A trip to the dentist, while necessary, isn't among things that most children do eagerly. Dentist Issa Issa of The Dentist Place for Kids is trying to change that.
Issa comes to work dressed in a Superman, Batman, Hulk or Ironman smock. His wardrobe choices are in line with the whimsical theme of his practice, intended to put young patients at ease.
Issa says meeting children on their level is the best way to get them committed to maintaining their health.
The Dentist Place for Kids, at 12005 Cortez Blvd., just east of Oak Hill Hospital, celebrates 12 years in Hernando County and always has specialized in pediatric dentistry. When Issa joined the office about two years ago he enhanced the kids-friendly approach.
Issa strives to get his young patients to warm up to him. And he maintains the tone throughout the office, incorporating touches aimed at appealing to children. For instance, the office uses kids' verbiage to help make the experience a positive one. And parents are brought into the game plan with a list of words and meanings before the visit
For example, when 4-year-old Evan Stefanski recently had his teeth cleaned, the staff had a plan to keep him at ease. Evan lounged in a dentist chair, wearing a superhero mask and surrounded by calming images of Sponge Bob and the Little Mermaid, while receiving his "sleepy juice."
The little boy watched a movie on a monitor above his chair while Issa worked on his mouth. Evan remained quiet except for identifying his favorite color for an ice pop and sugar-free lollypop - rewards he was promised once the treatment was completed.
The idea is get children comfortable with regular dental visits as soon as their first tooth appears, Issa said. He works with children and teens ages one to 16, doing cleanings, extractions, fillings and corrective spacing of teeth. Ideally he would like to see his patients twice each year for preventative checkups and cleanings to ensure continued good dental health.
Regular monitoring of a child's teeth and gums is important not only for routine dental health but also to uncover subtle problems that otherwise might be missed.
Kristy Phillips of Spring Hill brought her 7-year old son, Austin, to The Dentist Place for Kids about a year ago to begin regular visits. A small cavity found in a back molar was filled about a month ago.
Austin got through his procedure without incident. "They were singing songs to him," Phillips said. And when Austin's "sleepy juice" wore off, he was fine. His mother reports Austin enthusiastically follows his daily rituals with brushing and flossing.
The entire office is designed to appeal to children. The waiting area has toys for kids to play with and colorful images of familiar characters on the walls. The hygiene room, where patients receive cleanings and initial examinations, bursts with colorful designs and objects of childhood affection.
Think your child will dread having a procedure done? Not these patients; their anxiety is tempered in the presence of Disney princesses and superheroes. A special quiet room is available for anxious children who might need extra soothing.
Children's dental health is a topic of serious concern because people's dental habits are established early in life, authorities say. Considering several deadly diseases can be traced to poor oral health, teaching young patients how to care for their teeth and gums can help prevent future troubles.
February is National Children's Dental Health Month and the National Dental Association wants parents and caregivers to understand the importance of keeping their children healthy through steps leading to good oral health.
Dental disease is the most common chronic disease in early childhood. Because tooth decay in baby teeth can affect the health of the permanent teeth, it is important to monitor a child's oral health from the moment the first tooth appears.
Issa suggests cleaning a baby's gums and new teeth with gauze or a soft cloth and graduating to a soft brush with half a pea-sized dollop of tooth paste. Flossing before the nightly brushing also is important, even when there are gaps between early teeth. And children should be encouraged to adopt the habit of flossing at an early age so they can continue it into adulthood.
Never put a child to bed with a bottle of anything other than water, he said, because sugars from juice and milk will attach to teeth during sleep when the mouth becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
Prevention is key and good habits - brushing twice daily for at least two minutes, flossing and regular dental appointments - should be instilled as early as possible.
Issa said he decided to pursue dentistry after his father's failing health was linked to poor oral health. "That's when I decided I wanted to be a dentist," Issa said. "It wasn't really stressed for us to take care of our teeth growing up," he said.
He advocates educating parents about the importance of establishing good dental habits in their children. Considering that tooth decay is caused by active bacteria in the mouth, it is vital to catch any sign of cavities early on and treat accordingly, he said.
Throughout February, The Dentist Place for Kids is reducing bills for young patients' treatments by 20 percent. The office also is planning a free dental day on May 17. For more information, contact the office at (352) 596-5063 or visit their website at www .TheDentistPlaceSpringHillKids.com.