By the time
your child is 6 months old, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your
child having future dental problems. This may include a dental exam of the
mother and her dental history, because the condition of her teeth can often
predict possible problems with her child's teeth. If the doctor thinks your
child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist by his or
her first birthday or 6 months after the first
primary teeth appear, whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule
regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.
Experts recommend that your child's dental care start at 12 months of
age. Babies with dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental
problem should be seen by a children's (pediatric) dentist right away. If these
dental problems are not limited to the surfaces of the teeth, your baby should
also be seen by a children's doctor (pediatrician)
or your family doctor.
For more information, see the topics Basic
Dental Care, Mouth and Dental Injuries, and Mouth Problems, Noninjury.
Adults, teens, and school-age children
See your dentist once or twice a year. Your dentist will examine your
teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay,
gum disease, and other health problems.
dental hygienist will begin to clean your teeth by
scraping hard mineral buildup (tartar) off your teeth with a small metal tool.
Then the hygienist will floss your teeth, use a polishing compound, and apply
fluoride. Cleanings usually aren't painful.
Sometimes your dentist will want to take
X-rays. The X-rays take only a few minutes.
Your dentist or technician will have you put
on a heavy apron to shield your body from X-rays. Everyone else in the room
will either wear a protective apron or step behind a protective
Your dentist or technician will have you bite down on a
small piece of plastic. This will help align your teeth properly for the
machine. Your dentist or technician will repeat this process several times to
get pictures of all your teeth.
If needed, your dentist will put a
sealant on the chewing surface of your back teeth to
help prevent cavities. Sealants keep food and bacteria from getting stuck in
the rough chewing surfaces or grooves of your teeth, and they protect your
you are prone to infections, you may need to take antibiotics before you have
any dental work. Talk to your dentist or doctor if you have questions about the need for antibiotics. You may need to take antibiotics if you:
Have heart valve problems, which put you at
Had recent major
surgeries or have man-made body parts, such as an artificial hip or heart
Your dentist or hygienist may ask you about the foods you eat. What
you eat and whether you get enough vitamins and minerals can affect your dental
If you have active tooth decay or gum disease, your dentist will
talk to you about changing your brushing or flossing habits. In severe cases,
he or she may recommend antibiotics or other dental treatments. If your teeth
and gums appear to be healthy, your dentist will probably recommend that you
continue your usual brushing and flossing routine.
After reviewing all of the research, the USPSTF has not recommended for or against routine
screening of adults for
For more information, see the topics Basic Dental Care, Tooth Decay, and
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.