There are many different techniques that surgeons will use to accomplish these goals. The choice of techniques may vary between surgeons and should be discussed between the parents and the surgeon prior to surgery.
The cleft hard palate is generally repaired between the ages of 8 and 12 when the cuspid teeth begin to develop. The procedure involves placement of bone from the hip into the bony defect, and closure of the communication from the nose to the gum tissue in three layers. It may also be performed in teenagers and adults as an individual procedure, or combined with corrective jaw surgery.
What Can Be Expected After The Surgery?
After the palate has been fixed children will immediately have an easier time swallowing food and liquids. However, in about one out of every five children that have the cleft palate repaired, a portion of the repair will split, causing a new hole to form between the nose and mouth. If small, this hole may result in only an occasional minor leakage of fluids into the nose. If large, however, it can cause significant eating problems, and most importantly, can even affect how the child speaks. This hole is referred to as a “fistula,” and may need further surgery to correct.