Tiny tots in the dentist's chair among changes in pediatric dentistry

May 18, 2012 By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter
Tiny tots in the dentist's chair among changes in pediatric dentistry
Options for kids now include sealants and early removal of wisdom teeth.

(HealthDay) -- If you've been to the dentist with your children recently, you may have noticed that things have changed since you were a kid.

Many dental offices are more kid-friendly these days, offering books and toys to pass the time in the waiting room and maybe even TV or videos to watch while they're getting dental work.

But, there have also been changes in the actual practice of children's dentistry. You probably never got as a child, or had topical fluoride treatments. If you had your wisdom teeth removed, more than likely it was because they were causing a problem, but today those teeth may come out sooner to reduce the risk for complications.

Here's a sampling of what's new in :

Dental Sealants

Many teeth have rough surfaces that are hard to clean. When applied to these surfaces, a dental sealant makes the pitted and grooved area of a tooth smooth and easy to clean.

"Back teeth have a biting surface and crevices that are hard to clean," said Dr. Larry Kronenberg, a affiliated with Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. "Depending on the depth of the crevice, bacteria and food can get lodged in the tooth and cause cavities."

"If your child has shallow crevices, sealants probably aren't indicated," he said. "But if you've ever given your child a pretzel and later saw that the food was still stuck on the teeth, your child could benefit from sealants."

Sealants are easy to apply. The dentist brushes them onto the teeth, and the sealant bonds with the tooth's enamel, according to the (ADA). Sometimes a curing light is used to help the sealants dry faster.

Fluoride Treatments

"Ingested fluoride works on teeth that haven't yet come into the mouth, those that haven't erupted yet, but it has no effect on the teeth already in the mouth," Kronenberg said. "A fluoride treatment using a gel or varnish incorporates the fluoride into the surface outer layer of the tooth. It has to be repeated because it gets worn off."

Fluoride is applied using a cotton swab or brush, or it's placed in a tray that the child bites down on and then holds in the mouth for several minutes. Once a fluoride treatment is done, there should be no eating or drinking for 30 minutes to allow the fluoride to soak into the teeth, according to the ADA.

Kronenberg explained that the difference between the fluoride contained in toothpaste and fluoride treatments is the concentration. The in toothpaste is much less concentrated, he noted.

Wisdom Teeth

Should they stay or should they go? That's the question kids and parents face.

Kronenberg said that most dentists start to look at a kid's wisdom teeth at about age 16 or 17 to see if there's room for the teeth to come in properly, without causing problems. If a tooth looks like it won't come in properly, some dentists now suggest removing these teeth sooner rather than later to make the removal easier. The less chance the tooth has to develop, the shallower the roots will be, explained Kronenberg.

But not everyone is practicing early removal.

"There's no cut-and-dried protocol saying that all wisdom teeth have to be extracted," said Dr. Joshua Verona from the division of dental medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "If they don't affect function or appearance, we just leave them in. We only extract wisdom teeth when they're symptomatic."

Parents should discuss with their family dentist the risks and benefits associated with leaving in or taking them out.

Reducing Anxiety

Kronenberg said that pediatric dentists are seeing patients at a younger and younger age. Some recommend that well-dental visits, much like well-child visits at the pediatrician, start at age 1 so that dentists can discuss the importance of diet and oral hygiene with the parents. But more importantly, he said, early visits "help start a relationship between the child and the dentist at an early age, and generally if you've built a positive relationship, children are more willing to accept necessary treatments in the future."

Explore further: Most people brush their teeth in the wrong way

More information: The Nemours Foundation KidsHealth website has more on good oral hygiene.

A companion article recounts changes in pediatric dentistry from one generation to the next.

Related Stories

Most people brush their teeth in the wrong way

May 15, 2012
Almost all Swedes brush their teeth, yet only one in ten does it in a way that effectively prevents tooth decay. Now researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, are eager to teach Swedes how to brush ...

New 'massage method' quadruples protection against tooth decay

March 26, 2012
Do you really want to avoid cavities in your teeth? Try massaging them with a high-fluoride toothpaste after lunch.

Programs may prevent tooth decay in tots

June 15, 2011
A toddler’s tiny teeth are destined to fall out in later years as their permanent pearly whites grow in. But for some children, especially those from low-income families, cavities and poor oral health lead to complicated ...

Recommended for you

Understanding genetic synergy in cleft palate

July 19, 2017
Like all of the individual elements of fetal development, palate growth is a marvel of nature. In part of this process, ledges of tissue on the sides of the face grow downwards on each side of the tongue, then upward, fusing ...

Use of prefabricated blood vessels may revolutionize root canals

June 12, 2017
While root canals are effective in saving a tooth that has become infected or decayed, this age-old procedure may cause teeth to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time. Now researchers at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, ...

Recreational cannabis, used often, increases risk of gum disease

May 24, 2017
Columbia University dental researchers have found that frequent recreational use of cannabis—including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil—increases the risk of gum disease.

Grape seed extract could extend life of resin fillings

May 9, 2017
A natural compound found in grape seed extract could be used to strengthen dentin—the tissue beneath a tooth's enamel—and increase the life of resin fillings, according to new research at the University of Illinois at ...

Crooked bite may indicate early life stress

April 13, 2017
Research has repeatedly confirmed that the first 1,000 days after conception strongly influence a person's life expectancy and susceptibility to chronic diseases. The primary marker used to identify early life stress is low ...

New study identifies successful method to reduce dental implant failure

March 24, 2017
According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), 15 million Americans have crown or bridge replacements and three million have dental implants—with this latter number rising by 500,000 a year. The AAID estimates ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kaasinees
not rated yet May 18, 2012
Are we supposed to digest concentrated fluoride now?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.