Pacifiers, braces and other stuff. Q&A with Dr. Tony Saito, Pediatric Dentist!
One of our good friends at Worcester Central Kids Calendar, Dr. Tony Saito, Pediatric Dentist located in West Boylston, offered to answer some questions for us about initiating dental hygiene practices with kids. When do you start, how do you choose a dentist and how can you get your kids to floss?!
Dr. Tony to the rescue. Read all about it!
#1 How is a pediatric dentist different from a family dentist?
Pediatric Dentists are specialists in dentistry for infants, children and adolescents. After completing four years of dental school, an additional two or three years of training are required to become a Pediatric Dentist.
We focus on prevention, early detection and treatment of dental diseases. Our number one priority is the children; making them feel relaxed and comfortable during their dental visits. The office is specially decorated for children and is geared towards their needs. We have a unique communication style and understanding of children of all ages. We give them the attention and time they deserve in order to achieve a fun positive experience at the dentist.
#2 At what age should I start bringing my child to the dentist?
We recommend parents bring their child in for an exam by their first birthday. This gets them acclimated to our office and establishes a dental home. Once they are comfortable, we start cleanings every six months. Some children feel comfortable and are ready as soon as they walk through the door; others may take a few visits to reach a level of comfort and trust for the cleanings.
The earlier their first visit, the better the chance of preventing dental health issues. We want to educate parents on how to take care of their children’s teeth. More importantly, ways to prevent possible issues like nursing or bottle decay.
#3 Baby teeth are going to fall out eventually. Is it *that* important to take good care of them?
Yes, the health of baby teeth can affect the development of adult teeth. It’s important that primary teeth are kept in place until they are lost naturally. The primary teeth help your child chew properly, are involved in speech/development and guide the eruption of permanent teeth by holding space.
If your child has a cavity that is large on a baby tooth, kids will feel pain the same way a large cavity on an adult tooth would hurt. We stress with parents that it is so important to start good habits of flossing and brushing daily at an early age.
#4 My son is extremely anxious about going to the dentist. Do you have ways to help little ones feel more comfortable?
We take the time to introduce the children to every tool we use for the cleaning and exam.The process is done in kid friendly terms, for example, “Mr. Thirsty” for our suction straw. We never push a child to do something they are not comfortable doing. We go at the child’s pace in order for them to have a positive experience. We encourage parents to discuss dental visits in a positive way prior to their first visit. We never use terms that are scary for children, such as needle, drill or shots. We try to keep the visit light, inviting and fun.
#5 I have three kids—does your office make it possible to schedule appointments all together after school gets out?
We have an “Under the Sea” theme hygiene bay in our office that has three chairs. It’s a perfect way to have three children be seen together at the same time. Parents appreciate how all three kids are done at the same time. After school appointments are difficult but not impossible to schedule because of the popularity. Other scheduling options that parents choose for their children may be school half days, conference days or holidays.
#6 My three year old still uses a pacifier. Am I setting myself up for a lifetime of orthodontia bills?
Thumb, finger and pacifier habits affect the teeth essentially in the same way. However a pacifier habit is often easier to break. Most children stop these habits on their own between two and four years of age. The resulting effect of these habits are the tipping out of the upper front teeth and the pushing in of the lower front teeth. Your Pediatric Dentist will have recommendations to help change the behavior of your child’s habit or recommend a mouth appliance that interferes with these habits.
#7 I’ve seen braces on kids from 8 years old to 16 years old. What’s the right age for braces?
There is not one right age, it is different for everyone. Some children have braces on at a younger age due to overcrowding, while others are able to wait till all their permanent teeth come in.
A consultation with an orthodontist is always the best way to get answers for your child’s needs. An ideal time for braces is between ten and fourteen years of age.
#8 And lastly, how do I get my kids to floss?!
Start teaching them at a young age, help them to learn the skills and educate them on the importance of flossing. Lead by example, show them that you floss and brush daily and make it a family effort.
Most importantly, make it fun! Have a flossing chart in the bathroom. It’s a great reminder for your children to floss every night. Have your children use stickers to count how many days they floss in a row. Using floss sticks may be easier for them to use when starting out rather than a long piece of floss. It is also acceptable to help your children with flossing and brushing if you think they could use the guidance.