Like all age groups, 14 to 21-year-olds should visit their dental providers at least twice a year for routine dental exams and cleanings. It is common for a routine dental exam to consist of check-up x-rays, gum health assessment, and an exam done by the dental provider to diagnose any cavities. Depending on the results of your oral health check-up, you may have to see your dental provider more often.
At the routine dental exam, your dental provider or doctor may recommend applying fluoride varnish onto your child’s teeth. Application of the fluoride varnish is a quick and painless. It involves the provider using a small brush to paint it onto the tooth surfaces. Fluoride is a natural mineral, and it helps make the tooth enamel stronger, to protect against future cavities.
Some insurances have an age limit to providing coverage for the fluoride varnish treatment, you can ask your dental provider or directly call your insurance to check if they’ll cover this treatment for your child.
By age fourteen, your child has hopefully had a few sealants put onto their adult back teeth (molars and premolars). A sealant is a white-filling material that is placed into the grooves of the adult teeth to prevent future cavities from forming on the chewing surfaces of the tooth. Your dental provider might recommend this service for all the back teeth. If your child has not had sealants placed on their adult teeth, it is never too late to place them, so long the tooth is healthy and cavity-free. Ask your dental provider if your child qualifies for sealants.
From the ages of around 17-21, third molars, most commonly known as wisdom teeth, begin to develop and emerge. Watch for signs of pain/discomfort from emerging or misaligned wisdom teeth and consult a dental provider if needed. It is recommended to have these teeth removed at a younger age because the procedure will be less painful, and the healing will be faster.
Gum Health Assessment
At around 16 years old, the dental professional will begin to perform a yearly gum health assessment. After the gum health assessment, the dental professional will recommend the type of cleaning best suited for you. With today’s dental treatment advancements, there are several different optional procedures the patient can accept (e.g. laser treatment, antimicrobials placed under the gums, etc.).
The two most commonly offered cleanings are a regular dental cleaning (prophylaxis) or a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing). Know all your options and consult your provider as needed.
Types of Dental Cleanings
The regular dental cleaning (prophylaxis) is recommended for patients who have healthy gums and minimal tartar build up above the gums. The deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) is recommended for patients who have gums that may bleed when brushing or flossing and a moderate buildup of tartar above and below the gums.
After having a deep cleaning, it is important to note that more frequent cleanings are needed to maintain the gums and supporting structures of the mouth in good health. Your dental provider may suggest having dental cleanings done in an interval of every 3-5 months.
The Need for Braces
Your child may need braces if you identify:
- Large spaces in between your child’s teeth and/or
- Their teeth turn inwards or outwards
- Crowding of the teeth
Other signs to look out for: your child avoids brushing and flossing because it is “hard,” for them to do.
While braces do improve the appearance of a smile, they also help to keep a healthier smile because straight teeth are easier to brush and floss.
Care by Dental Professionals Other than a Dentist
A dental provider or dental professional is a licensed individual that can provide dental services to you. A dental provider is not limited to a Dentist. There are many other types of dental providers. You might receive a preventive dental service from a Registered Dental Hygienist, a Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice, or a Dentist.
Services providers by these professionals are also not limited to a dental clinic. You might be able to receive services in your community at a school, a nursing home or a mobile dental van. A few preventive treatments include: a dental cleaning, fluoride varnish application, placement of sealants, and placement of a temporary filling. Restorative treatments can only be provided by a Dentist in a clinical or a community setting; these treatments include: permanent cavity fillings, tooth extractions, root canal therapies, etc.
Finding a Dental Provider
If your child has Medi-Cal, they also have coverage for dental care called Denti-Cal. Denti-Cal covers a full range of dental services up to age 19. If you have not found a dental home for your child yet, a complete list of Denti-Cal providers in Orange County can be found online. If you have Medi-Cal and are an adult, Denti-Cal has also restored benefits for many dental services that you can now avail of. Click on the Find a Dentist for more information and assistance.