At A Safari Dental, we offer a full range of pediatric dental services to ensure that all of our young patients receive comprehensive dental care. In addition to conducting initial examinations to assess a child’s oral health, parents can also take their children to A Safari Dental for regular cleanings, during which Dr. Brandon Larkin and his team will polish and remove any plaque from the surface of teeth. We also conduct fluoride treatments during cleaning appointments to help protect a child’s enamel and prevent the development of cavities.
Additionally, we use digital X-ray technology to help screen for dental diseases, as well as monitor the position and development of incoming teeth. We care deeply about our young patients’ safety, which is why we rely on digital x-ray technology that emits 90% less radiation than typical film digital x-ray machines. Furthermore, to help better protect against cavity development, we can also administer easy-application sealants that don’t require any numbing.
We recommend that children have a recall examination six months after their initial examination to continue proactive monitoring and diagnoses, as well as conduct another cleaning.
A Safari Dental can also accommodate children in need of custom mouth guards to protect against sports injuries.
As a children’s dentist, our doctor is trained to diagnose disease. The examination includes screenings for oral pathology, an evaluation of growth and development, an orthodontic needs assessment, a gum disease evaluation, a visual examination for tooth decay, as well as an evaluation of any current restorations, concerns or complaints from the patient/parent. The dentist will also discuss risk factors for disease, instructions for oral hygiene and information related to nutritional counseling.
Also known as Dental Prophylaxis, this process removes plaque, a substance formed in the mouth from food, saliva and bacteria. If present, the cleaning also removes calculus, which is plaque that has hardened on the tooth surface and requires professional instrumentation to remove. In addition, the cleaning helps polish the teeth to make them smooth and remove stains from the teeth. With a cooperative patient, a special dental cup and gritty toothpaste are used to achieve these goals.
Following the cleaning and flossing procedures, fluoride will be applied to your child’s teeth to help maintain the enamel in its strongest condition. The foods we eat and the things we drink can dissolve some of the mineral content out of the enamel, which is the first stage of a three-part process in creating a cavity in a tooth. The fluoride reinforces the tooth structure and can actually reverse a small cavity that is present in only the enamel. Fluoride varnish is the treatment of choice in our practice because its effects on the enamel last up to 36 hours. Varnish is a sticky fluoride application that remains on the tooth throughout the day and is gradually absorbed into the enamel. Because it actually binds to the tooth, the patient can eat or drink immediately following this fluoride application.
X-rays are an important way to diagnose dental disease as they allow the dentist to see portions of the mouth that the eye cannot see. These items include decay in between the teeth, as well as tumors or cysts present in the bone or surrounding undeveloped teeth. The radiographs also determine the presence or absence of permanent teeth and their placement. Modern dental radiographs are very safe and the state-of-the-art digital equipment A Safari Dental uses requires 90% less radiation than traditional film X-rays.
Sealants are a tough, plastic material designed to stick to the enamel of the tooth in the grooves where food collects. The tooth is prepared with a special cleanser that is quickly applied then rinsed with water. The sealant material is brushed onto the surface of the tooth and dried with a special curing light to make it hard. The process is very similar to applying nail polish to a fingernail. During this procedure, the teeth do not need to be numb. Sealants reduce the risk of cavities forming in these grooves, which can be difficult to keep clean. These sealants do not last forever and will need to be replaced as they wear away from the tooth surface. Not all teeth are good candidates for sealants and the doctors will determine which teeth could receive the most benefit from the application.
When dental decay has invaded a tooth, various procedures can be used to treat the disease. Some of the procedures include:
- White Fillings – A composite (white) filling is a tooth-colored material used to fill small cavities in teeth. These fillings match the color of tooth structure and are very attractive. They require the most minimal tooth preparation, so less healthy tooth structure is removed. These fillings are the material of choice in this practice when the decayed tooth meets the proper criteria for their placement. These fillings do require more diligent home care (diet and hygiene, particularly flossing) than amalgam fillings (silver) or stainless steel crowns (silver caps). Many insurance companies do not pay for the increased cost of these fillings and the parent will be responsible for an increased expense.
- Stainless Steel Crowns – A silver crown covers the tooth completely and restores it to its original shape and size. Crowns are incredibly strong and provide the necessary protection for any baby tooth that needs root canal therapy. Additionally, when cavities cover more than one-third of the tooth structure or a patient is very young, the crown is the restorative material of choice. The disadvantages of this material are the silver color and the irritation these crowns sometimes cause around the gum line of the covered teeth. These are currently not available in white.
- Pulpotomy – When decay reaches the nerve of a baby tooth, the infected portion of the nerve needs to be removed. This procedure is called a pulpotomy and is best described as a “mini” root canal treatment. This procedure is performed to help prevent the tooth from abscessing, which would require additional therapy or extraction of the tooth. This procedure is much quicker than root canal therapy performed on permanent teeth and will be completed during the same appointment a stainless steel crown is placed on the tooth.
- Space Maintainer – When baby teeth in the back of the mouth are lost to decay or abscess more than a few months before they should be lost naturally, the space for the permanent tooth will be lost to the adjacent teeth unless an appliance is placed to keep the space open. This space maintainer is a combination of steel wires and rings that fit appropriate teeth in the area of the lost tooth to maintain the space the permanent tooth will need. This appliance will be fit and cemented into your child’s mouth when necessary and removed as the permanent teeth erupt into position. This appliance requires strict attention to avoid sticky foods and may need to be replaced several times until your child no longer needs it.
6 MONTH RECALL EXAM
Regular return visits to the office are vitally important for keeping healthy teeth. Dental decay progresses very rapidly in primary (baby) teeth. The sooner a problem can be diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated and the less invasive the treatment will need to be. Our goal is to catch as many problems in the earliest stage as possible so that the solution is easier for the patient to tolerate. A new examination will be completed in this visit, as well as cleaning, flossing, nutrition counseling, oral hygiene instruction and fluoride application.
SPORTS INJURY PROTECTION
Athletic mouth guards can help prevent serious dental injuries if your child participates in contact sports. Custom mouth guards can be created after your child loses all of their primary teeth, and these mouth guards provide the best fit. When primary teeth still exist in your child’s mouth, various options can be used and can be discussed at your examination appointment.