LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Getting your kids' smiles ready for back-to-school is making dental hygiene top-of-mind for many parents.
It may seem like a simple task but during the start of the pandemic, dentists say they've seen a big reduction in the number of children coming in for routine checkups.
“There was a big reduction in the number of people bringing their children in for visits. I would say at least half of the number of patients was reduced,” said Dr. Ray Tucker.
That time away from the dentist’s office may have been more detrimental than many parents may think, especially when it comes to early childhood dental care.
“By far the biggest thing affecting children in oral health is what we call 'early childhood caries,' a condition where children tend to sleep with a bottle or carry around a cup of juice or even milk. Just the duration of time on the teeth really softens all the enamel and that causes just a cascade of issues," Tucker said.
Tucker says if your child already feels dental pain, it may be too late.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment and that’s because if we can tell mom or dad some information it really helps preserve the health of their child. Then when they do return for their exams it’s much less likely that they’re going to need any treatment intervention,” Tucker said.
As students return back to the classroom, it's important to keep in mind the types of snacks you send your kids to school with.
"Snacks that don’t tend to cause tooth decay are dairy products. Cheese sticks are a good one, things like peanut butter, granola and grains will not cause tooth decay as sugars will. So, we want to avoid things like soda, juice, gummies and lollipops,” Tucker said.
And no matter the age, Tucker says a good routine could save you routine visits to the dentist.
For kids, by far the most important thing is a routine, when children don’t have a routine it can just make it a lot more difficult to prevent problems,” Tucker said.
Although most dental health issues in children are preventable or don't require treatment, he explains that there are some tough procedures that could build your child's anxiety when heading to the dentist's office.
“There’s not always a way to reduce anxiety. But what I tell parents is if you know your child has a lot of anxiety you don’t always need to talk about it. Sometimes the best thing to do is let the provider talk to your child because we’re trained to use phrases and terminology that they can understand," Tucker said.
Tucker says it's also helpful to bring them into a calming environment. So, seeing the dentist doesn't seem so scary.
“We have a lot of equipment that can make things easier for children. We have television screens on the ceiling, we have X-ray equipment that’s modern and quick, and we have all the modern tools to make the things we need to do as pleasant as possible," Tucker said.
For the latest on how to access pediatric dental care ahead of the school year, or how to contact Dr. Ray Tucker's office you can head over to the Union Village Kid's Dentistry website.