Caring for Your Child's Smile: An interview with Dr. Kate Lambert (from Spangler & Rohlfing DDS)
Friday, May 2, 2014 at 07:31AM
Dr. Brown in FYI, dental health, dentist, interview

As a pediatrician, I want your children to be as healthy as possible, which means I care about their dental health very much!  Some parents are surprised to hear that the recommended age for a first dental visit is when their child is 1 year old.  To provide you with more information about pediatric dental care, I turned to Dr. Kate Lambert from Spangler and Rohlfing Pediatric Dentistry.  Dr. Lambert comes highly recommended by many of my patients (and their parents) who report her friendly smile puts kids at ease immediately.

Dr. Brown: What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

Dr. Lambert: Pediatric dentists can be thought about as the pediatricians of oral health who specialize their practice on preventative and comprehensive care of infants through adolescents, including children with special health care needs. After four years of dental school, a pediatric dentist continues with 2-3 more years of residency where they receive advance training in growth and development, preventative and therapeutic services, pediatric medicine, behavior guidance, and all the skills necessary to make going to the dentist a positive experience for all children! Pediatric dentistry is a recognized specialty with the American Dental Association and even though we are a specialty, we serve as the comprehensive providers for our patients; therefore parents do NOT need a referral to come and see a pediatric dentist!

One thing that I love about being a pediatric dentist is the level of counseling that goes into each appointment. Pediatric dentists involve both the child and the family in the discussion and will want to talk about any upcoming changes at each appointment as the patient grows. As pediatric dentists we understand that children are not just small adults; just as 1 year old is very different from a 14 year old.

Our office is also specifically designed with children in mind, with child friendly décor, friendly and experienced staff, and child sized instruments and tools to make our patients more confortable and help make the entire experience easier on the patient and their families.

Dr. Brown: At what age do you recommend for a child's first dental visit?  Why?

Dr. Lambert: In pediatric dentistry we like to say “First Tooth, First Birthday, First Visit!” Both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics support the Age One Dental Visit to help families establish a dental home for their children. So much in pediatric dentistry involves prevention and so it is very important to help start healthy habits from an early age. Sure, baby teeth will eventually find their way to the tooth fairy, but keeping them – and the gums- healthy is important as they hold the space for the permanent teeth and contribute to overall health as well.  

In addition to cavity risk assessment, nutritional counseling and tips & techniques for good hygiene at home, a pediatric dentist is a resource for other important information as well.  Dental concerns can start early and so we like to provide recommendations to help safeguard against any problems such as teething irritation, baby bottle decay, any spacing or crowding issues, and prolonged finger or thumb habits.

Another reason we promote the early visits are in the case of a dental emergency.  Toddlers “toddle” and we see an increased risk of dental trauma in this age group. In case of an emergency, being established within a practice can be extremely beneficial; a familiar place and a trusted dentist can alleviate stressors on both the child and the family.  

Finally, one of the best  (and simplest) reasons for early an appointment is to establish a positive relationship with your child and the dentist through frequent, easy, and fun preventive visits!

Dr. Brown: What happens at the first dental visit?

Dr. Lambert: The first visit is a time for your family to get to know the office and for the dentist and the team to get to know you and your child.  We let children take a ride on our special chair if they want (some of them can move up and down!) and show them all the cool tools that we use to count their teeth, including a tooth tickler and a teeny-tiny mirror.  We always answer their questions honestly, and use child friendly words to help convey what is going to happen throughout the appointment. Depending on your child’s age and comfort level, sometimes we have the child sit in the parents lap and lean back onto a soft pillow so that the dentist can see the teeth. This also allows the parents to get a good look inside the mouth as well so that the dentist can address any concerns and show you how to best clean certain areas of the mouth. During the short exam we will check your child’s gums, jaws, teeth and their bite, as well as looking for any decay or other spots where the tooth brush may be missing.  We also want to go through all the specifics that make your kid “one in a million!” We go over medical history, family history, habits, diet, and any specific concerns so that we can best tailor a good home care routine and plan for optimal care in our office as well. We then give you the chance to ask any questions you may have regarding thumb or finger habits, diet, teething, trauma, difficulties with hygiene, or anything else that you would like to talk about regarding your child’s health. We welcome questions and so feel free to make a list of things you want to talk about prior to the appointment so you wont forget anything during your child’s appointment! 

Dr. Brown: How can parents best prepare their kids for a dental visit?

Dr. Lambert: The most important thing that parents and families (including older siblings!) can do is to stay positive. Pediatric dentists are extremely well trained in helping to make the appointments fun, interesting and comfortable for the patients. Using positive terminology and role-playing can help prepare children for a first visit as well. Having the child practice laying on the couch or a bed while mom or dad “counts their teeth” is a good way to start. Letting kids practice counting their stuffed-animal’s teeth or a parent’s teeth is another great way to involve the whole family.  There are also some great books on visiting the dentist, including My Dentist, My Friend by P.K Halliman and Elmo Visits the Dentist (props to you if you just read that in Elmo voice too!)  There are also good books on teeth in general such as The Tooth Book by Edward Miller, which is great for older kids as well. We can also do a tour of the office if you think that your child may need a little warming up to new experiences. This way they are able to feel more familiar with the office and the staff on their appointment date.  Remember, to a new patient, the office holds no negative feelings and may feel like going on a fun fieldtrip (…we do have a playhouse in our waiting room!) Kids are very smart and can often pick up if a parent is nervous themself, so as parents it is important to try to project a positive attitude and rest assured that we will do everything we can to make it a good experience for all!



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