Parents, dentists team up for kids’ dental health
by 8-18 Media
Some kids are afraid of going to the dentist because they may have a cavity and they may need their teeth drilled. But, they need to know it is a good thing to go to the dentist because dentists will help keep their teeth clean and healthy.
According to Dr. Brian Anderson, who practices at the West End Dental Clinic in Ishpeming, it’s important for parents to work with dentists to make sure kids’ fears are eased and that kids want to visit the dentist. Forget getting their teeth cleaned; forget having healthy gums. Most kids enjoy going to the dentist because most dentists hand out rewards after appointments. Alexis Torres, eleven, of Ishpeming, has always been eager to go to the dentist.
“I get my teeth cleaned, and when I was younger I got to choose from this big huge chest of toys if I didn’t have any cavities,” she said.
Alexis’ sister Abby, eight, also enjoys the rewards of a good checkup.
“I like getting special stuff like toys right after getting my (teeth) done,” she said.
On the other hand, some parts of going to the dentist aren’t as enjoyable. Arielle Richardson, eleven, of Ishpeming, explains her particular dislikes.
“Having cavities filled because they have to put that thing in your mouth to close up the cavities—the piece of the machine that goes on to your tooth. I hate that,” Richardson said.
With fingers and dental instruments put into smaller children’s mouths, it’s natural that dentists are bitten every now and then. Alexis Torres said she has done it.
“I bit the dentist,” she said. “I have a tickle spot in my mouth and I was laughing and I bit him.”
Anderson said he has not been bitten by a child…yet.
“I’ve been bitten by an adult, but I’ve never been bitten by a kid…so, so far…so good,” he said. “You’ve probably jinxed me now and I’ll get bitten tomorrow.”
Anderson is pleased with how well kids in general are taking care of their teeth.
“For the most part, I think kids are doing a pretty good job and parents are doing a pretty good job making sure the kids are brushing and flossing everyday,” he said.
Anderson said he occasionally comes across some kids who aren’t doing a great job and he tries to encourage them as best he can to do as well as they can.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. The agency reports that more than half of children aged five to nine have had at least one filling and seventy-eight percent of seventeen-year-olds have experienced tooth decay. Additionally, by age seventeen, more than seven percent of children have lost at least one permanent tooth to decay.
Are there major differences between kids’ teeth and adult teeth? Anderson feels, for the most part, kids’ teeth are just mini adult teeth.
“Sometimes you have to be a little more careful on kids teeth,” he said. “Sometimes we can get closer to the nerves if we’re not careful. Typically, they’re like working on little, mini-adult teeth.”
Richardson feels it is important to go to the dentist regularly to keep your teeth clean and healthy.
“Yes, because it takes care of cavities and my chipped tooth,” she said.
Ashley Longtine, eleven, of Ishpeming, feels that going to the dentist is a great way to keep your teeth healthy.
“You learn if you have cavities or not,” she said.
Because of genes, luck or good habits, some kids’ teeth just look better than others. Aiden Barry, eleven, of Ishpeming, feels that there is nothing wrong with the way his teeth look.
“I like my teeth because I have no cavities,” Barry said.
For Richardson, the answer is no.
“I have shark teeth,” she said. “I’m getting braces to get that fixed. I’m getting them probably next summer.”
Like Richardson, Longtine is not happy with her teeth.
“No, because they are very crooked and I get teased for them,” she said.
Crooked teeth are one of the most common problems that needs to be addressed, Anderson said.
“For the most part, the most complex thing that we typically see with kids is the need for braces and corrections and things like that to get them back into good alignment and working properly again,” Anderson said.
He said some dentists perform some orthodontic procedures, but for the most part he refers kids to an orthodontist. Anderson says the old standbys are still the best route to go for taking care of your teeth.
“The best thing to do is, if you’re brushing, to brush at least twice a day––in the morning after you have breakfast and before you go to bed,” he said. “Brushing and flossing…those are the biggies. If you do those really well, those help a lot. Also, we try to encourage kids to limit juices and pops and lots of sugary stuff.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that if the drinking water in a family’s home is not fluoridated, parents should talk to their dentist about the best ways to protect children’s teeth. Sometimes dentists recommend dental sealants. The agency also points out that protective headgear and mouth guards are essential for protecting teeth while playing sports.
According to Anderson, good early dental care is worthwhile to guard against regrets later in life.
“Your teeth are pretty important and there are lots of people ‘parents age’ and ‘grandparents age’ that wish they would have done a lot better job taking care of their teeth when they were little,” Anderson said.
It is important for kids to visit the dentist regularly, but they are not likely to ask to go. So, It is up to the parents, dentists and dental hygienists to ease kids’ fears about going to the dentist.
After all, going to the dentist is only as fun as you make it. A trip to the toy box helps, too.
Editor’s note: This story was written by Tia Platteborze, 14, Lauren Lasko, 14, Lorissa Juntti, 13, Rachael Loman, 12, and Mariel Morton 11, with contributions by Shayna Schmeltzer, 13, Jessica Penhale, 12, Alexis Dodge, 12, Sydney Dorow, 12, and Izzy Hill, 11.