Creating a healthy mouth for kids

Prevention is the key to a healthy smile.
Creating a healthy mouth for kids

Child receives dental screening.

by Hector Martinez, D.D.S.

Regular dental examinations are important to prevent, diagnose and treat oral health problems. Tooth decay can be painful if left untreated, and painful teeth will affect a child’s performance in school.

A full dental exam includes X-rays, a cleaning, fluoride treatment and a thorough look through the mouth. For children experiencing extreme decay, the school also offers Silver Diamine Flouride, a 58-percent solution that stops decay in its tracks.

But prevention is really the key to a healthy smile. I encourage parents to find a dental home for their children beginning at age 1, when teeth begin to erupt.

Parents should also consider sealants for children between ages 6 and 10. Sealants go into the deep grooves of molars, the areas where cavities are likely to form. They can last several years, and are ideal for decay prevention.

If more advanced treatment is needed and parents are concerned about their children becoming anxious during treatment, a dentist can administer nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.

Parents should understand that nitrous oxide is very safe – it does not put a child to sleep, but it will relax them so the dental professional can complete the work necessary. We place a small mask over the child’s nose, and then administer oxygen into the mask at the end of the dental procedure to help the child quickly come back to a normal state.

The UofL School of Dentistry also offers laser technology that makes many procedures less complicated for patients. As water and light meet, a combustion occurs allowing a laser beam to cut gums or teeth, with minimal bleeding that is immediately cauterized.

Unlike the typical scalpel and stitches for many procedures, the laser involves little to no pain so anesthesia is not necessary. The technology can be used to cut soft tissue such as the tissue under the tongue for a child experiencing what is commonly known as tongue-tied. The laser also can be used to remove part of the gum prior to orthodontic treatment in order to place brackets. In addition, the dentist can use a laser to restore a tooth without a drill – this includes a tooth with a cavity.

We are one of a few offices in Kentucky with this type of water-laser technology, and it is available to use with any child who becomes a patient of the UofL School of Dentistry.

To schedule an appointment for a child at the School of Dentistry, call 502-852-5642.