Smile! The Tooth Company® Kids provides specialist dentistry for infants, kids, tweens, and teens.
Think about it for a second. How many adults relish the thought of a visit to the dentist? Hmmm—not too many raised hands, which begs the question, is this due to memories of the dreaded ‘Murder House’?
21st Century Dentistry For Kids
Fast-forward to the present time when paediatric dentistry looks at a visit to the dental chair through the eyes of a child. The specialised profession works with children covering a gamut of issues from examinations through fillings, space maintenance, extractions, and trauma.
The Tooth Company® Kids
Recognising the next generation’s oral health required a different stance The Tooth Company® Kids was born ‘to put a positive spin on children’s dentistry’ and provide specialised care for under-18s.
Dr Angel Babu
Dr Angel Babu—a specialist paediatric dentist—joined earlier this year. A paediatric dentist completes general dentistry before training for a further three years in paediatrics and clinical dentistry.
“Parents often ask me why they should look after baby teeth as they fall out,” says Angel. “I tell them it’s important to introduce good habits early and if, say, an abscess developed and required extraction it could cause serious orthodontic issues later.”
“The first tooth that usually erupts is a lower front tooth around six months. Ideally we would see a child for their initial dental visit by their first birthday. This gives us the opportunity to examine their teeth along with growth and development, give advice on prevention and diet, and provide oral hygiene instructions.”
Toddlers and Tooth Decay
“There are many New Zealand cases of caries (decay) in children before four years of age, and even at one to two years,” says Angel. “Formula, juice and prolonged breast milk can contribute.”
Tweens and Teenagers
“After about age nine or 10, parents don’t usually oversee tooth brushing and there are often dietary changes as kids gain more independence,” says Angel. “If good habits have been ingrained it’s good for oral health. Using myself as an example, I wasn’t allowed fizzy drinks and I still don’t drink them. Good habits can stick for life.”
The Dentist’s Chair
“A paediatric dentist specialises in behaviour management as well as clinical dentistry,” says Angel. “It’s normal for growing children to have some worries on a first visit. Some of them may have anxiety being in a new environment or it might just be who they are. I take notice of everything from the time they walk in. If they appear nervous, if they’re shy and hiding behind their parent, it’s all important.”
Assessment is the first step. “We go through slowly step-by-step,” says Angel. “If we bounce in as we do with adults we’ll lose their trust. I use a special language. The suction is Mr Thirsty or the vacuum cleaner, the drill is an electric toothbrush, nitrous oxide is happy gas, and we use an apparatus called the WAND instead of an injection—it actually is an injection but it doesn’t look like one so it minimises the fear factor.”
She also encourages the child to feel the equipment sometimes. “For example, if a child needs an extraction or has a loose tooth, I might say, ‘My fingers are too big so I’m going to use my robo finger to wiggle it’ and I show them what I’ll be using — if you tell them they’re usually happy.”
Conditions such as autism, Asperger’s, Down syndrome and some other situations require special care.“For instance, there’s a mild or severe spectrum with autism and asperger’s,” says Angel. “I use what we call a social story book with these children; I’ll show them a picture of the front door, the door to the room, the room itself, the chair, the mirror, perhaps a picture of an open mouth. We go through this process little by little. It’s call desensitisation and requires several visits”
Prevention Is Key
GA refers to general anaesthetic in paedeatric dentistry speak and The Tooth Company® offer monthly private GAs as there’s a four-six month waiting list in public hospitals. “In the meantime, your child might be in pain, can’t eat, is cutting school and/or running high fevers,” says Angel. “Prevention is so much better.”
The Adults Of Tomorrow
“If we teach children good habits at a young age they’ll carry them through life,” says Angel. “In so many ways how they are today is who they’ll be tomorrow.”