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Ask the Dentist: Children’s checkups and hygiene

Helping children be more comfortable at the dentist is a key to lifelong commitment to good dental hygiene
Dr. Mike Dolynchuk, owner of Caroline Dental Center and Dolynchuk Dental Center in Central Alberta.

Regular dental cleanings and check-ups for children are not just a matter of maintaining a bright smile; they are fundamental to their overall health and well-being. The importance of instilling good oral hygiene habits in children cannot be overstated, and these routine visits to the dentist play a crucial role in achieving that goal.

First and foremost, regular dental cleanings and check-ups help prevent oral health problems before they start. Even with meticulous brushing and flossing at home, plaque and tartar can build up in areas that are difficult to reach, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Children, with their developing motor skills and sometimes inconsistent oral hygiene routines, are particularly susceptible to these issues. A professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the risk of cavities and gum inflammation.

Dental check-ups allow for the early detection of any potential oral health issues. During these appointments, dentists can identify signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral conditions that may not be apparent to parents or children. Catching these problems early not only prevents them from worsening but also minimizes the need for more invasive and costly treatments down the road. For example, a small cavity can be easily filled during a routine visit, whereas if left untreated, it may progress to the point where a more extensive restoration, such as a crown or root canal, is necessary.

Beyond preventing and detecting oral health problems, regular dental visits also provide an opportunity for education and guidance. Dentists and dental hygienists can teach children proper brushing and flossing techniques, as well as the importance of a balanced diet for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. They can also address any concerns or questions that children or parents may have about oral hygiene practices, ensuring that families have the knowledge and tools they need to prioritize dental health at home.

Dental check-ups for children often include preventive treatments such as fluoride application and composite resins or sealants. Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay. Dental sealants are thin, protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of molars to prevent food particles and bacteria from getting trapped in the pits and fissures of the teeth. These treatments provide an extra layer of defense against cavities and are particularly beneficial for children who may be prone to tooth decay.

In addition to the immediate benefits for oral health, regular dental cleanings and check-ups can have long-term implications for overall health and quality of life. Poor oral health has been linked to a variety of systemic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections. By establishing good oral hygiene habits early in life and maintaining regular dental care into adulthood, children can reduce their risk of developing these and other health problems later on.

It's important to recognize that dental visits can also have psychological benefits for children. For many kids, going to the dentist can be a source of anxiety and fear. However, by attending regular check-ups from a young age, children become familiar with the dental environment and develop trust in their oral health care providers. This can help alleviate dental anxiety and foster a positive attitude toward dental care that lasts into adulthood.

By prioritizing dental care from a young age, parents can set their children up for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.