When it comes to kids and their teeth, it's not so much where do you start, but when you start. While prevention and good dental habits always have been keys to keeping your child's teeth healthy, different approaches to tooth decay and orthodontic care are just a couple of the things parents might be seeing and hearing about these days.
We asked a few Chicago area pediatric dentists to tell us their thoughts on some of the products, procedures and innovations available.
Dr. Cissy Furusho, Dentistry For Kids, Chicago
What is it? The easy answer is sealants prevent cavities, they are easy to place, they are non-invasive (no shots) and they cost less than a filling. Sealants are used on the chewing surface of molars, which have many pits and fissures that are difficult to keep clean. Sealants might be recommended in order to fill the tiny grooves, creating a smooth surface to prevent food from packing into them.
What's the cost? The price can vary, and often insurance companies will cover sealants as a benefit. Check with your insurance for eligibility.
Worth it? Yes, especially for cavity-prone children.
Dr. John J. Dzakovich, Arlington Heights
What is it? The KCP is an air abrasion machine that allows for treatment of cavities without the need for an injection. It works like a tiny sand blaster that uses small particles to blow away the tooth decay. Multiple cavities can be treated in a single visit. The best candidates are children and those who are fearful and have small amounts of decay. It is painless and, since there is no shot involved, patients spend less time in the chair worrying while waiting for the anesthetic to take effect. In addition, there is no annoying sound that normally accompanies the traditional dental drill.
What's the cost? It is no more costly than a traditional filling.
Worth it? Yes, if you consider saved time in the dental office, the fact that no injection is given and the fact that minimal tooth structure is removed, this would be any parent's first choice of treatment for their child.
Dr. Fred Margolis, Highland Park
What is it? There are basically two types of dental lasers being used on all ages of patients. The erbium laser is an all-purpose laser that prepares cavities without a shot and for soft tissue surgery, again without a shot. The diode laser is used for soft tissue laser surgery. In preparing cavities, the laser numbs the tooth. It allows dentists to do root canals on baby teeth as well as permanent teeth.
What's the cost? Some dentists do charge extra, a typical extra charge is around $50.
Worth it? Absolutely. It numbs the tooth, it doesn't leave a numb feeling in the child's mouth.
Dr. Raj Puri, Smiles Dental Center, Wood Dale
What's the benefit? A proper fitting mouth guard can save teeth from blunt trauma and might even lower the chance of concussion. From my experience, a sports-related dental trauma can be very expensive, time consuming and psychologically difficult for a child.
What's the cost? They can run anywhere from $200-$400 depending on the material, but many insurances are covering and thus bring the costs down by more than half.
Worth it? Yes.
Dr. Cissy Furusho
What is it? It provides exact measurements and wire bends to get the teeth into the exact position for braces. There's no more impressions. If you had braces, you know what impressions are-biting into a cold, gooey material and waiting a few seconds for it to set up. Children and adults with very strong gag reflexes are unable to tolerate the impression material.
What's the cost? Digital imaging is more expensive than traditional braces because of the extra cost in diagnosis, treatment planning and the materials itself. Pricing varies.
Worth it? Yes, because it is more accurate and, in many cases, it will shorten the length of time your child wears braces.
Dr. Raj Puri
What is it? Xylitol is a natural sweetener that minimizes cavity-causing bacteria and repairs damaged enamel.
What's the cost? No cost if it is already in products.
Worth it? Yes, as long as the patient reads the labels and uses them as directed.
Dan Campana is a dad and freelance writer living in Streamwood.
See more of Dan's stories here.