By: Sheila Gaudet
February is Children’s Dental Health Month. I realized this when I made trips to both the dentist and the orthodontist this week for my boys. It got me thinking about the importance of dental care for children and our own experiences.
When I was growing up, I don’t think anyone went to the dentist until your “permanent” teeth came in. The trip to the dentist was kind of scary, sitting in that big chair with the neat little toilet bowl sink. I called it that because there was a constant flow of water swirling around that you spit into, when instructed, and things just disappeared. Bright lights, scrapers and picks on a tray, the paper bib. I still remember my childhood dentist’s office as clear as day. I also remember that nasty minty paste they used for polishing and silver fillings. If you haven’t been to the dentist lately yourself….go. It isn’t like that anymore, I promise. Dental health has been tied to overall health, including cardiovascular disease risk, so go get a cleaning, you will be glad you did!
This post though is about my kids’ experiences. With my older son, he started seeing the dentist around age 5 and just went to the same dentist I saw. They were great about explaining everything they were doing and for years he looked forward to the visits so he could get stickers, a free toothbrush, AND get to suck water up out of a cup with the suction device. I’m sure they regretted letting him do that the first visit, because he never forgets anything fun.
The overall process is pretty much the same, but now the polishing paste comes in cooler flavors and staff seem to take a more kid-friendly approach to dental care. A dentist can also put sealant on permanent teeth when they first comes in that provides additional protection against cavities. In the course of our move between states, changing insurances, and finding a new dentist, we missed sealing a couple of my son’s 12 year molars and paid the price when he had his first small cavities filled recently. I was concerned about how he’d do with the process, but the dentist used a little numbing gel prior to injecting the novicaine, so he never even felt the shots. After that, it was all good and he was in and out in less than a half hour.
My younger son has more sensory issues and consequently occasional behavioral issues. When he was 2, he started going to a pediatric dentist where we lived. In this office, there are no dental chairs. The patients lay flat on an exam table while the dentist does the exam. The first appointment didn’t even include a real cleaning, but focused on explaining what was going on, counting teeth, talking about brushing, and a quick exam. Next visit was a cleaning with a choice of flavors. This low-stress approach was a huge success with my son. He now sees a regular dentist and does great. I attribute a lot of that to successful early visits.
We are also in the middle of our first orthodontic process this year. My older son was a committed thumb-sucker. He found it when he was 2 days old and hung on to it way beyond the typical age. It was great when he was a baby, because I never had to hunt for a pacifier, but you also can’t get rid of your child’s thumb either. We tried the nasty-tasting stuff, a special device you strap on to prevent suction (he managed to nibble away at enough of it to make it work for him ), rewards and other things to stop it. We were remarkably unsuccessful. Thus, we ended up at the orthodontist.
Braces are much, much better and less painful than when I went through my 3 years, 2 months and 5 day stint. He didn’t have to have teeth pulled (I had 4 pulled, plus my wisdom teeth removed). His bands do not cover his teeth so that he looks like that metal-mouth character from the James Bond movie. They are small brackets on most teeth, with small bands on some molars. Each adjustment takes about 15 minutes, he gets to pick the color of the elastic bands that are attached to each bracket and they change depending on his mood. His pain has been minimal compared to what I remember. His orthodontist has a Facebook page and posts “braces friendly” recipes, success stories and tips, and runs contests. We still have several months to go, but it has been a successful process so far.
When trying to find a dental professional there are several things to consider. For many of us, our insurance coverage may factor into our choices. Read your benefits and make sure you understand them. We were fortunate to have some orthodontic coverage, which saved us about 20% of the bill. Preventative cleanings are often covered at 100%. If you need to find someone, ask family and friends for referrals. We found our orthodontist through a referral from one of Anthony’s teammates, and then the orthodontist referred us to a dentist. Your child’s pediatrician may also have some recommendations for you of professionals in your area.
When you call the office, have questions ready. Our orthodontist has early morning appointments, which allow us to often go and still be to school on time or very shortly after. That’s a great plus for school-aged kids. If you have a child that may have particular sensitivities or anxiety issues, ask the office about their experience with those issues and how they handle it. Many offices are now well-equipped and prepared for kids who need a little extra time or explanation. Letting the staff know ahead of time helps them out too. They may have a particular staff person who has a way with kids or may allow a little more time in the appointment.
Practice good dental habits at home. My kids have used timers when brushing, cool toothbrushes and cups, sticker charts, etc. to try and improve brushing habits. I also learned to check periodically even when they get older. I have had to remind mine to brush their teeth long after that habit should have been automatic (in my opinion).
We love our local dentist and orthodontist!
www.southeastortho.com They have offices in Raynham and Brockton, with a great rewards program and patient-friend appointment schedules. They are also on Facebook under Southeast Orthodontics. They have financing available and we are in and out for most appointments in about 15 minutes.
www.choicedentalma.com is the website for Dr. Choi, our dentist in Raynham. They have been great with our whole family and excellent to work with regarding insurance, scheduling, and special issues. There is a small kids play area in the waiting room and tv in the exam rooms too which can help “distract” some kids.