…and 5 reasons why parents should take children from a very young age for regular dentist checkups
The pain a parent goes through when watching their child suffer from toothache is possibly a few times greater than the child’s. I learnt the hard way that a simple dentist’s appointment could save both parents and children from a great deal of stress and, implicitly, pain and treatment costs.
There are so many reasons why tooth brushing regularly is not as effective if the child’s diet and overall oral hygiene are not respecting a few basic rules which could easily be ignored (yet I’ll be discussing this subject more in a future blog post). Meanwhile, after a couple of failed dentist visits where Lucas’ appointment was treated pretty much as an adult’s appointment – which means both less patience and time to make the child feel comfortable enough to cooperate with the doctor by at least to open his/her mouth – I was lucky enough to be recommended Happy Kids Dental by my Harley Street dentist. The multi-award-winning children’s dentist has two convenient locations in Central London, Marylebone and Chelsea. I will be sharing here our experience with the Marylebone practice.
First things first. I already feel I won’t have enough words to describe all the amazing things the brilliant team behind the kids’ dental practice have achieved during the past few months. From the very moment we arrived at Happy Kids Dental, I knew Lucas would show less resistance. The facilities have obviously been built with children in mind. We entered a colourful world, filled with dragons, jungle animals, play areas, games and rewards to keep them curious.
Our initial consultation was with a specialist who has many years of practice and studies, qualified to schedule a long term treatment plan for the little patients and she offered us a few options we could consider. The practice offers preventative children’s dentistry, oral hygiene, treatment and restoration, orthodontics and gentle sedation. This time Lucas needed a few crowns, therefore he had to be sedated, too. For the past three months we went for several sessions ever since Lucas developed a tooth infection. That was due to a small but deep cavity, yet the repair process itself was very smooth, as Helen, the specialist who undertook Lucas’ treatment is absolutely great with children. She has so much patience and knows how to make the little ones instantly feel comfortable by letting them treat dragons’ teeth using her tools and talking them through all the session steps. She recommended a few acclimatisation sessions in between to make sure Lucas wouldn’t develop any fear of going to the dentist again. These work so nicely!
We also have enrolled in the Happy Kids CLUB (I’ve added all details about it at the end of this article), meanwhile I’ve included below 5 reasons why we, as parents, should introduce children of a very young age to regular dentist checkups.
1. Milk teeth are as important as adult teeth
It is a common belief that baby teeth, or milk teeth, are not important on the long term as they are eventually replaced by adult teeth. From the age of about 6 years old children have a mixture of baby teeth and adult teeth as they are slowly replaced, with most children losing their last baby tooth at around 12 years old, so almost a teenager! This unfortunately means that decay in a baby tooth has a high risk of affecting either the adult tooth next to it or the adult tooth underneath it getting ready to erupt, and can even affect overall jaw growth and development.
2. Milk teeth are more vulnerable to decay
Did you know that baby teeth are very different anatomically than adult teeth? They are less mineralised and the outer protective layer is thinner, the nerve inside is also very close to the external surface of the tooth – this means they are more vulnerable to decay and that cavities develop faster! Truth is I was one of those people who underestimated the role of keeping milk teeth as healthy as possible. That’s why regular visits to the dentist can help prevent challenges and inform parents more efficiently.
3. Parents can easily miss the eruption of a permanent tooth
The first permanent teeth usually erupt between 5 ½ and 7 years of age, as they erupt behind the last baby molars at the back of the mouth they can often go unnoticed by parents, meaning this incredibly important tooth often does not get the attention and protection it deserves. It is a sad fact that first permanent molars commonly suffer from the most decay because parents often mistake it for baby tooth! Having regular check-ups mean that as soon as the permanent molars erupt parents can be made aware and the biting surface can be sealed with a sealant to protect it from bacteria and consequently, decay. After all, we all hope that our children will live until they are at least 85 – this means that their first adult teeth have to be healthy and strong for 80 years!
4. To avoid treatment
Bacteria which cause decay are easily transmitted from parents to children during the first 2 years of age – oral bacteria have been shown to be transmitted from parents to their children by sharing utensils, food, drinks and even kisses! Did you know that first stage of decay looks like a white spot on the enamel surface? Regular dental visits are important as spotting the decay early means that it can be treated much more simply and effectively without the need for any drilling or injections.
I’ve also learnt that it is worth noting that a small visible hole in a child’s tooth can also be misleading, the actual cavity on the inside of the tooth can be 5 times larger. This is because the thin enamel layer covering tooth is very strong, however, the layer inside is much softer and more porous, like a sponge. So, when the bacteria goes through the protective layer, it goes deeper and wider much faster, while the initial hole on the surface of the tooth remains small.
The first sensed effect of decay is sensitivity, however until children are about 6-7 years old they are unable to say what they are feeling and are unable to explain sensitivity. This is why the first indication some parents have that their child’s tooth has a serious problem is when they feel pain or wake up with huge swelling by which time it may be too late for treatment. Guilty as charged! I took Lucas to the dentist when he started to get some pain due to a tooth infection which could have been easily prevented.
5. To encourage and support a healthy routine for later in life
While growing up my mum kept saying that good habits are formed, bad habits we fall into. That is why I agree completely with what I have learnt from Happy Kids Dental:
The importance of positive and enjoyable dental experience from start is a key for reducing dental fear later on in life. That is why we firmly believe that children should be treated by experienced paediatric dentists, acting as “paediatricians” in charge of oral health. In our clinic the whole team is trained to address the unique physiologic, emotional, and social needs of young patients.
Happy Kids Club
This is a very clever programme and this practice has been trying to make it as affordable as possible for parents. After an initial consultation with a specialist, patients can subscribe to the Happy Kids Club. It costs £30 per month in direct debit instalments for 12 month and includes all preventative measures needed for an entire year:
- 2 Hygiene visits
- 2 Dental examinations
- 2 Fluoride applications
- Small X-rays
- 10% discount on all treatments
- 50% discount on initial consultation with orthodontic specialist
- Emergency appointment fee discounted at £100
All these add up to a saving of £200 per year.
Overall you pay £360 pounds per year for your piece of mind that your child’s teeth are in best hands possible and guarantee of healthy smile and healthy habits for life. Considering that most of us spend same amount in coffee shops monthly, this is a small price to pay.
This article has been written in collaboration with Happy Kids Dental. I have paid for the initial consultation which was an extended treatment plan, but this practice is a place where my children will go from now on. I simply cannot recommend them enough.