This article first appeared in the April 1, 2013 issue of the Straits Times. We have reproduced it for the information of those of you who missed it when it was published.
Dentists are seeing more children in routine check-ups to prevent severe tooth decay and ensure proper growth of the jaw and teeth.
The dentists give tips for children to brush their teeth well and eat less sugary goods, sweets and sodas with help from their parents and care-givers.
Other services include checks for caries and cavities, scaling, polishing, fillings, extractions, crowns, root canal treatment and braces for teeth alignment.
Parental awareness of the importance of early dental care and child oral services are two reasons for the increase in the number of young patients.
T32 Junior had a jump of 200 percent since it was set up in June 2011 at T32 Dental Centre.
The increase is five-fold over 10 years at White Dental Group and an annual growth of some 10 per cent for Specialist Dental Group.
To encourage children to visit the dentist, the tree dental centres make it a pleasant experience for these young patients who can read stories, play toys and computer games, and enjoy cartoons in the waiting areas.
Even while they are sitting in the dental chair having their teeth and gums checked or treated by the dentist, these children can continue watching movies, cartoons and videos on television screens.
The first dental visit for a child may be daunting. That is why T32 Junior and White Dental Group clinic focus on the importance for kids to go through first dental visits that are pleasant, comfortable and free of pain.
Dr Chin Shou King, director of T32 Junior, says: “We show them all the dental instruments and explain what these instruments do in terms they can relate to like ‘magic wand’ for the dental probe or ‘skipping rope’ for dental floss.
“Only simple cleaning or small fillings are done if we need to do this. Potentially painful or uncomfortable treatments are postponed to later visits.”
White Dental Group clinic starts the first visit with something that the child is familiar with such as measuring the height of the boy or girl.
Its founder, Dr Tan Shuh Chern, says: “When the patient is in the dental chair, we use a ‘show and tell’ approach to explain what we are doing in words that life a child’s vocabulary. The aim is for the patient to be comfortable in a new environment.”
Specialist Dental Group paediatric dentist, Dr Elizabeth Tan, creates a child-friendly environment with warm and caring staff.
She says: “Coming back for a regular check-up is something that they look forward to.”
Specialist Dental Group has patients from the age of one to teenagers. T32 Junior’s oral health programmes are for babies and toddlers up to the age of three; pre-schoolers who are four to six years old; and juniors from the ages of seven to 12. White Dental Group clinic sees young patients from the ages of two to 12.
Dr Tan Shuh Chern advises parents to treat their children’s first appointment as a routine trip for oral health.
Dr Elizabeth Tan urges parents and caregivers to refrain from letting the baby or toddler fall asleep with the milk bottle or during breastfeeding.
“This causes the milk or juice to pool around the teeth which makes the teeth more susceptible to decay,” she says.
“The risk of baby bottle tooth decay may be minimized by encouraging children to start using children’s cups once they are developmentally ready.”