Summer vacation can often feel like a blur of activities such as summer camp, swim parties, days at the beach, and more. While school is the last thing on most kids’ minds, as a parent, you want to ensure your child is ready for the coming school year.
A trip to the dentist should be at the top of the list of to-dos this summer to make sure your child’s oral health is on point before diving into the fall semester. No matter how busy your summer gets, setting a dentist appointment for your child while they are off from school can help them avoid missing class time for appointments and possibly even preventable dental emergencies that can occur at the most inconvenient times.
Dental Cleaning for Kids
Children are at risk of developing cavities just like adults. Preventing the development of tooth decay in your kid’s teeth involves consistent oral hygiene. Pediatric dental cleanings are a part of the process of keeping your child's teeth healthy. As children begin to take ownership of their oral hygiene routines, they may not spend enough time on every tooth or even miss a spot while brushing, allowing plaque to accumulate, leading to tooth decay.
A dentist can easily see these areas in your child’s mouth that get overlooked. During a dental cleaning, your trusted pediatric dentist will thoroughly clean your child’s teeth, removing any hardened plaque that harbors bacteria.
Why Routine Dental Cleanings are Important
The purpose of a dental cleaning is to remove stains and hardened plaque called calculus, or tartar, that your toothbrush cannot clear away. Keeping your child’s regular appointments with the dentist means this calculus buildup is routinely removed from your child’s teeth so that cavities do not develop and their gums stay healthy.
What age should kids start getting their teeth cleaned?
Parents often want to know what age is best for their child’s first dental cleaning. According to the American Dental Association, parents should schedule an appointment for their children when their first teeth begin to erupt or before their first birthday. While this may seem young to be sitting in a dental chair, even babies can develop cavities. Going to the dentist at an early age can also help a child get accustomed to sitting in a dentist's chair and opening their mouth for the dentist to look inside.
You may wonder, "How do dentists clean a toddler's teeth?" Pediatric dentists often keep appointments short, close to 30 minutes, and allow your child to sit in your lap if they are unsure of what is happening. This allows you to comfort and reassure them throughout the dental visit.
How many times a year should you have your teeth cleaned?
Regularly scheduled cleanings routinely remove the harmful tartar from your teeth that can lead to cavities and give your child’s dentist a chance to check for other issues in your child’s mouth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up every six months, or twice yearly, for children.
Along with tooth decay, gum disease causes damage to your child’s mouth if not addressed. If gum disease is left untreated, it will worsen, and your dentist may recommend teeth scaling to restore their gums to good health. Teeth scaling removes tartar from below the gum line.
With routine appointments, there is only a short six-month window for issues like cavities or gum disease to develop before a dentist identifies them and takes swift action to reverse their course.
Consider Braces for Back to School
If your child requires braces to straighten out their teeth, scheduling an appointment with the orthodontist during the summer is a great idea. Several appointments can be needed before the braces are put on your child’s teeth. Summer break gives you time to squeeze in these visits to the orthodontist so your child will not need to miss school for multiple appointments.
Orthodontic treatment can also be a bit of an adjustment for some children. After braces are initially installed on your child’s teeth, their mouths are often very sore. Plus, they must learn how to eat and talk around the metal in their mouths. Being able to adjust to these changes in the comfort of their home, instead of having to immediately go to class the next day, makes getting braces during the summer break a preferred route.
Reinforcing Good Hygiene Habits
Children need their parents to guide them in how to clean and care for their teeth properly. Oral hygiene habits firmly established in childhood ensure that your children will have good dental hygiene routines as adults.
Children and adults alike need to brush their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. Brushing your teeth removes any food debris or sticky plaque from your teeth so that cavities or gum disease do not develop. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush is recommended. Help your child pick out a new toothbrush every three to four months or when the bristles start to look worn.
Flossing is an essential and often neglected part of good oral hygiene. Starting your children off flossing daily helps remove food and plaque from between their teeth. To make the process easier, instead of traditional flossers, you can buy dental flossers with little handles for your child to hold as they easily floss between each tooth.
Place a mirror low enough for your child to easily see what they are doing. This also promotes independence in your child so they can take ownership of their dental hygiene. Demonstrating how to use the flossers in front of your children can help your child understand how to gently fit the floss in between their teeth.
Tips for Helping Kids Clean Their Teeth
A few ways to reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene with your children is to:
- Talk about oral health: Talk about the importance of keeping their teeth clean. Compare the importance of washing their hands or cleaning their bodies to keeping their mouths and teeth clean.
- Brush together: Kids love doing things with their parents. Brushing your teeth with your child not only shows them that you value good oral hygiene, but it also gives you an opportunity to observe your child to make sure they are thorough.
- Listen to a song while your child brushes their teeth: Finding a good song that is about two minutes long is a great way to entertain and encourage your child to brush long enough to clean their teeth well.
- Show pictures of what happens when oral health is neglected: Showing your child what a cavity looks like and that poor oral hygiene results in tooth decay can spur children on to make sure they brush their teeth.
- Choose the right pediatric dentist: Keeping the recommended dentist appointment every six months can be more enjoyable for your child if you choose a dentist specializing in pediatric dentistry. Often, a dentist who treats children regularly will have games, puzzles, or even toys in the waiting room to help put children at ease while they wait. The staff and dentist will be accustomed to speaking with children and explaining what happens next so the child feels comfortable throughout the process.
Find a Pediatric Dentist Near You
If you need a pediatric dentist, check out Smile Generation's Find a Dentist tool. Scheduling an appointment for your child while they are out of school will keep their mouths healthy before heading back to class in the fall.
- Al-Ghutaimel, Hayat, Hisham Riba,Salem Al-Kahtani, and Saad Al-Duhaimi, "Common Periodontal Diseases of Children and Adolescents." NIH, 26 June 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4098882/
- "Frequently Asked Questions." AAPD, 27 June 2023, https://www.aapd.org/resources/parent/faq/
- "Kid-Tested, Dentist-Approved: 6 Teeth Cleaning Tips from Dentist Parents." Mouth Healthy, 27 June 2023, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/life-stages/babies-and-kids/teeth-cleaning-tips-from-dentist-parents
- "Scaling and Root Planing." Mouth Healthy, 27 June 2023, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/all-topics-a-z/scaling-and-root-planing
- Sim, Adriana, "How Many Appointments Do You Need Before Getting Braces?" Braces Know How, 24 May 2023, https://bracesknowhow.com/how-many-appointments-before-getting-braces/
- "Your Baby's First Dental Visit." Mouth Healthy, 27 June 2023, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/life-stages/babies-and-kids/first-dental-visit-for-baby
Smile Generation blog articles are reviewed by a licensed dental professional before publishing. However, we present this information for educational purposes only with the intent to promote readers’ understanding of oral health and oral healthcare treatment options and technology. We do not intend for our blog content to substitute for professional dental care and clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment planning provided by a licensed dental professional. Smile Generation always recommends seeking the advice of a dentist, physician, or other licensed healthcare professional for a dental or medical condition or treatment.