The Reflux Mom’s Guide to Healthy Teeth, Part III: Tips for Dental Care
When your child has Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, brushing teeth and going to the dentist are just as important as taking reflux medication and going to the GI doctor. When you are spinning in circles from caring for your child with GERD, dental care may seem low on the worry list. There is evidence that children with GERD may be at greater risk for cavities so dental care is very important to the overall health of your child.
Here are my best tips for dental care when your child has Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease:
- Provide fun toothbrushes and kid friendly toothpaste.
- Purchase a child sized toothbrush. Remember, soft and small is better than large and firm. Your dentist can help you select the proper toothbrush.
- A preschooler may need a step stool to reach the sink and dental care tools such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and cup for rinsing the mouth.
- Place a mirror at your child’s level so she can see herself brushing.
- Set up a home brushing routine. A sticker chart may help both of you to remember to brush.
- Brushing timer. Our pediatric dentist gave my daughter a minute timer to help her increase the time spent brushing.
- Stay out of it: Let your child manage home dental care as much as possible. Again, your doctor will give you guidance on how much assistance is needed and developmentally appropriate. Have someone else brush your teeth to understand how it feels.
Before Going to the Dentist:
- Read a book about going to the dentist.
- Practice playing dentist for a child who is fearful or unsure about what to expect.
- If your child has a complex medical history, prepare a summary of current medications and treatments.
- Take your child to your dental appointment so she can see mommy and daddy receiving dental care.
- Call ahead to discuss your concerns if your child has significant fears about the dentist so the office staff will be prepared and extra attentive.
At the Dental Appointment:
- Update the dentist about current medications and medical conditions.
- Ask the dentist about the best toothbrush and toothpaste to use.
- Develop a home care plan. I like it when the dentist talks directly to my kids and reminds them of the plan.
- Ask the doctor about follow up visits. Most dentists recommend a dental visit every 6 months.
Jack’s Dental Visit
A preschooler named Jack went to the dentist last week for his six month visit. Jack has had way too many medical appointments and tests due to GERD and other health issues so he was not too thrilled by the idea of going to the dentist. His mom knew that Jack would be uncomfortable if she discussed his medical issues in front of the dentist so she called the dentist and updated her about the recent changes to his medications and the recent test results. She also warned the dentist that Jack might be a bit fearful about coming to the dentist after a recent hospitalization.
On the day of the visit, Jack’s mom said, "First we will go to the dentist, then we will go to the park across the street. " Jack did not look happy in the dentist office but he cooperated with the brushing and treatment. The dental assistant was clearly ready for him and made a special effort to give him lots of choices and extra prizes for cooperating. The dentist talked to Jack about the slide and the swings at the park and sent him on his way.
A combination of a skilled pediatric dentist and a mom who understands the importance of helping her child accept and participate in dental care, Jack will have healthy teeth and a positive attitude about going to the dentist.