Sep 13, 2017

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: Dental disease is the most common chronic disease affecting our children and it's completely preventable. Learn how next, on The Scope.

Announcer: Health tips, medical news, research, and more for a happier, healthier life. From University of Utah Health Sciences, this is The Scope.

Interviewer: Dr. Hans Reinemer is the section head of pediatric dentistry at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. And the best way to prevent tooth problems and many other problems that can arise from that is to have a good relationship with the dentist. So tell me more about this concept of a dental home for your children. And I think some of the things we'll cover here is when should that first trip be and what's the relationship look like.

Dr. Reinemer: That's a very good question. When we talk about prevention it's important to establish what we call a dental home. And the recommendations for a dental home are to make sure that your child gets into a pediatric dentist by age one. And the reason for that is we have the opportunity to educate moms and dads about this preventable disease.

Interviewer: All right.

Dr. Reinemer: Very rarely will a child that age need any dental care although it does happen. It's a chance to educate and prevent. That's the important message that we're trying to get to parents.

Interviewer: Got you. So it's more than just brushing teeth?

Dr. Reinemer: Oh, absolutely. It's diet counseling. It's making sure the mom and dad have good dental and oral health. Dental decay, to some extent, is a transmissible disease and so if a child is born to a mom especially who has terrible dental health, the child tends to be higher risk themselves. And so we talk about oral hygiene for the mom, the dad, the siblings.

We talk about how dental decay is caused. We talk about diet. We talk about oral hygiene. We talk about development. So it's a way to establish a relationship with the pediatric dentist, tell them what they can expect as the child grows and matures, what to look for, how to clean the child's teeth, and how to prevent a process that can be very damaging to a lot of children.

Interviewer: And it's not just decayed teeth, right, that can lead to other conditions. Like what would be some of those situations?

Dr. Reinemer: Well, there definitely is a link between dental decay and disease processes throughout the body. They're very much interrelated. So maintaining good dental and oral health is important for your overall health as well.

Interviewer: So you take them in at one year. Probably not going to have to get any care, but you're going to get a whole bunch education on stuff that you might not even have realized. What's the dental home relationship look like beyond that point?

Dr. Reinemer: So if you see a child at a year and they're in pretty good shape and you provide the education, often times, you don't have to see them again until two. By the time they hit three or so, then you might want to step it up to every six months. At that point, they're getting a little bit older. They can sit in the dental chair. We might start taking some dental X-rays. We might start cleaning their teeth, getting them used to the dentist and again, establishing that good relationship. The goal here is to not only prevent dental decay but create a trusting environment so the child ends up with good dental experiences and not a fearful one.

Interviewer: Got it. And then after that just keep on . . . you just handle the problems as they arise, I'd imagine?

Dr. Reinemer: Well, hopefully, there will be no problems if we've prevented them well.

Interviewer: Right?

Dr. Reinemer: But in the case that dental decay does occur and it's going to happen, then you've built that trusting relationship that the child has grown up with you as a provider, they're comfortable with you. And then certainly, we can start treating those problems early on if necessary.

Interviewer: And what kind of questions should a parent ask to find the dentist that's going to be able to offer them? A pediatric dentist would be what you'd recommend, I'd imagine.

Dr. Reinemer: If you're going to start at that age, a pediatric dentist is very well equipped to treat a very young child. There a lot of general dentists who are happy treating children as well. The main question for a parent would be, "Are you comfortable treating a child at age one?" I think traditionally, parents have understood that children need to go to the dentist before they start kindergarten, but that is changing. And so make sure that the provider's comfortable treating children at that age, and make sure they have the experience to treat that child if needs do occur.

Interviewer: And there are some very unique problems and challenges that a pediatric patient might have that an adult wouldn't.

Dr. Reinemer: Mostly age related. So a dental cavity looks the same on a child as it does in an adult in many cases. The challenge working on a young child is cooperation, fear, anxiety, the wiggles, you know, those types of things, and so pediatric dentists are in a very good position to know how to handle children at a very young age.

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