Little Teeth: A Dental Clinic ‘Designed For Kids’
It’s difficult to get some adults to commit to dental hygiene, let alone kids. Just the word ‘dentist’ is enough to get many a mature, functioning 30-something year old hot under the collar.
All in all, visiting the dentist is no day at the beach, but for kids it’s much worse. It’s difficult to communicate medical topics with children in a way that is both informative and comforting.
One can only begin to imagine, then, how tricky pediatric dentistry can be.
But one pediatric practice has managed to find as close a perfect formula as you’ll find in Egypt to this Pandora’s Box of hurdles. Located in Mohandiseen under the steady hand of Dr. Malak S. Badawi, Little Teeth isn’t just a dental clinic for kids – it’s one designed for kids, as we found out when we sat down with her.
-When it comes to any pediatric practice, the psychology of medical care seems to be as important as the medical care itself – how does Little Teeth go about ensuring that a patient is at the utmost comfort? What kind of special precautions and preparations are undertaken?
Our office is designed and furnished especially for children, so from the moment they enter the door they feel that they are entering a play area or an activities’ centre rather than feeling the dread of a medical office. The space is filled with toys and books, and of course the whole decor is themed to invite children to relax and feel safe.
Our staff is trained to make sure that children do not sense their presence in a health care facility. ALL vocabulary used with and around our patients is not synonymous with what is actually about to happen; so for example, instead of mentioning that we are going to perform an examination we invite them to come in and ‘count their teeth’ and to avoid saying that x-rays will be made, we offer to ‘take pictures’ etc.
We are very careful in only introducing age appropriate procedures one step at a time and our motto is to teach the child how to perform in the dental chair gradually, making him or her more comfortable and more capable as the visits progress and building up to the more intense procedures.
-Following on from the previous question, are there also vast differences in the physical treatment in pediatric dentistry? How different is treating a child to an adult?
There are definite differences in the treatment of primary teeth and in the approach of a growing, continuously developing occlusion. Choices of materials used for restorations are different. What you expect from a restoration and what you require from it in a growing child is very different.
Treatment timings and treatment planning in a child with incomplete root formation vs a full grown adult influences the decisions that the medical practitioner will make. A young child with permanent tooth buds underlying his baby teeth alters the choices the doctor has especially in cases of trauma and/or nerve degeneration.
-There’s a theory among pediatric dentists that suggest that kids aren’t the problem – it’s the demands and concerns of the parents that add stress to the situation. How true is this?
That is very true.
The pediatric dentist not only faces the challenge of getting a child at a very young age to sit in the chair and undergo sophisticated dental procedures like restoration of cavities or root canal therapy while making sure that the he is psychologically ok, but also has to make sure to shield the child from the influences that a parent may have that actually work in the opposite direction (without the parent actually knowing it).
The most obvious example is how on the first visit the first thing parents say as soon as their child sits in the chair to ‘count their teeth’ is “DON’T BE SCARED!”
Immediately, they have unknowingly instilled fear in their previously relaxed and not so worried child.
There are many examples along those lines that work in an opposing direction to the pediatric dentist to accomplishing his goal safely and peacefully. And therefore it is essential that parents are brought up to speed with the tools that are used by the pediatric dentist and that they are informed about the methods so that they can act as a helping force in ensuring that the process runs smoothly.
-How, then, can parents help in easing something as daunting as a ‘trip to the dentist’?
The more relaxed the parents are about the trip and the more they behave in a matter-of-fact way, similar to how they would act taking the kids to the supermarket for example, the less a child will feel the need to be anxious or worried.
Children sense the unspoken even more than the spoken and it’s the parents’ demeanour and calm that really makes a difference.
-When do you recommend that a child’s first visit to the dentist be – and why?
Our office, as well as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommend establishing a “Dental Home” for the child by one year of age.
Children who have a dental home are more likely to receive appropriate preventive and routine oral health care. The Dental Home is intended to provide a place other than the Emergency Room for parents.
Even though there may only be a few baby teeth visible at that age, there are plenty of things we can start working on, including the development of healthy habits that will make future visits to the dentist far more pleasurable .
Unfortunately, some kids develop tooth decay at an early age. We would be on the lookout for cavities, but that’s only one reason for an early visit. Equally important is reviewing the proper ways to care for a young child’s mouth, going over your child’s developmental milestones and discussing the importance of good oral hygiene.
-Children are creatures of habit, but how do you engage them in something like the importance of dental care?
Children, indeed, are creatures of habit, which also makes the process of instilling the routine of brushing and flossing an easy task.
When parents include the brushing very early on in the baby’s sleep routine it becomes a very natural thing as he or she grows into a toddler and then a preschooler.
-Many in Egypt are ill-educated about children’s dental care – what advice would you give new parents on how best to maintain good dental hygiene in their children?
Start early! Introduce gum wiping before the teeth erupt and follow up by tooth brushing as soon as the teeth come in. Take care when using fluoride. Get informed about proper diet and snacking habits that promote good oral health.