Give Your Children More Reasons to Smile with Good Dental HealthSally Bacchetta
Why do so many kids dislike brushing theirteeth? Because they think it's boring. It's repetitive. It takes them away from other activities. And because the positive results of brushing – bright smile, strong teeth, healthy gums – aren't a big deal to kids, and the consequences of not brushing – cavities, gingivitis, etc. – aren't immediately apparent. Let's face it, as detrimental as cavities are, they take a while to develop. A child (or adult) can skip one, two, ten or more tooth brushings and not really see any damage to their teeth. But rest assured the damage is being done.
Tooth decay is stealthy, like weight gain. It's not this cookie or that cookie that grows cavities and waistlines. It's all the cookies taken together over time, which is why it's so important for parents and caregivers to instill good oral hygiene habits in their children at a young age and to ensure that as your children grow, their habits grow with them. Working with a pediatric dentist is one of the best ways to promote good oral hygiene with your children and make sure their teeth and gums stay healthy throughout adulthood.
Although dentists are licensed to practice dentistry on both children and adults, pediatric dentistry is recognized as a specialized field, and pediatric dentists have the skills and personality to partner with families with infants through teens. Every pediatrician knows that children are not simply little adults, and dentists know that their mouths are not simply smaller versions of the adult mouth. Teeth and mouths grow and change a lot during early and middle childhood, and there are significant dental issues that are specific to children. For example, tooth decay in children is five times more common than asthma and more common in children than adults.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that a child be seen by a dentist as soon as his or her first tooth erupts, but no later than the first birthday. A dental visit at an early age is a "well baby checkup" for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can demonstrate how to clean the child's teeth properly and evaluate any adverse habits such as thumb sucking. However, some local pediatric dentists say that it is fine for parents to wait until a child has most of his or her baby teeth in, but no later than the second birthday to schedule a first visit. It is definitely wise to begin "shopping" for a pediatric dentist before you need one. Most practices are happy to provide guidance about when to plan a first visit.
Even children who begin early on the path to good oral hygiene may become less motivated to care for their teeth as they reach 6, 7 or 8 years of age. Most of us know that as children develop their independence and reasoning abilities, they question authority more often and more intensely. They are less willing to do something simply because they are told to do it; they want to know why and they want to evaluate for themselves if it makes sense. This is as true for oral hygiene as it is for cleaning their rooms! Many of our local pediatric dentists can help you arm yourself before any battles begin. Area Dentists Make their Offices Kid-Friendly
Dr. Randy Raetz (Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry), of Rochester, knows how to make trips to the dentist a positive experience for the whole family. He and his staff are experienced and likeable, and they know how to get reluctant little mouths to open wide for a thorough examination. Instead of simply lecturing children against sugary snacks, he teaches his patients that "Every time you eat, bacteria in your mouth, along with the food, produce an acid for at least 20 minutes! It is this acid that causes tooth decay." My daughter's response to this? "Really, Mom? That's cool! And gross!" Dr. Randy understands and embraces children's love for the gross out factor. It's much more fun for a kid to pretend to be a super hero chasing down acid and whisking it out of the mouth before it destroys Enamel City than to brush their teeth because Mom or Dad told them to. Dr. Randy's website features a Children's Corner with links to online games and resources geared to kids and oral health, which is a great way to incorporate oral hygiene into the family routine.
Dr. Cheryl Kelley (Diplomate, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry) of Rochester, also leverages the power of the computer to promote good oral hygiene habits. She has a section on her website where children can play dental-related games and download a dental visit picture book and tooth brushing chart. Dr. Kelley offers insight for parents and intrigue for patients with an interactive dental development chart on her website. Parents and children can click on an age range to see what growth and change is taking place in a child's mouth at that stage of development.
Dr. Salminen (Board Certified Diplomate of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), Dr. Skolnick (Board Certified Diplomate of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) and Dr. Mooney (Board Eligible Pediatric Dentist of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) at Webster Pediatric Dentistry have found that many children are more enthusiastic about dental visits if they first have an opportunity to explore the setting before sitting in the chair. The staff at Webster Pediatric Dentistry has designed a Dental Education Program that they offer as a community service to local preschools and early elementary grades. This program includes a visit from one of their dental hygienists, who comes to participating students’ classrooms to educate the children on the importance of good oral hygiene and nutrition. Each presentation includes a slide show, if age appropriate, followed by student involvement with games related to good nutrition and dental health.
Sally Bacchetta is a contributing writer to Rochester Area & Genesee Valley Parent Magazine. She is an adoptive parent who lives in Webster, NY.
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Genesee Valley Parent Magazine. Copyright 2011.