Visiting a dentist early and often in childhood can set up a lifetime of healthy results. Genetics dictates physical characteristics from missing teeth to misalignment of the jaw, and cosmetic dentistry plays an important role in making a significant, positive difference as a patient grows. While cosmetic dentistry among adults is on the rise, some procedures can be sidestepped or minimized if parents and dentists partner to adopt an intense focus on early childhood oral hygiene and regular, compassionate and child-centered care.
Every dentist brings a different approach to treating patients, and making the experience pleasant and generally pain-free is the goal. I put a lot of emphasis on educating the children that come to see me about their dental health. To be effective, I make an extra effort to approach them in a non-threatening manner, which makes them more receptive to the information. When parents bring in their toddlers for their first examination, I examine them in the reception room of my office, looking at their teeth without the big chair and build-up most of us remember from our childhood trips to the dentist. I sit on the floor and play with them. We have a conversation, and I talk about good brushing and how it is important to clean teeth after every meal. I occasionally read and use my book A Bug named Yuk to help create a visual understanding of bacteria in the mouth and the importance of brushing the teeth after meals. During my 20-plus years as a dentist, I have noticed that this approach has benefited my patients over the long-run. Good early oral hygiene prevents worsening problems as children become teenagers and adults.
Dentistry, in general, is the maintenance of healthy teeth, regardless of a patient’s age. When it comes to pediatric dentistry, parents play an important role in their child’s dental health. The most effective pediatric dentistry focuses directly on the child to encourage his or her buy-in to rid disease-causing bacteria. I educate parents while I talk with their children about how to properly care for baby teeth before adult teeth emerge. This includes discussing the role proper nutrition plays in promoting healthy teeth — an important factor to avoid traumatic dentist visits that may have a lasting emotional effect on the child.
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