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  • 8 Secrets to a Successful Back-to-School Dental Checkup

    Make a visit to World of Smiles apart of your child’s back-to-school plans

    Backpack? Check. Booster shots? Check. Teeth cleaning? Check!

    back-to-school, dental checkup, teeth cleaning

    Make a visit to your child’s dentist apart of your back-to-school plans

    Regular dental visits are important year-round, but a back-to-school checkup is key in fighting the most common chronic disease found in school-age children: cavities. In fact, dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year.

    Prevention and early detection can help avoid pain, trouble eating, difficulty speaking and school absences. “When people are beginning to do their pediatrician checks to make sure their kids are school-ready, make sure teeth are part of it,” says pediatric dentist and American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Mary Hayes.

    Plan Ahead

    Between cookouts, camping trips and everything else on your family’s summer bucket list, it’s easy for school to sneak up on you. Unfortunately, many parents may not think about making that appointment until after school starts. Schedule your back to school appointment during the summer before everyone is busy with new schedules, homework and after school activities. Your dentist will have more open appointment times to plan around your family’s busy schedule. August and September are often of your pediatric dentist’s busiest months.

    Encourage Age-Appropriate Dental Habits at Home

    The best kind of checkup is a cavity-free checkup. Moms and dads can help make this happen by encouraging kids to brush twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day. Here is age-by-age advice:

    Ages 6 and Under
    At this age, your child might want to do all the brushing herself but doesn’t have the fine motor skills needed to do a thorough job. Let them start and jump in when needed. “During that age, the mouth is changing so much that children who are 5 or 6 are often brushing their teeth in the way they were when they were 2 or 3,” Dr. Hayes says. “They’re not accommodating the new molars, and they’re not accommodating the fact that the mouth is growing.”

    Ages 7-12
    By now, your child knows what to do, she just might not want to. Keep encouraging healthy brushing and flossing habits. “Be aware of the fact that sometimes you have to take over a little bit more,” she says. “By the time they’re teenagers, they’re starting to understand self-care, accountability for their actions and such.”

    Ages 12-18
    Dr. Hayes says this is a critical time for dental health. “When you look at research for when caries appear in kids, it tends to be in young kids. But another bump-up time is teenage years and early adulthood,” she says. “Part of this has to do with the fact that teenagers may have gone for many years and never had a cavity. They don’t necessarily take care of their teeth because they don’t see the consequence of not.”

    Don’t let your teen’s habits become out of sight, out of mind. “The behaviors of the teenager are going to translate into the 20-year-old. We want to be able to support them and be respectful of them because they’re not kids anymore.”

    Timing Is Everything

    Time of day can make or break your child’s appointment. “It’s important for a child of any age who’s used to a nap to not schedule during naptime,” she says. If your child is always cranky after waking up, factor that in too.

    For older children, avoid cramming in a dentist appointment right after day camp or school. “Not all kids have the energy to do that,” she says. “I will have parents who want to do very elaborate operative work after school because that’s when the kids can come out. But if the child has already been exhausted or had a bad day or had tests, they just don’t have the stamina to make it through the appointment successfully.”

    Make One Child a Model

    If you’ve scheduled back-to-back appointments for your children, there’s a simple way to decide who goes first: Choose the child who’s had the most positive experiences at the dentist. “Every child is going to be a little bit different in their temperament about how they approach a visit,” she says. “You generally want the ones first who are more successful because the others get to see how it goes.”

    A Hungry Child Is Not a Happy Patient

    Feed your child a light meal before the appointment. “Hungry people are grouchy people. You want them to be comfortable,” she says. “It’s also generally a good idea not to feed them in the waiting room before you see the dentist because there’s all that food in [their mouth].”

    Eating light is also better for a child with a healthy gag reflex. “Some children gag a lot just because they gag with everything,” she says. “As they age and they get more control over swallowing, kids tend to gag less.”

    Bonus points if your child brushes before an appointment. “It’s polite,” Dr. Hayes says.

    Leave Your Anxiety at the Door

    If your heart races at the very thought of the dentist, your child can probably tell. “Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety,” Dr. Hayes says. “It’s important with kids, especially at 4, 5 and 6, because I believe the phobic adults are the ones who had bad experiences when they were that age.”

    The younger your kids are, the more you need to be aware of how you’re communicating with them. For example, if your child asks about getting a cavity filled, don’t say, “It will only hurt for a little bit.” Instead, encourage your child to ask the dentist. “With any child, you want them to be able to feel successful at accomplishing a good visit and link that positive feeling with the idea that their teeth are strong and healthy so they have that message going forward for the rest of their lives.”

    Keep Cool If Your Child Won’t Cooperate

    If your child gets upset during her visit, the worst thing you can do is swoop them out of the chair and leave. “The next visit is going to be harder,” Dr. Hayes says. “You still have to help them get through part of the visit.”

    First, assess why your child is acting out. Are they truly afraid, or are they trying to test the situation? “One of the reasons I think a 4, 5 or 6-year-old gets upset is because they think they’re going to be asked to do something they can’t be successful at,” she says. “They’re in an environment they feel they can’t control and that makes them upset, so we try to break it down into small steps.”

    Then, work as a team with your dentist to keep the visit going. Let the dentist lead the conversation. Jump in where you think it helps most, while still allowing the dentist and your child to build a good relationship. “Give the dentist every opportunity to turn the visit around,” she says.

    Take a Card (or Three) on Your Way Out

    Accidents can happen whether your child is in sports camp, gym class or just walking down the street. In case of emergency, make sure your child’s teachers and coaches have all the medical contact information they need – including your dentist’s number. Grab business cards for your wallet, your child’s backpack and your school’s files. “Parents should be very aware of accidents and make sure that wherever they go that they bring the number of their dentist so that if a child has an accident, they can certainly call the office,” Dr. Hayes says.

    This article was original published by the American Dental Association, at http://bit.ly/1Ei7pCc

    Make your appointment today at our West Office or North Office.

    Let’s Go Places!

    We have a new video  on our Youtube channel of Dr. Stafford talking to Don Hanson about his iOS app called Let’s Go Places. This is an intuitive social modeling app for all children learning what to expect for common trips around the neighborhood.

    National Autism Awareness

    As April concludes, we wanted to call attention to the fact that this has been National Autism Awareness Month. With so many wonderful causes in the world and so few months, many of these causes can get lost in the shuffle. Below we present some tips for having successful outcomes when selecting and visiting a dentist with a child on the spectrum.


    Your child has a set of flip cards to help him with his daily schedule; one difference in his day, and the world can seem to end. Or perhaps your child has a debilitating fear of change and new experiences. Going to a new toy store or grocery store can be a challenge, not to mention coming to a medical facility. What can you do?

    1. Create a special flip card that shows a toothbrush & floss. Teach your child that they will see this card in the morning, and at night. Introducing dental instruments from an early age will help them as they associate being healthy with a clean mouth. When it’s time to visit the dentist, introduce a special flip card that shows a dentist (or maybe a picture of your new dental office) and is placed in their flip schedule at the appropriate time.

    2. Communicate with your healthcare providers. Many pediatricians and pediatric dentists have had extensive training and understand the unique needs of children with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other diagnosis’. Their staff is generally well-trained and experienced as well – but they need communication from you ahead of time of your expectations. Let the scheduling desk know the diagnosis your child has so that they can plan appropriate time for their providers to meet with you.

    3. Keep an open mind! Understand that each provider is different – and will approach your child with the techniques and tools that they have found work best with other children who have similar needs. If you or your child had a negative experience at another office, try not to carry that same expectation over into your new dental or pediatric home.

    4. Acclimate, Acclimate, Acclimate. Many children, even those without specific diagnosis’ or challenges, need to have new experiences explained to them first in order to have the best experience possible. Small children are used to seeing and learning new things daily, but what teachers and childcare providers know is that preparation can be a key difference in whether a child accepts new information or a new experience with enthusiasm or fear. For children who have sensory challenges, this is even more so the case. What we have found is that by having several acclimation visits before a new patient exam, a child with Autism or sensory disorder can accomplish much more than they or their parents ever thought possible. Find out if you can take a tour, or play in the playroom. Ask if your child can simply sit in the exam chair, and then pick a toy and go home. Come back a second or third time and then complete the full exam – and I bet you’ll be surprised!

    5. Don’t give up hope. It is a daily struggle for many parents – we understand that. While we cannot share from personal experience, we witness and share in the hurt and frustration. As healthcare providers, we work to support research and we try to find new ideas to help our patients. We want the best for your child, and for your family, and we commit to working alongside our families toward a better tomorrow. Never surrender hope!

    What Is Laughing Gas?

    Laughing gas is Nitrous Oxide. In the dental office laughing gas is used to relax the patient by being inhaled through the nose. The Nitrous helps keep patients comfortable throughout treatment. When using Nitrous it makes the patient feel like they are floating on a cloud and their fingers and toes will feel tingly, like when your foot falls asleep. At the start of their treatment appointment we flush the patient’s body with pure oxygen for 5 minutes. Then we usually leave the laughing gas on for the entire treatment. Once treatment is over, we flush the patient’s system again with oxygen for another five minutes to ensure the patient is back to normal when they sit up to leave. To learn more, please
    contact our office: World of Smiles.

    Scented Memories

    Walking into my grandmother’s house, the smell of baked bread would often waft through the door. Even today, when I take a loaf of crusty bread from the oven, my mind flashes back to times sitting on a barstool at the kitchen counter, slathering butter and homemade jam over a warm, gooey slice.

    Smells and memories are very much intertwined. The scent of a particular perfume may remind you of a Great-Aunt long gone, or the smell of a favorite dessert may remind you of a family event from childhood that meant very much to you. Smells can also trigger negative feelings and memories; perhaps the smell of burning rubber reminds you of the time your car broke down in the rain, on the way to an important meeting. Certainly the smell of a medical or dental office has its own unique memory association; perhaps the clinical smell of the waiting room or exam seats bring instant fears to the surface.

    Because our goal at World of Smiles is to create a positive, warm, and inviting environment for children to become acclimated in, smell becomes a large factor in what we try to provide. Ensuring that we steer clear of that “dental office smell” which can trigger fearful memories in both children and their caregivers is a top priority. We are able to achieve a non-clinical type smell by avoiding certain dental products that foster that smell, and we use our favorite Scentsy warmers to provide a welcoming scent when our families walk in, usually of warm vanilla.

    As we work to create a generation of children that do not fear the dentist, but look forward to maintaining a healthy smile, we hope to create a “happy smell” that will trigger a happy memory for them. We are sensitive to those patients who are sensitive to perfumes, candles, and other scents – so families should always feel welcome to inform us if they need the scents removed while they are present.

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