Why do my children need a regular cleaning?
When working with younger patients, a “cleaning” may have different meaning than for adults. We employ several different methods of cleaning based on your child’s age, stage of development, and dental needs. A “toothbrush prophylaxis” involves manually removing plaque from the surfaces of your child’s teeth with a toothbrush. For very young or anxious children, this may be the most appropriate tool for cleaning teeth. First, very young children typically have soft plaque that is easily removed with a toothbrush. Also, this type of visit is less traumatic and welcomes your child to our office in a gentle and familiar manner. This may help to build your child’s confidence at our office and facilitate a more in-depth cleaning in the future.
In addition to brushing with a toothbrush, we may also complete a “rubber cup prophylaxis”, or what you may refer to as polishing. Polishing is appropriate as children get older because it is a better tool for removing plaque that has been present for a longer time and has become more adherent to the tooth surface. An abrasive is also used to help remove surface stains that may develop over time. For very cooperative younger children, polishing may be introduced just to familiarize them with what will happen in the future.
Finally, scaling is the most advanced cleaning technique that we use for children. Particularly in older children, plaque may become so adherent that it is impossible to remove with polishing. Calculus deposits begin as plaque that has calcified over time and formed a very strong bond to the tooth surface. Scaling helps to scrape and remove these deposits and to prevent irritation to the gum tissue. Once this buildup has been removed, it will be easier for your child to keep these areas clean at home using a toothbrush and floss.
Following your child’s cleaning, we typically apply fluoride varnish. Cleaning your child’s teeth may remove the most superficial layer of enamel, which contains the highest levels of fluoride. Applying fluoride varnish after your child’s cleaning helps to strengthen the new enamel surface and prevent tooth decay. Fluoride may also help to reduce sensitivity.
An additional benefit of regular cleaning visits is that we help to identify areas for improvement. Brushing becomes habitual, and children (as well as adults) tend to brush the same areas well, and other areas need improvement. We can help you and your child to identify the areas that are consistentlybeing missed and help improve brushing habits. For younger children who are still learning how to brush, we always try to include a brushing technique lesson. Until children are able to brush effectively, we encourage parents to help at least once per day, preferably before bedtime.
Your child’s cleaning is customized based on your child’s particular needs. If you would like to discuss your child’s needs with Dr. Richard Facko, we always allow and in fact we encourage parent engagement. We look forward to seeing you soon!