This month is National Childhood Dentistry Awareness Month, and I had the pleasure of interviewing pediatric dentist Dr. Adam Silevitch. “Dr. Adam” is a partner at Pediatric Dentists NYC and a member of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. Born and raised in the Boston area, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and his dental degree from the Boston University School of Dental Medicine, before completing specialized post-graduate training in pediatric dentistry from Columbia University, where he served as chief resident.
Dr. Husain: The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends taking your child to the pediatric dentist after the first tooth erupts and some definitely recommend by the first birthday. I usually aim for some time between the 15 months and 24 months of age. What are the benefits of early childhood dental visits?
Dr. Adam Silevitch: It is important to bring your child early to the dentist, since once the first tooth erupts, your child can get a cavity. Most of my patients come for their first visit around the age of 2 years and while not every 2 year old is able to sit in the chair and have a full checkup, it's important to begin to build a relationship of trust. This will go a long way in developing a lasting relationship that will promote good behavior and a positive perspective on going to the dentist.
Dr. Husain: That’s a really great point. Trust is so important. I feel like that’s a huge part of the pediatrician-parent-patient relationship.
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Totally. The first dental visit is also important to review with parents what they should be doing at home to help their child with their oral hygiene, discuss any habits the child may have, and review diet as it relates to cavities and overall oral health.
Dr. Husain: A lot of families have questions about supplements and vitamins nowadays. What are important vitamins and minerals for children to have in their diet to support healthy gums and teeth?
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Calcium is really important as it helps promote strong tooth enamel. Yogurt and cheeses are great sources. It's also important to drink fluoridated tap water. If your community doesn't have fluoridated tap water some bottled water companies have products with fluoride added, or you can have your dentist prescribe a fluoride supplement.
Dr. Husain: True, many counties in NJ don’t put fluoride in their water, and I do end up prescribing a multivitamin with fluoride. What are some tried and true tips, in your opinion, for teaching your children to take care of their own teeth?
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Depending on the age of the child a video of one of their favorite characters can be helpful- Elmo or Daniel Tiger. I did a voiceover cartoon about going to the dentist that is helpful on Youtube. (see below)
Parents brushing their own teeth along with their child to model good habits is another good tip. Reading tooth related books with them like Dr. DeSoto or Bernstein Bears and talking up the experience positively about going to the dentist are also good places to start.
Dr. Husain: When it comes to seeing the dentist, is there any special words or encouragement you recommend? Just make sure to explain to the child in a way they understand it. I feel that generally speaking, dentists are very good about not even seeing the needle so no need to warn about the child getting a shot and increase anticipation and anxiety.
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Absolutely. When parents project their own fears of the dentist it can translate to their child being fearful for their dental visits.
Dr. Husain: With Valentine’s Day coming around the corner, chocolate and sugary candies are everywhere. No candy ever isn’t really a practical option but are there smarter candy choiceS?
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Definitely. Not all candy is created equal. Sticky, chewy, gummy candies are the worst offenders and should be avoided. And chocolate is totally ok, but not just any chocolate. Dark chocolate tends to be the least processed making it better for your teeth.
Dr. Husain: Oh yay! I love dark chocolate!
Dr. Adam Silevitch: I like the idea of the "Candy Fairy"- after the candy has been put away for the evening, explain to your child that the Candy Fairy will come and replace their candy stash with a special toy they have had their eye on. The candy will soon be a thing of the past!
Dr. Husain: Oh that’s a good idea! I like idea of a sweets swap... not having your avoid sweets altogether, but a few healthier alternatives.
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Right. Children will have their teeth and likely their bellies, too just a little happier. Think chocolate-covered strawberries or melon cut cute shapes. Lollipop alternatives are another option.
Dr. Husain: Oh wow, what are those?
Dr. Adam Silevitch: Sugar-free Xylitol lollipops...They are a great alternative to traditional lollipops except they don't cause cavities, and in fact stimulate saliva production to help wash teeth!
Stay tuned for more with Dr. Adam Silevitch DMD in a few weeks for another interview on pediatric dental health. To learn more about Dr. Silevitch’s practice in New York, visit https://pdnyc.com/.