We have so many smart and talented parents here in the Lower Hudson Valley whom it has been my privilege to meet, either through this blog or in my job as a reporter. So, today I am introducing a new feature on Parents’ Place: A question-and-answer session with an interesting local mom or dad. I decided to call the feature Questions & Parents, or Q&P for short.
Our first Q&P is with Dr. Leyla Z. Nakisbendi, a pediatric dentist who practices at Mayers & Nakisbendi Dental Associates on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains. She’s also been a wonderful participant in the Parents’ Place blog. She lives in Pleasantville with her husband, Michael Mayers, also a dentist, and her three children, 9-year-old Aliya, 6-year-old Aydin and 3-year-old Maia.
Q: At what age should children have their first dental visit?
P: I like children to have their first dental visit as soon as they start getting their first eight teeth (four on top and four on bottom). We don’t expect the baby to sit in the dental chair, but we like to check for hygiene, dietary habits, well-formed enamel and any developmental anomalies. This screening theoretically is done by pediatricians, but we like children to have a dental home by 1 year old. The exam is usually done on a parent’s lap and usually doesn’t involve a cleaning unless the child has staining from antibiotics or tartar that needs to be removed.
Q: How should you choose a dentist for your child? What questions should you ask? Should you visit the office first alone?
P: Being a pediatric dentist, of course I think children should see a pediatric dentist who has received two to three years of extra training in treating children, either at a children’s hospital or dental school. That said, there are a lot of general dentists who are very adept at treating children. A pediatric dentist should be chosen based on location, comfort level with the practice and referrals from pediatricians and friends. Ask around. I see all new patients. This does not always happen in all dental offices. I like to meet the families and get a sense of their needs and I feel I can only do this by seeing patients myself first. Right now, my husband and I do everything ourselves so our patients always see us. I think if you trust the people referring you, you don’t have to visit an office alone first, but that is always an option. It all depends on your schedule. I do not recommend choosing practices based on insurance. While it may save money, being part of a dental plan doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right practice for you. This is not an area I skimp on.
Q: How often do children need to brush their teeth? Is it the same as adults or more/less often?
P: Children should be brushed two times a day, as should adults. After breakfast and before bed. If children swallow toothpaste, they should get a training toothpaste with no fluoride. If they are good at spitting, they can use real toothpaste. Flossing is required if the teeth are touching. If you can see spaces, you don’t need to floss.
Q: At what age is a child old enough to brush his or her own teeth? Use adult toothpaste?
P: Age 7 or 8 is when children should be able to brush their teeth alone, but this all depends on your child’s manual dexterity and attention span. I’ve seen 2- and 3-year-olds who really can do a good job brushing their teeth!
Q: What age do you start seeing cavities?
P: I’ve seen cavities in children who have only two to four teeth! Children who nurse on demand all day or night or have a bottle with milk or juice at night are at very high risk for decay. Children whose parents or primary caregivers are still actively getting new cavities are also at increased risk for cavities.
Q: Is there any special advice you have for teenagers?
P: Teenagers are tough! It’s hard to get them to shower let alone brush their teeth. Access to junk is much easier. I think kids who were raised with good oral health habits and dietary habits, for the most part, continue that way with minor detours. Soda is brutal Ã¢â‚¬â€ diet or sugared. They are very acidic and actually can etch teeth. Sports drinks for athletes are also a very high-sugar drink and the frequent sipping while rehydrating is high-risk for cavities.
Q: Are teeth-whiteners safe for teens?
P: Unless a child has severe cosmetic issues, we try to discourage bleaching until kids are in their late teens. Even then it can cause sensitivity because the teeth are very young. As we age the sensitivity decreases, usually. I’ll do isolated in-office bleaching for severe issues.
Q: What is the biggest mistake parents make with regard to their child’s dental health?
P: I think the biggest mistake people make with regard to taking care of their children’s teeth is assuming that because their child will not behave well at the dentist, that they aren’t going to go. We change our children’s dirty diapers with them screaming, we let the pediatrician check ears while screaming and we clip finger nails, etc. Parents need to let the pediatric dentist do their job even if the child cries. If the parents follow the pediatric dentist’s advice as to follow-up care almost every crier at the first visit turns into a great patient eventually. That is the goal of my pediatric dental practice Ã¢â‚¬â€ raising children so that they grow up to be great dental patients. It is not a perfect science and sometimes takes some trial and error but eventually all the kids gets there.
Q: What advice would you like to give parents reading this blog?
P: Teach your children that taking care of their teeth is not optional! Teeth get brushed and flossed every night and morning no matter what. Also, do not show your children that you have any dental phobias. They don’t understand and it just makes it harder for your pediatric dentist to work. Don’t use the word drill, needle, etc. Let your pediatric dentist do his/her job. I’m including a link to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Web site, which is a great source of information.
Thanks very much to Leyla for being the first to do a Q&P! If you know any parents who you think would be great to feature, please comment here on the blog or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also: I’d love to know if you like this feature. Do you think it’s worthwhile? What kinds of questions would you like answered?