The back-to-school season is the best time to schedule an annual dental exam for your child. An exam can keep your child from losing valuable school time due to pain or infection from tooth decay or gum disease.

Despite the dental industry’s attempts to emphasize the importance of annual dental exams, more than 60% of school-age children don’t see a dentist annually. This contributes to the fact that dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours annually.

Emanuel Mizrahi, DDS, and the team at Forest Hills Orthodontic Associates in Forest Hills, New York, encourage parents to maintain a schedule of annual dental visits for their school-age children. For children undergoing orthodontic treatment, it’s especially important that they maintain good oral health so they can get the best possible results.

Save your child’s smile

An annual dental exam includes several procedures that can help keep your child’s teeth and gums healthy. Diagnostic tools, such as X-rays, can monitor your child’s teeth, gums, and tooth roots to detect risks or issues as early as possible.

Even if children follow the recommendation from the American Dental Association to brush for two minutes twice a day, they can still develop the initial stages of tooth decay. A professional cleaning during an annual exam is the best way to remove stubborn plaque in hard-to-reach areas. Without an annual exam, the damage may progress to a more advanced stage of decay.

If plaque and tartar remain on your child’s teeth, these substances can cause tooth decay and irritate their gums. With a professional cleaning, your child’s provider can remove the tartar buildup.

Protect your child’s gums

Annual dental exams can also help monitor gum recession, swelling, redness, bleeding, and firmness, all of which can provide clues to the health of your child’s gums. Your child may have the early stages of gum disease — called gingivitis — before you realize they have a problem.

Without proper treatment, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which is a condition where the gums recede from the teeth. If the condition progresses, it can lead to tooth loss. While poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease, hormonal changes that occur during puberty can increase the risk for gum disease.

Your child’s dentist can determine their risk for periodontal disease by using a periodontal probe ruler. This small ruler measures the pocket depths of the gaps between your child’s gums and their teeth. Gum disease is characterized by pocket depths deeper than 4 mm.

Correct your child’s bad habits

An annual dental exam can allow your dentist to identify habits that may be harming your child’s oral health. Your dentist may see evidence that your child is grinding their teeth, brushing too hard, chewing on ice, drinking too many sugary drinks, or using their teeth as tools.

Your dentist can educate you and your child on ways to correct the habits that may be causing damage. This may involve a demonstration of proper brushing techniques or creating a customized mouthguard to protect your child’s teeth from grinding while they sleep.

Get advanced warning on potential diseases

In some cases, a dental exam may uncover the presence of certain diseases at their earliest stages. For example, one of the early signs of leukemia is swollen gums, bleeding, and oral ulcerations.

To learn more about the benefits of annual dental exams for your child, book an appointment over the phone with Forest Hills Orthodontic Associates today.