Dr. Erin Estep is the pediatric dentist at Treehouse Kids Dentist in Springfield, Oregon. Her and her family were recently featured in MOM Magazine, where she’s interviewed on topics ranging from working with a family, her story about growing up and becoming a dentist, and advice she’s learned over the years.
The first visit is a time to introduce your child to a pediatric dental practice and begin the journey of being comfortable and gaining confidence for future appointments. We encourage parents and other care providers to establish a child’s dental home by the time they are 12 months of age.
During this visit, we address your concerns and provide:
- A thorough review of your child’s health history
- A lap exam with your child where you will assist the dentist in getting a thorough look inside your child’s mouth
- A review of any findings and suggestions for home dental care
- Thorough oral hygiene instruction demonstrating how to best brush your child’s teeth, the appropriate toothbrush, and the use of fluoride
- Dietary counseling
- An overview on how and when teeth come in
- A cavity risk assessment We will also talk about preventing and managing dental trauma, as well as offer referrals to dental specialists if needed.
After scheduling your initial visit, talk to your child about the dentist in an age appropriate, fun way. Avoid using words like “pain,” “hurt” and “shot,” and we will avoid using them as well! Finally, once you are at your first appointment, let the dentist take center stage. Pediatric dentists are pros when it comes to connecting with children and making them comfortable in a new (sometimes scary) environment.
What are age-appropriate dental tools to use?? Dr Erin follows the.dentistmom on Instagram and always finds great information!
Tools Pictured (Left to Right)
- 1. Finger brush (or washcloth): to use for oral desensitization, which helps make brushing easier in the future.
- 2. Silicone brush: to allow your baby to explore the mouth for oral motor-sensory development.
- 3. Soft bristle toothbrush: to thoroughly remove plaque from teeth and keep the gums healthy.
- 4. Fluoride toothpaste: to prevent cavaties, especially in children with higher cavity risk.
- 5. Floss picks: to clean and prevent cavaties between the teeth, where the toothbrush can’t reach.
- 6. Electric toothbrush: to help remove stain or persistent plaque for mouths where the soft bristle toothbrush is not enough.
- 7. String floss: to better hug each surface of the tooth during flossing.
- 8. Mouth rinse: to keep the breath fresh and prevent cavaties (if a fluoride rinse is used).
Many times when pediatric dentists ask parents how brushing is going at home they often reply in two ways, “Oh, he doesn’t let me brush his teeth” or “She loves to brush her teeth by herself”. As gross as it may sound, I often remind parents that a child will often fuss and squirm when you try to change his dirty diaper, but you still do it anyway, right? The same is true for teeth.
The child may not like it, but you are not hurting them when you are brushing. In fact, it is a far greater disservice to the oral health of your child not to brush. You just have to do it. When you leave food on teeth all night you are creating the perfect environment for bacteria to cause cavities. And to the parent who thinks a child can brush all on their own, research shows that a child does not have the dexterity to brush her own teeth until she is 9-10 years old.
To these parents I often say that the child can have some independence and brush her own teeth but you HAVE to go in after the child to get the spots they often miss (back teeth and at the gumline). This photo demonstrates the perfect position for parents who are struggling with their child to brush!
With Summertime here and many kids at home during the day, the amount of snacking greatly increases. Foods such as cookies, crackers, gummies, juice and soda are the major culprits in the development of cavities. Bacteria love these simple carbohydrates because they are easily “digestible” and the bacteria then excrete an acid onto teeth that dissolves the enamel.
Healthier options for children include fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheeses. Below is a delicious smoothie recipe, perfect for Oregon summer berries:
- 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen spinach or kale
- 1/2 cup liquid of your choice: water, coconut water, almond milk, etc
Blend together and enjoy!
As medical professionals, dentists are in the top 1% most “at risk” careers for exposure to communicable diseases. Since the HIV/AIDS era of the 1980’s, dentists have really revolutionized the way we practice. These included incorporating PPE (protective equipment) such as masks, gloves and eye protection with every patient. Now with COVID-19, even more protective measures have been put in place.
As pediatric dentists, we encourage you to prepare your child for the “new look” of the dental team prior to appointment. Depending on the nature of the appointment your child may see the dentist in a full length gown, N-95 mask, eye protection and a face shield. Dentists can be daunting enough, and we as a pediatric dental community believe that preparing your child for this new look will aid in the success of appointments.
Thank you for your understanding as we take temperatures of the entire family, ask a series of questions regarding your health and ask you to wear inside our clinics. Our whole goal is to continue to offer your child the very best care in the safest environment possible.
Soft plastic mouthguards can be used to protect a child’s lips, cheeks and gums from sport related injuries. Mouthguards also help children avoid chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss. A custom-fitted mouthguard developed by a pediatric dentist will protect your child from injuries to the teeth, face and even provide protection from severe injuries to the head.
“It is important for kids who play sports to start wearing mouthguards from a young age so it becomes a routine and habit-formed,” says sports and exercise medicine physician Anne Rex, DO, FAOASM. “The mouthguard isn’t optional but regarded as any other piece of their essential equipment and uniform.”
At the time of this publication, the governor Kate Brown, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has issued an executive order that limits all dental treatment in Oregon to emergencies only. This mandate is currently through June 15th. If your child is experiencing any pain or swelling or loses a tooth traumatically, please reach out to your pediatric dentist for guidance. We are always on call to listen to your concerns and see your children if it is needed.
What do you do if your child loses his/her tooth?
This can be very troubling to not only the child but the parent as well. The most important thing you can do is remain calm. Unfortunately, pediatric dentists do not re-implant baby teeth for numerous reasons, primarily their tendency to abscess and cause facial swelling. They may also damage the permanent tooth if put back into the socket.
Permanent teeth are different. If a child loses a permanent tooth try to reinsert if into the socket as quickly as you can. If that is not possible, put the tooth into a glass of milk and take the child immediately to the pediatric dentist. Time is of utmost importance. The sooner it is re-implanted and splinted, the higher the success of saving the tooth.
The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush.
Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
A common conversation I have with parents is about their child’s diet. Cavities are caused by bacteria, specifically streptococcus mutans, who thrive on fermentable carbohydrates such as breads, crackers, pretzels, potato chips and gummy snacks. These foods are a frequent snack in our American diet. Every time your child takes a bite of these simple carbohydrates, the pH in their mouths drops to a critical level where bacteria can digest the carbohydrate and then excrete an acid that dissolves their enamel (ie cavities). This lasts 30 minutes in duration.
So every time they take a new bite, the window extends where bacteria can excrete this acid. With the frequency of snacking in our culture, I advise parents to choose wise snacking foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheeses. Bacteria cannot utilize these foods to cause cavities. Save those simple carbohydrates for a defined meal time rather than snack time.