The National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) has been reaching out to parents in a bid to educate them on the importance of good dental health. A survey showed that 7 in 10 parents polled had not taken their children to the dentist before. The number of children being treated at NDCS for early childhood caries has doubled in the last decade. Many of these childhood dental problems are a result of parent’s ignorance in this area. I was one of those ignorant parent, and the state of my children’s dental health was terrible. I am determined to inculcate good dental hygiene in Kate.
|Kate loves brushing her own teeth|
A couple of years back, #1 had a tooth infection. There was some swelling on her gums (like a bubble) and we took her to Pacific Healthcare at Paragon. As she was already about 11 years old, the dentist decided to extract her baby tooth. The swelling disappeared and the problem was solved. The dentist enquired about the other family members and asked us to check the other childrens’ teeth. True enough, we found out that #4 suddenly had a cavity in one of her back tooth. We took her to NDCS and they said that the infection was most likely passed from one sibling to the next due to the sharing of food. As she was only about 5 years old at that time, they didn’t want to extract the baby tooth as the space needed to be saved for the adult tooth which will appear a few years later. So she had to do a crown. She was scheduled for a crowning to be done under general anaesthesia (G.A.). Even though it was done at NDC, it cost me more than $2,000 to fix that tooth!
About 2 years ago, we noticed that #5 had ‘rotten teeth’. Several of his teeth started getting discoloured and we could see that they were decayed. We took him to The Kids Dentist at Camden and Dr. Rashid shook his head after examining him. He said that many of his teeth had started to decay badly and he needed some pulpotomy treatment, 5 crowns and a couple of fillings. 5 crowns?! Wouldn’t that cost me $10,000? This was a nicely set-up private clinic at Camden, so I was sure it would cost me an arm and a leg. As it turned out, Dr. Rashid said we had 2 choices. If #5 manages to be cooperative (meaning sit still in the chair for about 1 hour for 5-7 sessions and open his mouth big) he wouldn’t need to be sedated. A big chunk of the cost for #4’s crowning was for G.A.
Before Dr. Rashid could start, #5 needed to do an x-ray. He was very uncooperative and Dr. Rashid said that there was no way he could do any treatment without G.A. if he behaved like that. I knew I had to convince #5 to be a willing patient. He loves Lego, so I told him that if he did what he was told, we would go and buy 1 set of Lego after every session. That worked like magic! He cooperated fully and after every session, I would allow him to buy a $9.90 box of Lego of his choice. (That was a steal compared to paying more than a thousand bucks for G.A.). In the end, I paid about $3000+ to fix all his teeth.
After discussions with Dr. Rashid, we realised that the cause of his rotten teeth was a combination of factors. When he was young, he would go to bed with a bottle of milk and not brush his teeth prior to falling asleep. Our previous helper also used to give him a bottle of ribena several times a day as he lay on the couch watching TV. It was easy for her as there was no mess (compared to a cup) and he wouldn’t bother her for a long time. His teeth was also not brushed properly and there were times when he was tired and I didn’t insist on having him brush his teeth before he went to bed.
|Baby gum cum tooth brush|
That was indeed a very expensive and painful mistake to make. Now I am more careful with Kate. From the time she was 3 months old, I got her this tooth/gum brush. It’s bristles are really soft. I instructed my helper to brush her teeth every evening and she replied rather incredulously, “Brush her teeth? But she has no teeth!” I explained to her that it was just to get her used to having her gums cleaned. I will definitely not let her drink any other sweet drinks out of her bottle besides milk. I will also try to wean her from her bottle when she turns 1… or maybe 2 😉 That’s already a big improvement. The other 5 of them drank from their bottles till they were about 4 or 5! ( I seriously thought milk was meant to be drank out of a milk bottle).
Dr. Rashid also told us that if we really wanted to give the child a sweet drink, it was much better to drink it all up in one go, than to take sips of it over a prolonged period of time. It will just be a sugar bath in there. And although we all know that sweets are bad, the nasty ones to really watch out for are those sticky ones. One surprising thing we learnt was that rice, left on the teeth for a long time, will also break down into sugar!
Later on, I asked a dentist friend why #4 had to do her crown under G.A. at NDCS, when #5 could have an option of local anaesthesia if he was cooperative? She used to work in NDCS and told me that they were seeing patients back-to-back there and did not have time to cajole the child to be cooperative. It was more time efficient to just send them all through G.A. I personally will not choose the option of G.A. if I can avoid it, not only because of the cost, but because there is a slight risk in getting a G.A.
Sane tip: Start taking your child to the dentist when she is about 1 year old. It is more to get her used to the dentist and the environment so that she will not protest next time. Also, it is good to start getting their teeth checked from a young age as the dentist can point out any early problems, and it is much easier to prevent problems than to seek treatment.
Save tip: Taking good care of your child’s teeth will definitely save you a ton of money on dental treatment in future.