By Steven Penn
Hendricks Pediatric Dentistry focuses on specialized dentistry for children and adolescents, and John Wells, D.M.D., teaches his patients and their parents about oral health.
Wells said he emphasizes preventative care and education, starting at an early age.
“We want to see the kid at age 1, or when they get their first teeth,” he
said. “The reason we want to do that is mainly for education of the parent, so we can prevent decay, mostly. We want each child to have what’s called a dental home. Basically, that’s a place where they can go and get continued care, emergency care, and proper referrals that they would need.”
He said encouraging a proper diet is also key in his ongoing relationships with patients.
“The other thing we talk about is diet, and we want to keep the frequency of sugar and acid in their diet as low as possible,” Wells said. “Mostly drinks (are the problem). Kids that end up having a lot of cavities, it’s usually sugary drinks (that causes them). That’s everything from Kool-Aid with NutraSweet (or other artificial sweeteners), all the way to chocolate milk. Kool-Aid with NutraSweet and diet sodas have no sugar, but they have acid and that’s what dissolves the teeth. Sodas, juice, Gatorade, Hi-C, and Capri Sun — all those things have sugar and acid. Chocolate milk, strawberry milk, has a lot of sugar. There are about 10 teaspoons of sugar in eight ounces of chocolate milk.”
He said he stresses that the frequency at which those drinks are consumed causes the most damage.
“The most important thing is frequency (of drinks) — not amount,” Wells said. “It’s best for them not to sip on anything that has sugar or acid in it. Each time you take a drink of anything that has sugar or acid in it, or I do, or a 2-year-old does ... almost all of it goes in your stomach, but just a little stays in your mouth. It takes your saliva 30 minutes to it wash off after each sip. So if you take a drink and you’re done with your meal, usually 30 minutes later most of it’s gone. If you take a drink at 1 p.m. and another at 1:15 p.m., then the 30 minutes starts over ... if they sip on it, that’s the dangerous part as far as cavities.”
He said he also informs parents of the time frame in which their children’s teeth will begin to come in.
“There are 20 baby teeth, easy way to remember that is there are 10 on top, 10 on bottom,” he said. “The first baby teeth that usually come in are the two lower, center ones — the lower incisors. They usually come in between age 6 months to 13 months. They usually have all the baby teeth in by 2 1/2 to 3 years of age. They don’t start losing baby teeth until about age 5 to 8 years of age. All the baby teeth are usually gone by age 11 to 13.”
As a child’s teeth come in, Wells said he begins to instill good brushing habits.
“We want them all to use a fluoride toothpaste, at a year and a half,” he said. “We only want them to use the size of a BB, not a pea (size) or anything. A little-bitty smear of toothpaste, for kids under 4. Just a small amount of toothpaste.”
He said he continues preaching the good brushing and flossing habits as the children gets older.
“For older kids we want to make sure they brush their teeth once a day,” he said. “The older kids, the big problem that I see as far as cavities goes, it’s again diet. It’s usually drinking sodas ... or Gatorade and sitting and playing a video game. Just putting it in your mouth over and over. The older kids, they have to floss their teeth, and brush them.”
He said he tells his patients they have to clean all sides of their teeth.
“A chewing surface, a facial side, the side next to the tongue, and then it has the two sides that touch the other teeth. I try to tell the older kids, it’s like their hand. Your hand has five fingers, if you only brush you only get three sides, you wouldn’t want to wash your hands and only wash three fingers. That’s kind of the same thing we try to get them to do.”
Wells added that roughly 80 percent cavities start in the cracks and pits on the tops of the back teeth, while the rest of the cavities form between teeth when a person doesn’t floss.
He said he also focuses on trauma that might occur to a patient’s teeth.
“On a primary tooth (also known as a baby tooth), if a child knocks it out, give me, or (your family’s) dentist a call,” Wells said. “But, we would not put the baby tooth back in if it got knocked all the way out.
A permanent tooth, if it got knocked out or broken off, you want to find the piece of the tooth, or the whole tooth, and put it in some water or some plain milk and call the dentist right away, because we will try to put that back together.”
Wells said in a situation where a tooth is knocked out or broken, it’s also important to check for signs of other trauma, like a concussion.
“The first thing you want to check, if there’s a tooth knocked out, you want to check that the kid’s brain is working right,” he said. “One of the things I do on that, if it’s an older kid, you can ask them what day it is, or when there birthday is. For a little kid, I’ll just hand them something and if they can reach out and grab it, they’re probably fine. If they’re crying and they want their mother, they’re probably OK. If you turn around at the playground and your kid just fell off the monkey bars, and hit on their face and they’re just kind of sitting there, you don’t want to call the dentist, call 911.”
Hendricks Pediatric Dentistry is located at 1411 S. Green Street, Suite 200, in Brownsburg. For more information, call the office at 852-8113 or visit www.hendrickspd.com.