The Canadian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages parents to bring their child to the dentist six months after the first tooth pops up, or by their first birthday. However, my fear of the dentist hindered me from taking my son to our family dentist until he was three. Our dentist recommended a pediatric dentist practice because of discolouration on my son’s front teeth that possibly required fillings. The message from our family dentist was clear: the dental care of children should be left to the experts.
Where to Find a Pediatric Dentist in Vancouver
There are several options if you’re searching for a pediatric dentist in Vancouver. A friend referred us to Kids Teeth on West Broadway, so that’s where we went. The waiting room was filled with toys and had televisions playing kid-friendly dental videos. The treatment rooms were decorated in colourful themes rather than having the appearance of a sterile dental office. Dr. Diedrik Millenaar performed a quick assessment of my son’s teeth followed by an explanation of how he treats cavities in small children. Dr. Millenaar introduced the concept of ‘sugar bugs’ to my son, and how by brushing our teeth we get rid of these little pests. I was worried the idea of ‘bugs’ in his mouth would freak my son out but instead it has encouraged him to brush his teeth more frequently.
Normalizing a Visit to the Pediatric Dentist
According to Dr. Millenaar it is very important for parents to ‘normalize’ the visit to the pediatric dentist. “Try to not impart your own anxieties about dentistry onto your child, so avoid over explaining the visit. Also, allowing the caregiver without dental phobia to bring the child (oops!) will help to avoid the transference of anxiety by verbal or non verbal cues. Saying that the dentist is the doctor of the mouth is a start. Explain that the dentist will count their teeth, see how they fit together, and look at the tongue, lips, cheeks and tonsils (meatballs at the back of the mouth).”
Dr. Millenaar points out that despite the dentist’s best intentions and technique, it is very common for kids to cry at their first visit. Parents can help the pediatric dentist by remaining calm to further normalize the experience rather than switching into Mama Bear Mode.
Assessing Good Oral Hygiene in Kids
As parents we want to know we have done our utmost to protect our child’s overall health. There are certain things a pediatric dentist looks for to assess whether or not a kid has good oral hygiene. The best indicator of proper mouth care is the level of plaque (the yellowish, mushy film) on the teeth. Oral hygiene is also judged by the level of inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Dr. Millenaar emphasizes the importance of brushing the gums by each tooth. “This is especially important in young children, as it is the gingivitis that often makes the gums sensitive and will make them more resistant to having their teeth/gums brushed.”
Why it’s Important to Take Care of Baby Teeth
When I told other parents that my son had to get fillings on his front teeth I was asked what the point was, since the teeth would fall out eventually anyways. Dr. Millenaar’s answer was that the baby teeth hold space for new teeth. “Premature extraction because of decay usually requires space maintenance to allow for a normal bite to develop, so there is added cost and potential discomfort for failing to take care of baby teeth.” Ouch.
A pediatric dentist’s fees are guided by the B.C. Pediatric Dentistry Guide. They are approximately 25 percent higher than a family dentist’s. Personally, I am willing to fork out the extra money for specialized care if it helps my son grow up without my fear of the dentist.
Have you taken your children to see a pediatric dentist? What was your experience like?