5 Ways Parents Help Fearful Kids Love the Dentist (And 2 that make fear worse!)

Dental appointments can frighten patients of all ages, but for children the experience can seem especially traumatic. Many kids associate medical offices with getting shots, so they might be on edge the moment they step through the door. All too often even a routine cleaning can turn into a tantrum, despite the best efforts of parents and dental staff. But there are some things parents can do to help their child feel more comfortable.


1. Talk it Up

Parent Support

Preparing your child for what’s to come can help them understand that there’s nothing to fear. If they’ve had a cleaning before, remind them that they just had their teeth brushed and checked and that it’s easy if you sit still. Remind them about what they enjoyed from their visit, like the toys in the waiting room, or the prize at the end. Always keep it honest (while highlighting the positive)! Similar strategies can apply when a child comes in for the first time. Check out this guide for prepping littles for their first check-up.

2. Keep Calm

Keep Calm

This may be easier said than done, but several studies indicate that parent’s concern worsens dental fear in children. Try to talk positively about the dentist before your appointment, and keep a cool head while your little one is in the chair. Hovering, fidgeting, and even behaving in an overly soothing or consoling way can trigger fear in children as they pick up on the non-verbal cues that you’re not comfortable here.

3. Set the Example

flossing

Let your little one know that everyone needs to go to the dentist to keep their teeth healthy. Schedule your own regular cleaning, and (if possible) bring your child with you to your appointment to show them how easy it is.

4. Bring them Regularly

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Most anxiety stems from fear of the unknown. Having regular cleanings can help children feel comfortable with the process of dental visits. Besides which, having regular cleanings can help prevent cavities, so kids don’t have to worry about things like fillings and shots.

5. Find a Kid-Friendly Provider

Open Bay

 

Pediatric Dentists, like the providers at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry, have specialized training in dealing with young patients, so they can often offer an easier experience for their patients. Additionally, Pediatric Dental offices provide kid-friendly activities, like movies, games and toys, to keep children occupied during their visit.


 

When kids won’t cooperate for their visit, well-meaning parents sometimes react in ways that make the fear worse, but this can be avoided by remembering these tips.

1. Don’t Shout

Shout

Having an uncooperative child at the dentist can be extremely frustrating and embarrassing, but when parents lose their tempers during the visit, children just get even more scared. Now they think they’re in trouble, so they’re crying for two reasons! Lots of situations call for a good loud lecture, but being afraid of the dentist isn’t one of them.

2. Don’t Give Up

white-flag

When kids throw a giant tantrum at the dentist, sometimes throwing in the towel seems like the best option. But the more you make the effort, the better time they will have. Keep seeing the dentist to give kids a sense of familiarity with the process. Eventually most children will grow out of their fear with continued visits.


We all want what’s best for our kids, and that includes a healthy smile and a trauma-free dental experience. While, some children have a harder time than others, and there’s no magic bullet to make every child feel okay, having a consistent, positive, kid-oriented dental home can help the process go much smoother.

For more strategies on helping your child’s dental health, call 801-489-1301 to speak with our reception staff today.

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Sorting out Silver Diamine Fluoride

Lately the dental staff at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry have gotten more and more questions surrounding a new alternative treatment for dental decay: Silver Diamine Fluoride.

Silver Diamine Fluoride, or SDF, is a topical antimicrobial and remineralisation compound, which can be used to treat dental cavities. It has been used outside of the US for decades, but was only recently approved by the FDA for use domestically.  Silver Diamine Fluoride, or SDF, has been studied thoroughly and shown to be effective, when used appropriately by trained clinicians.dentalxray

However, many people have misconceptions about the purpose and use of SDF. Though it shows immense promise as a treatment alternative, it also has limitations, and might not be the magic bullet some make it out to be.

Here’s everything you need to know about Silver Diamine Fluoride:

What it does:

SDF kills cavity causing bacteria, strengthens surrounding healthy enamel, reduces sensitivity, and slows or prevents the spread of decay.

What it cannot do:

Repair existing decay. Only dental restorations, such as fillings and crowns, can actually repair decay.

Who can benefit:

Children who are too young for certain types of sedation (generally ages 0-3 may be too young for some sedation methods), can use SDF to arrest further decay until they are old enough to restore their teeth with fillings or crowns. It may also help children with cavities on baby teeth, if those cavities can go without restoration until the teeth fall out naturally.

Who it’s not for:

Adults and older children who can use other methods to restore teeth and prevent further decay. If older patients experience dental anxiety, we recommend laughing gas, Valium or sedation to assist with treatment.

Furthermore, if you are allergic to silver, heavy metals, or fluoride, you should never use SDF.

Side Effects:

Silver Diamine Fluoride on child's front teeth, demonstrating the black stain
These anterior teeth have been treated with silver diamine fluoride. Photo credit http://www.oralhealthgroup.com

Silver Diamine Fluoride will stain decayed areas a dark brown or black color as seen below, but it will not permanently discolor healthy teeth.

SDF will also stain any clothes or skin it comes in contact with. Stains on skin will go away on their own within a few days or weeks, but cannot be washed out.

 

Conclusion

Silver Diamine Fluoride can provide a valid treatment alternative for some patients. While it may slow down or stop the progression of cavities for a time, it cannot take the place of traditional dental restorations, such as fillings and crowns. If you have further questions about this, or any other oral health questions, be sure to ask your dentist or give us a call at 801-489-1301.

What to Do in an Emergency?

So your five year old fell off his scooter at top speed and chipped his two front teeth. After the initial shock of the fall wears off, he seems OK, but the rough edges of his broken tooth irritate his tongue and lips. And to top it off, it’s 7:00 PM and South Valley Pediatric Dentistry is closed. What do you do? Do you call the after hours line? Is this an emergency? And how urgent is it? scooter edited

Surprisingly, A broken tooth may not be as urgent as people think. However, a simple white nodule on the gums could spell real trouble. So what dental conditions need immediate attention from your dentist and what can wait for a while? There’s no hard and fast rule, but by following these general guidelines, you can feel confident in dealing with dental accidents and emergencies.

1. Toothache or Mouth Pain

Pain is the most crucial indicator in whether to treat a dental condition as an emergency or to take care of it over time, during regular office hours. If your child is inconsolable, complaining of or indicating severe pain in the mouth, or unable to sleep or eat properly, we’d recommend calling our office, or after hours line as soon as possible.

With this degree of pain we will try to squeeze you into our schedule same-day, or the next day at the latest, if you call during office hours. If you call after hours, our on-call dentist can talk you through home treatment or come into the office, based on his professional opinion of the situation. Please consider, however, that after-hour emergency treatment is more expensive than treatment during business hours, and may incur an immediate out of pocket expense. Toothache

We recommend over the counter pain relievers like children’s Motrin to help control dental pain until you can get into the office. Make sure to use medications according to the instructions, and/or follow any doctor’s guidelines on use, especially for children. Other home remedies, such as rinsing an effected area with salt water, and/or applying cold or warm compresses can also help, especially with pain due to injury, infection and/or swelling.

On the other hand, if a child feels OK, they are likely fine to hold off on scheduling until convenient for you.

2. Broken teeth

Once again, pain is your indicator here. If a broken tooth goes deep enough, it can cause significant pain, so you’ll want to see your dentist as soon as you can. However, shallow chips or breaks that don’t cause pain, can wait. We will want to take an x-ray to make sure the injury hasn’t damaged the root of the tooth or unexposed adult teeth, but that can wait a few days, provided you keep an eye out for discoloration or infection.

Chipped teeth can be fixed with simple composite fillings (or sometimes just by smoothing out the rough edges) and often don’t require immediate attention, unless accompanied by severe pain.

3.  Infection/Abscess

Signs of infection include pain, swelling, heat surrounding the area of infection, or fever. If your child has a white, yellow or clear bump on the gum above a tooth, this could indicate an abscess, a potentially dangerous condition.

Abscess
Example of an abscessed baby tooth. Photo Credit: http://www.studiodentaire.com

Sometimes mouth ulcers (canker sores) are confused for abscess. Though they sometimes look similar, you can usually tell an abscess by its raised, rounded, puss filled appearance, while cold sores are usually flat or sunken in open sores.

If you suspect abscess or dental infection, keep the area clean with salt water rinses, use over the counter pain reliever to address any pain or fever, and call our office to schedule as soon as possible. If you suspect an abscess has burst, call our after hours line or come by the office.

4. Displaced adult tooth

If your child has an accident that knocks out or shifts a permanent tooth, come see us immediately. Handle the tooth by the top (crown), not the root portion. Avoid cleaning or handling the tooth unnecessarily. Try to reinsert it in its socket. Have the child hold the tooth in place by biting on a clean gauze or cloth. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, place the tooth in a cup of milk. See the dentist immediately! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.

5. Other injuries to the mouth

Toothache2For bruises on lips, gums or cheeks, ice packs and pain reliever can help with pain and swelling until the area heals. If you suspect a broken jaw, go immediately to the nearest emergency room or urgent care.

For bleeding in or around the mouth, apply gentle, yet firm pressure with a clean cloth or gauze. If bleeding persists, go to nearest emergency room or urgent care as stitches may be required.

Feel free to Call

If you’re not sure what to do, or how serious a dental condition may turn out to be, always feel free to call us during regular office hours and do not hesitate to contact our on-call dentist if necessary. Our dental team will happily assist you with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s mouth. Reach out any time at 801-489-1301.

Dental Sealants: What Parents Need to Know

As your child’s molars come in, your dentist may recommend sealants as a preventative measure against future tooth decay. At South Valley Pediatric Dentistry we suggest this simple, pain-free procedure as soon as your child’s six-year old molars erupt and again as twelve-year molars arrive. Sealants have been proven safe and effective in preventing tooth decay, but parents often have questions about their use, application and effectiveness.

dentalxray

Why do my children need sealants?

Molars have deep ridges in their chewing surfaces, where food particles can stick. Furthermore, many patients find it difficult to brush back molars thoroughly enough to keep these deep ridges clean. Sealants help keep food away from the enamel of your tooth, preventing cavity-causing bacteria from growing where the sealant is applied. The American Dental Association recommends applying sealants to the teeth of all children and adolescents.

How are sealants applied?

dental-sealants-exampleA dental assistant will apply your child’s sealants. The assistant will first clean and dry the tooth and apply a layer of gel which allows the sealant to stick. After a few seconds, the assistant will rinse the tooth, dry it thoroughly and apply a layer of plastic. Lastly, the assistant will use a UV light to make the sealant very hard.

Will my child need sedation for sealants?

Sealants don’t require local anesthetic like fillings do, so many children are able to handle getting them without any trouble. Some patients with anxiety or special needs may not be able to sit still while sealants are applied. However, we only sedate children who need extensive dental restoration (fillings and crowns). Though sealants are an important preventive measure, and we use the safest sedation practices possible, the risks of sedation simply out-way the benefits of getting them done. However, if your child requires sedation for other dental work, we will usually also apply sealants while they’re asleep.

How much do sealants cost?

Sealant cost will vary by dental practice. Our office charges $39 per sealant. Most dental insurance policies cover them, at least in part, and many cover 100% of sealants. What’s more, paying for sealants can save you money, since cavities are much pricier to fix.

How effective are sealants?

Studies have shown sealants result in an 80% reduction in dental cavities. Sealants Work

How safe are sealants?

Very safe! Some parents worry about the amount of BPA in sealants but according to the American Dental Association, children are exposed to higher levels of BPA from food, drink, sunscreen and shampoo than dental sealants.

Sealants are SafeSealants are safer and easier to apply than fillings, crowns and other dental restorations because dentists don’t have to numb the mouth, which carries some minor risks.

 

How have sealants worked for your family? Tell us more in the comments below or on Facebook!

Why Pediatric Dentistry?

When I was a kid I saw my parent’s general dentist along with the rest of my family. I had never heard of Pediatric Dentistry, and did not understand the need for it, since a general dental office can clean anyone’s teeth. As an avid tooth brusher and a relatively cooperative child, a general dentist was able to treat my teeth without too much trouble. However, when I began working at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry I learned that many children (and adults with special needs) require a trained hand to prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. Additionally many parents choose Pediatric Dentists because of their specific training and expertise in treating childhood dental problems, because of the fun child-oriented office environment, and/or  because they offer alternative treatment options which you won’t find in general dentistry.

Specialized Knowledge

Pediatric Dentists like Dr. Chamberlain and Dr. Bower undergo an additional two years of specialized training after dental school, so they have more knowledge about childhood dental problems than a general dentist. Due to this specialized knowledge, Pediatric Dentists can answer all of your questions and concerns regarding the mouth of your child. They can address everything from thumb sucking, to braces, to wisdom teeth and beyond. Your pediatric dentist knows everything you need to care for your child’s mouth at each stage of growing, so don’t be afraid to ask what’s on your mind; they’ve heard every unusual question there is! Additionally, their training gives them the unique perspective necessary to treat individual children in the most ethical and stress-free way possible. In fact, because of their specialized knowledge, general dentists often refer younger patients to pediatric dentists when they have cavities, tooth decay or other dental problems.

Kid-Friendly Environment

Pediatric Dental offices treat children exclusively, and are equipped with toys, entertainment and decoration to help children feel at ease. Many patients tell us they love coming to our office because of our colorful fish tanks, television sets, and toys – including our train table, picture books, ipads and Nintendo games. These fun features of our office provide children with activities for the waiting room, as well as distraction during the less fun parts of dental appointments. When I first saw the waiting room at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry, I realized what I had missed by going to a general dentist as a child.

Pediatric Dentists and their assistants also have experience and training working with children of all ages, so they can help anyone from – toddler to teen and beyond. We see children in all the various stages of growing up and tailor the experience to your child’s comfort level. Our staff is also completely used to handling a range of positive and negative reactions to dental appointments. Some children don’t like cleanings, and they may get nervous for exams. Every day we help upset children get through their dental visits. No matter the comfort level of your child, we can and will help them get the dental care they need.

Additional Treatment Options:

Pediatric Dentists have the ability to treat patients who need additional care and attention, including patients with high anxiety, patients with special needs, and/or very young patients, because they are trained in various sedation techniques. Without sedation, some children and patients with special needs could not have dental work done, which can lead to infection, severe tooth decay and loss of teeth. The dentists at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry generally use one of three sedation options depending on the extent of dental work to be done, the age of the child, any special needs the child may have (such as a learning disability), the child’s behavioral history, and any other pertinent factors. For more information on sedation appointments, read this post which describes the three sedation options we use in our office, or give us a call at 801-489-1310.

Sedation Appointments Demystified

At South Valley Pediatric dentistry, we know that cavities and fillings can be frightening for children, so we do everything in our power to make children feel comfortable and calm while they have dental treatment done. Sometimes this means one of our dentists will propose a treatment plan that includes sedation in one form or another. In children with high anxiety, very young children, or patients with special needs, sedation appointments can help them get dental work done which they otherwise would not be able to sit still for. However, parents sometimes find that sedation appointments can feel unfamiliar and frightening. We strive to provide all the information necessary to help parents feel at ease about these various treatment options, and the benefits and risks of each type of sedation.

Our dentists may suggest one of three types of sedation depending on the age, comfort level, special needs, and behavioral history of your child:

  1. Oral Sedation: Dr. Chamberlain and Dr. Bower often recommend Oral Sedation for children who fight their initial dental cleanings and examinations. During an Oral Sedation, children swallow medicine which calms them down and makes them very sleepy. Sometimes Oral Sedation will put the child completely to sleep, but often they will stay slightly alert, which allows the dentist to communicate with them during treatment. This mild form of sedation generally works well for children who need a little help to make the visit less scary.
  2. In-Office IV Sedation: If necessary, the dentist may instead advise an IV sedation to be done in our office. During an IV sedation an anesthesiologist comes to our office. He or she will administer medicine through a small shot, which puts the child completely asleep. To help the child ignore this unpleasant poke, a dental assistant will encourage the child to pick out a prize while the anesthesiologist gives the medicine. Often patients are not even aware that they’ve had a shot. Once the child is completely asleep, the anesthesiologist monitors breathing and heart rate while the dentist completes all necessary dental work.
  3. Hospital Visit: Occasionally, very young children (especially those younger than three), patients with special needs, or children who need extensive dental treatment may go to the hospital for a sedation. The hospital has doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists available in case of emergency in addition to your usual dentist and dental assistants, who will preform all dental work under IV sedation.

All three forms of sedation have the added benefit of allowing the child to partially or completely forget the experience, which means they won’t have continuing fear of their dentist or dental office. Not every child requires sedation, but for those who do, having sedation options available can make dental work go much more smoothly. For more information about the various types of sedations we offer, call our office at 801-489-1301. Our staff is happy to address any questions or concerns regarding sedation appointments.

Crash Course in Cavities

At South Valley Pediatric Dentistry we get a lot of questions about cavities. As the most common type of dental decay, cavities (and the fillings that fix them) can concern parents and children alike, but familiarizing yourself with what cavities are, where they come from and how to prevent and treat them can help. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers about cavities.

What even is a cavity?
Cavities are areas where bacteria has eaten away at the tooth and created a hole in the tooth’s surface. At first, cavities are invisible to an untrained eye, and they may not hurt, so patients are often unaware of the damage until cavities have gotten big enough to see and/or cause pain. Early detection and treatment can help patients avoid more expensive dental work, prevent dental pain and save damaged teeth, which is why we encourage regular dental check-ups. Dentists have the training and expertise to identify cavities before they cause serious long-term problems.

How did my child get a cavity?
Cavities form when bacteria in the mouth feed off of sugar (or other carbohydrates) and produce acid. Over time, the acid wears away parts of the tooth, forming cavities. Risk factors for cavities include failing to brush or floss regularly, missing parts of the mouth (such as the hard-to-reach back molars), and eating excessive sticky, sugary foods. Weak enamel (the protective outer layer of a tooth) can also contribute to frequent cavities, which sometimes means you get cavities regardless of good dental hygiene. When weak enamel or other genetic or health-related factors increase the risk of cavities, proper preventative measures (such as semiannual cleanings) and early treatment of cavities can help protect the existing teeth.

How can I keep my child from getting cavities?
Good dental hygiene at home is your first defense against cavities. Thoroughly brush your child’s teeth with a soft bristle brush twice a day. You don’t need to brush very hard to remove the food particles that cause cavities. In fact, scrubbing too hard can wear away your child’s enamel and cause additional dental problems. However, you do need to make sure you brush everywhere, especially the back teeth, where the majority of chewing occurs. In addition to brushing, flossing between teeth can prevent cavities in those areas where the toothbrush doesn’t reach, so most dentists recommend flossing at least once a day.

Regularly visiting your dentist can also help prevent cavities, which is why the American Dental Association recommends a professional cleaning and exam every six months. Not only will the dentist identify any cavities which have already begun to form, but the assistants or hygienists will also deep-clean your child’s teeth and sometimes apply a fluoride varnish, which makes teeth more resistant to cavities and decay.

How do you treat cavities?
A number of different treatment options exist to fix cavities. Your dentist will recommend the treatment he thinks is best for your particular case. The most common treatments used for cavities are fillings. Fillings are usually done using a local anesthetic to prevent the patient from feeling pain during treatment. Once the patient is numb the dentist will clean out the cavity to prevent further infection and then fill it with either a white (composite) compound or a silver (amalgam) compound.

Dentists use fillings to treat mild to moderate cavities. When a single tooth has multiple serious cavities, however, the dentist may recommend a crown – a silver or white covering fitted over the entire tooth. Crowns protect the structure of the tooth and prevent further decay.

Depending on the age, comfort level and behavior of your child, a dentist may recommend using nitrous oxide (commonly known as laughing gas) in combination with either of these treatments to make the patient feel more at ease. Additionally, pediatric dentists, like those at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry, often use sedation methods to calm patients with high anxiety, very young patients, and/or patients with extensive treatment needs. I will discuss the three main sedation methods we use at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry in our next blog post.

Don’t Panic!
Cavities are one of those things that almost everyone will have in their lifetime. But by understanding their causes, regularly brushing and flossing and having frequent dental check-ups, your chances for avoiding cavities are far greater. If and when your child does get a cavity, the Dental team at South Valley Pediatric Dentistry has all the tools and techniques needed to fix them in the most comfortable and pain-free way possible!