A Step-by-Step Guide to Restorative Dental Care

Setting up the Dentist Visit: Making an Appointment

Setting up a dentist visit for your child, especially if it's for a cavity treatment, requires some careful consideration and preparation. Here’s how to proceed with making the appointment and ensuring that both you and your child are ready for the visit.

Find the Right Kids Dentist:

Ask for Recommendations: Start by asking family, friends, or your pediatrician for recommendations. Personal experiences can often lead you to a dentist who is skilled at treating children.

Check Credentials: Ensure that the dentist you consider is licensed and board-certified. You can check their credentials on the dental board website for your state or country.

Consider Atmosphere: Choose a dental office that is child-friendly. An office that caters to children will have a waiting area with toys or activities to keep children occupied and help reduce anxiety.

What to Tell Your Child about the Upcoming Visit:

Be Honest but Positive: Use simple words to explain to your child that the dentist is going to check their teeth and help them stay healthy. Avoid using words that might cause unnecessary fear such as "pain," "shot," or "drill."

Role Play: Children often respond well to playing pretend. Role-playing the dentist visit can help familiarize them with what to expect.

Read Books or Watch Videos: There are many children's books and shows about going to the dentist. Reading a book or watching a video together can help them visualize and understand the process.

Offer Reassurance: Let your child know that you'll be there with them, and the dentist's job is to help them and take care of their teeth.

Preparing for the Appointment:

Stay Calm: Children pick up on their parents' anxieties. If you are nervous about the visit, try to stay calm and positive when discussing it or when you are in the dental office.

Discuss Feelings: Talk to your child about their feelings regarding the dentist visit. Acknowledge their fears and reassure them that it's normal to feel this way.

Plan a Reward: Having a small reward to look forward to after the dentist visit can serve as positive reinforcement. This could be as simple as a sticker or a little extra time at the park.

Prepare for Questions: Your child may have questions about what will happen at the dentist. Be ready to answer them in a straightforward and comforting manner.

Set a Good Example: If possible, let your child see you having a positive attitude toward your own dental care.

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At the Dentist's Office: The Examination

At the dentist's office, understanding the steps involved in a dental exam can help both you and your child feel more at ease, especially when dealing with a cavity. Here’s what typically happens:

What Happens During a Dental Exam for a Cavity?

Medical History Review: The visit often begins with a review of your child’s medical history.

Visual Examination: The dentist will start with a visual examination of your child's teeth.

Probing: Healthy enamel will resist pressure, while decayed enamel will be softer. The dentist is also looking for pits or areas that may indicate the beginning of a cavity.

Dental X-rays: If a cavity is not clearly visible or if the dentist wants to confirm their diagnosis, they may take dental X-rays. X-rays can show decay developing in the hard-to-see areas between teeth and underneath existing fillings, as well as provide a view of the roots and bone surrounding the teeth.

Dental X-rays in Spotting Cavities

Dental X-rays are a crucial tool in modern dentistry. They can detect problems that are not visible during a regular dental examination, such as:

  • Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
  • Infections in the dental pulp
  • Cysts or abscesses
  • Developmental abnormalities
  • Some types of tumors

X-rays help the dentist plan for the appropriate treatment by providing detailed images of the tooth's structure and the surrounding bone.

Communicating with the Dentist and Asking Questions

It’s essential to maintain an open line of communication with your child's dentist:

Ask for Clarification: If the dentist uses terminology you’re not familiar with, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation in simple terms.

Discuss Treatment Options: If a cavity is confirmed, talk about the treatment options, their benefits, and any potential risks or side effects.

Understanding the Procedure: For any recommended procedure, ask the dentist to explain the steps involved so you and your child can know what to expect.

Post-Treatment Care: Inquire about the aftercare following the treatment and if there are any restrictions or special instructions to follow.

Preventive Advice: Ask the dentist for advice on preventing future cavities and the best oral care practices for your child.

Financial and Insurance Information: Understand the costs, insurance coverage, and payment options, if applicable.

What Does Restorative Care Involve?

Fillings: When a cavity is small to moderate, a filling is used to restore the tooth. The decayed material is removed, and a filling material such as composite resin, amalgam, or glass ionomer is used to fill the space and reshape the tooth.

Crowns: For a larger cavity or a tooth that is more significantly damaged, a crown may be necessary. A crown is a covering that encases the entire tooth surface, restoring its shape, size, and function.

Deciding the Best Course of Action for Your Child's Cavity:

The dentist will recommend the best treatment based on the size of the cavity and its location, as well as your child's overall dental health and age. .

Preparing Your Child for the Procedure:

Explain the Process Simply: Tell your child that the dentist will use special tools to clean their tooth and keep it strong. Avoid going into too much detail about the procedure to prevent anxiety.

Normalize the Sensations: Let your child know that they might feel some pressure or vibration, but they shouldn't feel pain. The dentist will likely use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth.

Familiarize the Sounds: Some children might be afraid of the noise made by the dental drill. You can explain that the dentist's tools might make a humming or buzzing sound, much like some of their toys or a musical instrument.

Going Through the Restoration Process

Arrival: Arrive a little early to help your child get acclimated and not feel rushed.

Anesthetic: If an anesthetic is used, the dentist will apply a numbing gel before injecting the local anesthetic.

The Procedure:

  • The dentist will remove decayed tooth material using a drill or another dental instrument.
  • The tooth will be cleaned of bacteria and debris.
  • For a filling, the dentist will fill the cavity with the chosen material and shape it to look like a natural tooth.
  • If a crown is being placed, the dentist will prepare the tooth for a crown.  Then, the dentist will fit the appropriate size crown and cement it on.

Comforting Your Child

Hold your child's hand if needed and provide reassurance with your presence. Some dentists may allow for distractions such as music or videos, which can help keep your child calm.


  • The dentist will provide instructions on caring for the numb area, which might involve avoiding eating until the numbness wears off to prevent biting the cheek or tongue.
  • Teach your child to avoid chewing on hard foods with the restored tooth for a day or two.
  • Good oral hygiene practices should be continued with gentle brushing and flossing.


Ensure that you understand if a follow-up visit is necessary, especially if further treatments are planned.

Caring for Your Child's Tooth Post-Treatment

After your child has undergone a restorative dental procedure, proper care is essential for healing. Here's how to manage their recovery:

Manage Pain or Discomfort:

  • Follow the dentist's instructions for any over-the-counter pain medication.
  • A cold compress applied to the cheek can help reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • If your child’s lips or cheeks are numb from the anesthetic, supervise them to ensure they do not bite or scratch the area.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid:

  • Stay away from hot beverages and foods until the numbness wears off.
  • Soft foods are recommended for the first few hours after treatment. Think applesauce, yogurt, and smoothies (without using a straw, as the sucking motion can cause discomfort).
  • Avoid chewy, sticky, or hard foods for a couple of days, especially if your child has had a silver filling as it takes time to set fully.
  • Keep acidic drinks and sugary snacks to a minimum as they can contribute to sensitivity and further decay.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene:

  • Encourage gentle brushing around the treated area. A soft-bristled toothbrush is best.
  • If flossing is advised by the dentist, do so with care to avoid dislodging a new filling or damaging the gums.
  • Saltwater rinses can be soothing and help with healing. Mix one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and have your child rinse gently, making sure not to swallow the solution.

Preventing Future Cavities

To help prevent future cavities, instilling a routine of good oral care and regular dental check-ups is crucial.

Regular Dental Check-ups:

  • Schedule regular dental visits for cleanings and exams, usually every six months or as recommended by your dentist.
  • These visits are essential for catching potential problems early and reinforcing the importance of oral hygiene.

Brushing and Flossing:

  • Teach your child to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and to floss once a day. Make it fun by using a timer or a song to ensure they brush for two minutes.
  • Children often need help with brushing and flossing until they have the motor skills to do it effectively, usually around age 6 or 7.

Diet Tips:

  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks. When sugar is consumed, try to have it with meals rather than as a standalone snack.
  • Encourage water intake, especially after eating, to help wash away sugars and food particles.
  • Provide a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products.
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