Pediatric dentist Dr. Jessie Hoffman, right, treats a patient Monday while the girl’s mother looks on at Dentistry for Kids in Cranberry Township. Hoffman recommends parents bring their children to the dentist within six months after the arrival of the child’s first tooth.
CRANBERRY TWP — A generation ago, a trip to the dentist was a frightening prospect for a young child. Today, special care is taken to provide early treatment and make children of all ages feel calm and comfortable in the dental chair. Family dentist Dr. Michael Clopp of Cranberry Township recommends that unless there is a problem, parents should schedule their child’s first dental appointment at age 3½. “Their developmental age is such that the child is more cooperative and can follow instructions,” Clopp said. He also encourages parents to bring their babies and young toddlers with them when they or a child’s older sibling comes in for a cleaning, so youngsters remember the dentist’s office as a nonthreatening and cheerful environment. “Adults who have had a bad experience can be scarred for life,” Clopp said. He said first-timers receive an examination, cleaning and a topical flouride treatment after clambering into his chair. Clopp and his dental hygienists always take their time with little ones and allow them to observe and touch all instruments before they are are placed into their mouths. “Most kids are very comfortable with it and enjoy coming in,” Clopp said. Clopp credits his hygienists with helping to put his youngest patients at ease, as they have ample experience in counting and cleaning the 20 teeth in a 3-year-old patient. Regarding dental issues most often seen in very young patients, Clopp said the socio-economic status of an area directly impacts the services provided by a dental office. He said he has seen overall good dental health in the Cranberry Township area. “In Cranberry, most kids are in pretty good shape at age 3½,” Clopp said. He confirms that many changes and advances have been made in the past few decades regarding pediatric dentistry. Clopp said those changes have made dental appointments much easier for the youngest patients. Clopp said the number of “caries,” commonly known as cavities, have been greatly reduced through preventative care such as flouride treatments at the dentist’s office, flouride in public water and sealants usually applied to teeth at age 6. He said technological advances, like lasers that find cavities when they are very small, allows for early detection and decreased necessity for local anesthetic. “Early intervention is always the key,” Clopp said. Pediatric dentist Dr. Jessie Hoffman of Dentistry for Kids in Cranberry Township said once babies get their first teeth at around the age of 6 months, parents can begin to brush them with a small, soft brush and a tiny hint of toothpaste. Hoffman said if parents use only a small amount, toothpaste with flouride is safe for children under age 2, but swallowing too much toothpaste with flouride can be harmful. She also said babies should have their first dental visit within six months of their first tooth’s arrival, which studies show lowers the lifetime instance of cavities. She said early visits also ensure parents are provided the correct maintenance of their babies’ teeth and gets the young patient accustomed to the dentist’s office. Hoffman also said babies who are breastfed exclusively are shown to have far fewer oral health issues than bottle-fed babies. She said once babies begin to eat anything containing carbohydrates, including baby food and snacks, they are susceptible to cavities. “We have kids under a year old who have cavities,” Hoffman said. More information on pediatric oral health is available at www.ada.org.