Healthy Kids    

Dentist's believe in early prevention

Teens and the dentist and the benifits of flouride

Teens are tough

After the first visit, kids should begin a regimen of twice-yearly dental visits, the same schedule recommended for their parents. Scheduling them together has proven to be a boon for Beth Bernitt, a mom of a tween girl from North Branch.

Although McKinley is heading into the often difficult teen years, Bernitt says the process of going to the dentist has been less like a chore because it’s been ingrained in her daughter that this is part of remaining healthy. They’ve visited the dentist twice a year since she was 2 1/2, and that regularity has been the key to staving off a fight over the trip.


In general, teens are a dentist’s office’s most difficult patients, Melissa Schluer, a dental hygienist from Pleasant Valley, admits. “They listen to us maybe a tiny bit more than they listen to their parents,” she says with a rueful laugh. “We have used techniques like, if you get decay, you have to take it out of your own savings to pay for it. For teens saving for a car or other things, hitting them in the wallet sometimes does the trick. But that is only if they have decay.”


For teen girls, Schluer suggests resorting to their vanity. “Focus on the importance of removing the plaque from your teeth because it’s bacteria that’s growing like mold in your mouth,” she says. For boys, sometimes citing what other kids smell when they open their mouth gives them a clear picture of what it means for their social life if they avoid the dentist.


Flouride varnishes


There is good news – the advent of improved fluoride treatments, including a relatively new fluoride varnish which your dental health provider will paint on with a paintbrush have significantly reduced the decay providers are seeing in the mouths of kids with regular dental visits.


Still, a recent study by Pew Center on the States found a significant percent of New York State kids don’t have a regular dental health regimen. An estimated 33 percent of New York third graders suffer from tooth decay. That’s why the visits must be paired with good oral hygiene habits at home.


Start early with gum cleaning


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests you start at birth with mom or dad cleaning the child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water.


As soon as teeth appear, begin brushing twice daily. Use a light smear of toothpaste to brush the teeth of kids under 2, moving up to a pea-sized amount once they hit 24 months. At that age, kids should be encouraged to start taking the brush into their own hands.


Steer clear of fluoridated toothpastes until children are able to brush without swallowing, Schluer suggests, and talk to your pediatrician about fluoridated vitamins in the meantime to protect the teeth.


Flouride in the water makes a difference


According to Schuler, kids without fluoride tend to have many more areas of decay growing up and therefore many more fillings. But with cities throughout the Hudson Valley adding fluoride to the water and improved in-office treatments, she says it’s “very possible for a child to grow and go to college without ever even knowing what a cavity is.’


Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and mom from Sullivan County.

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