Developing good oral hygiene habits early in life sets the foundation for a lifetime of dental health. This belief was strongly reinforced during a patient visit I had recently. The dental treatment for this 10-year-old patient is not something many would expect a dentist to recommend and I wanted to share this patient’s story with you.
A patient story
This young patient came to visit with me with their parent. The child had extensive decay on their adult molars. As a dentist, I save teeth all day long and firmly advocate that life (especially enjoying food) is better with them. However, I had to counsel this child and parent about adult tooth extraction of these molars. I know, your first reaction is how could I not save these teeth! Surely they are save-able?
Dentistry is about the long game
And the answer is they actually are. Yes, I could do thousands of dollars worth of dental work on them, he would spend countless hours in my chair. With best efforts and more work on them to come, he might keep these teeth for another 15 years. But then I had to think long term, what would they have to face in 25 or 30 years? They would need to revisit the situation and consider extractions, bridges and implants. Keeping these molars is a life sentence of dental work and discomfort and cost. This child is 10 years old and sitting in my chair, but I am thinking of them as an adult in their 30s and 40s. This child is in a good position now to have his next molars that are still forming to move forward and take the place of the extracted ones. After teaching him proper oral hygiene techniques and discussing this treatment plan I ask if he has any questions and he wants to know if he can still play soccer, I know he will be a much better player by being at his practices and not missing them due to countless dental appointments. Dentistry is about the long game. It isn’t always about caring for just the teeth, but the people they are attached to. Sometimes these decisions are tough, especially when dealing with our youngest patients.
Start instilling good oral hygiene habits in young children
This is why it is imperative that I look at their years ahead and the quality of life my patients will want to have into adulthood. Start demonstrating good oral hygiene habits to your children when they are young. Make sure they brush twice a day for 2 minutes and floss daily.
Also, if the cost of dental care is a struggle for your family you may be eligible for the Canada Dental Benefit. This benefit can help you access basic preventative dental care to ensure your child’s teeth and gums are healthy and prevent more serious issues from forming. You can also talk to your dentist about payment plan options.