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Your Child’s First Dental Visit

dentist Vancouver, WAMany first-time parents have questions about when to bring their child to the dentist. Current recommendations say your child should see a dentist by his or her third birthday, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about it.

Family dentist Vancouver, WA Dr. Carl Futenma encourages parents to bring little ones in whenever you suspect something is not right with their oral health or dental development. If you see possible signs of tartar build-up or dark spots that may indicate tooth decay, this is also a good reason to make an appointment. If your child ever complains of a toothache, schedule a visit immediately, no matter what their age!

Is your child approaching the recommended age for a first trip to the dentist? Bring your child to Creative Smiles (dentist Vancouver, WA) and you’ll see what sets us apart from other practices. Call us at 360-573-3061 to make an appointment.

Early Visits Lessen Fear and Anxiety

While your child may not need a formal cleaning and routine check-up until the third birthday, earlier visits are a good way to pre-empt anxiety before the first formal visit. Kids sometimes become wary when they hear they have to go to the dentist. This is mostly due to fear of the unknown. The earlier you bring your child to the dentist, the easier it can be to allay these fears.

If your child already experiences anxiety over doctor appointments, due to getting vaccine shots, for example, you may want to bring your child to your dental visits occasionally. This can help establish that the dentist’s office is a safe and friendly place to be. This can make the first formal visit less fraught for some children.

What Happens at the First Dental Visit?

Always let us know if your child’s appointment is his first time seeing a dentist. We like to take extra special care to make sure first-timers feel safe and comfortable before we start. This sometimes involves giving them extra time to get used to procedures, letting them ask questions, and explaining the things we do.

During each child’s routine visit, we:

  1. Take x-rays, so we can see what’s going on below the surface.
  2. Examine the teeth and gums, to check for normal development.
  3. Check for cavities or soft spots that may develop into cavities.
  4. Perform a teeth cleaning, to remove plaque.
  5. Apply fluoride gel, to strengthen the teeth and prevent decay.
  6. Apply sealants, to provide a barrier against bacteria.
  7. Talk with the patient about brushing and flossing technique.
  8. Talk with the parent about oral hygiene, eating habits, and potential concerns.
  9. Schedule your next visit, about six months into the future.

Preventing Tooth Decay, from the First Tooth

Baby books don’t always cover oral health topics fully. It’s sometimes a surprise to parents that oral hygiene should start with the very first tooth! Baby teeth are smaller than adult teeth and have thinner enamel. This means that dental decay can worsen and spread faster than in adult teeth. Starting a regular daily oral hygiene routine at a young age is a great way to make sure your child’s first dental visits don’t involve toothaches or cavities.

Infants should have their teeth cleaned daily with a soft wet washcloth or a piece of gauze. Parents can move on to baby-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste (without fluoride) when the child is old enough to cooperate with a nightly brushing.

As your child becomes ready and willing to brush for himself, make sure to use only age-appropriate toothpastes, as children tend to swallow a lot more than they spit. Swallowing fluoride can be a health hazard as it is toxic in high doses and can cause staining in developing teeth. Also, be sure to brush his or her teeth for him regularly, to make sure the teeth are really getting clean.

When your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste reliably, you can switch to a fluoride-containing toothpaste—but be sure to continue to monitor brushing to ensure good habits. It’s a good idea for parents to monitor kids’ brushing habits until they are out of elementary school, in fact, even if it’s just once or twice a week.

Beyond brushing the teeth every day,

  • Don’t put a baby or toddler to bed with a bottle of milk, as this can lead to baby bottle decay. If they insist on a bottle at bed time, switch to water instead.
  • Avoid fruit juice, sodas, and sugary sweets.
  • Buy brushing and flossing tools that get your child excited about brushing.
  • A timer can help kids make sure they brush for a full two minutes every time.
  • Brush your own teeth in tandem with your child, occasionally, to model good brushing technique.
  • Use flossing picks made for children to help small hands learn how to floss between the teeth.

If your child is nearly three years old, visit Creative Smiles for a wonderful first dental visit. Call us at 360-573-3061 to make an appointment with Dr. Futenma, dentist Vancouver, WA .

Tips for Keeping Your Kids’ Smiles Bright and Strong


Vancouver, WA family dentistIf you have kids, you know how exhausting it can be to keep them on track. Do your homework, pick up your clothes, put your shoes away. No matter how old they are, there are some reminders children never stop needing.

When it comes to their health, however, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Giving your kids a great start on a lifetime of good oral health is one of the best gifts you can give them. If you want to do more to inspire your kids to take better care of their teeth, these ideas can help you make your children more active and empowered caretakers of their smiles.

If your parental guidance on oral health has been limited to a nightly reminder to “brush your teeth!” then these tips are for you.

Are you looking for an awesome Vancouver, WA family dentist? Dr. Carl Futenma practices family-friendly innovative dentistry. Visit our office to see why adults and kids have great experiences in our dental office.

Kids Learn by Imitation

Speaking, cooking, tying their shoes—kids learn everything by watching you do it first. We always recommend parents of young children brush their teeth in tandem with their kids, so they have a model to follow. Children naturally play ‘follow the leader’ and copy the brushstrokes and patterns you show them.

If you suspect your older kids have gotten a bit lazy with their brushing and flossing, take the time to model good brushing with them again. Don’t be afraid to coach them and narrate what you’re doing. Brushing your teeth out of habit gets boring for kids (and adults too)—that’s why kids moan about having to brush their teeth.

Break up the boredom with some tandem brushing, no matter how old they are. Follow up with modeled flossing, as well, and coach your kids through their own daily flossing routine. You don’t have to do this every night, but you’d be surprised how much a once-per-week oral hygiene coaching can do!

Knowledge is Power

The best way to make children more intrinsically motivated to take good care of their teeth is to empower them with knowledge. If a child understands what’s really happening in his or her mouth, brushing and flossing will take on a whole new meaning.

Know which foods are worst for the teeth (starchy, sugary, and acidic foods), and share this information in graphic detail. If your child is snacking on potato chips or candy, tell him the dirty details of what’s happening in his mouth on a microscopic level.

For example: Do you know what happens when you eat foods like that? The food sticks to your teeth and the bacteria that live in your mouth feast on it and multiply. When they eat the sticky food residue, they excrete acids (yes, they poop acid) that can demineralize your tooth enamel and start cavities.

The language you use will vary based on your kids’ ages and vocabulary, of course, but illustrating the realities of oral health and hygiene will help them be more motivated to keep their teeth clean.

On the flip side, use knowledge to encourage your children to eat mouth-healthy foods as well. Crunchy fruits and vegetables, (like apples, raw broccoli and celery) can help keep the teeth clean between brushings. Their texture can actually scrub plaque and bacteria from the teeth while they chew them. A factoid like creates a visual image that leaves an impression.

The Right Tools Can Help

If you suspect your kids’ oral hygiene has devolved into a token effort, give them the tools to make sure they do a thorough job, every time.

  • Buy a small timer for the bathroom and teach your child how to set it, so they can make sure they brush for a full two minutes each time. (Most kids love buttons and beeps, right?)
  • Small children love to pick out their own toothbrushes with their favorite cartoon characters or superheroes on them. Whatever you can do to make them look forward to tooth-brushing time is a win.
  • If your older kids love music, let them pick a song for you to play while they brush their teeth.
  • Big or small, most kids can find flossing a challenge. Loose floss can be hard to manipulate, so try out many types of handheld pre-loaded flossers to find out which is the easiest for your child to use.
  • Let children pick out their own age-appropriate toothpaste whenever possible. You probably have a preference in the flavor and consistency of your toothpaste, so give your children the same control.

Stay Involved, at Every Age

Ultimately, oral hygiene is like everything else your children have to do. If you just tell them to “do it,” you’re going to see mixed results. Like homework and chores, you have to monitor your children from time to time, to make sure they are doing a good job. As kids turn into teens they are usually less receptive to monitoring, and you may need to sit in on dental appointments in order to find out how things are going.

Parenting is hard, but oral hygiene is pretty simple:

  1. Brush twice a day for two minutes, using a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
  2. Floss at least once a day.
  3. Avoid or limit the foods that contribute to decay (starches, refined flours and sugars, acidic foods).
  4. See your dentist every six months for a dental cleaning, exam, and preventive treatments.

If you need a great Vancouver, WA family dentist, visit Creative Smiles. Call us at 360-574-3061 to make an appointment today!

What Every Parent Should Know About Wisdom Teeth

wisdom teeth extractionParents of teens and tweens often have questions about wisdom teeth. There is a lot of information about wisdom teeth available online, but it can be confusing when you try to understand what it means for your child, specifically.

The most important thing I tell all parents about wisdom teeth is that we are already thinking about them!

Every time your child comes in for a dental check-up, we review dental x-rays to monitor the growth and position of the wisdom teeth. We assess each child’s situation individually and will let you know when we think the optimal time for removal will be, if needed.

Do you have a teen who needs routine dental care and wisdom teeth extraction? Call our Vancouver, WA dental office at 360-574-3061 to learn about wisdom teeth extraction with Dr. Carl Futenma.

Wisdom Teeth: Who Needs Them?

A curious fact about wisdom teeth (the 3rd molars) is that they are not needed for proper dentition. They are a biological holdover from when we used to chew a great deal more fibrous plants and unprocessed grains, thousands of years ago. Many people do not develop wisdom teeth, in fact, or only grow a set on the top or bottom. Most of us do, however, so we have learned that they can be problematic.

Over the past few millennia, human jaws have been getting smaller, but we still grow the same number of teeth to fit into those jaws. This means wisdom teeth can cause problems when they come in. There may not be enough room for them to erupt, so they become impacted—often painfully. Even if there is room in the jaw, they can still lead to overcrowding and undo all that effort you put into straightening the teeth with orthodontics!

Why Wisdom Teeth are Often Removed

If we think your child’s wisdom teeth are going to cause eruption problems or may upset proper alignment, we usually recommend extraction. They are not needed for proper chewing, so in many ways the procedure is a preventive measure. Your child avoids potential pain and dental problems in the future by having the wisdom teeth extracted.

Even when there is ample room in the jaw for wisdom teeth to erupt, patients often choose to have them extracted, anyway. Why? Molars are harder to keep clean to begin with, due to their deep crevices, and the third molars erupt in the farthest corner of the mouth. It can be hard to manipulate a toothbrush and flossing tools so far into the mouth, and many adults develop decay in the deep ridges of the wisdom teeth. Many people who keep their wisdom teeth when they were younger find they have to get them extracted at a later date when they begin to suffer deep decay and structural damage. This can often be more traumatic than having it done before they erupt.

When is the Best Time for Wisdom Teeth Extraction?

Most children begin developing wisdom teeth in their jaws by about age ten. We can see them on a dental x-ray, even though the child won’t notice their presence and they won’t try to erupt until much later.

The ideal time for extraction will be before the teeth have erupted, at a point when the wisdom teeth have developed roots and the surrounding bone is less dense. We typically recommend extraction occur at some point between 16 and 19 years of age, but every mouth is different. Some teens will be ready for extraction at age 15, and some may not be at the ideal stage until they are 20 years old.

This is why routine dental visits are so important. They allow us to monitor the development of the wisdom teeth over a period of several years, so we can determine and advise you of the best time for extraction.

To learn more about wisdom teeth extraction, call our Vancouver, WA dental office at 360-574-3061 to make an appointment.

Call Creative Smiles for Vancouver WA wisdom teeth extraction.

A Family Dentist Can Provide Great Pediatric Care

family dentist
Do you have a little one (or two) who is approaching the age of his or her first dental visit?  Your first instinct may be to seek out a pediatric specialty dentist, but great pediatric care can be found with a general dentist, too.

Just as with all care providers, some general practitioners are great with kids, and some do better with adults and older kids. At Creative Smiles, Dr. Carl Futenma loves treating families, and provides friendly, appropriate care for every age and need. Call our office at 360-574-3061 for great pediatric dentistry in Vancouver, WA.

When To Bring Your Child to the Dentist

Children should visit the dentist for their first exam and cleaning by the third birthday. However, we encourage parents to bring toddlers in earlier for informal visits. This can  help them associate the dental office with positive experiences before their time comes. Bringing your two-year-old to watch your dental appointment, just once, can help normalize the things that happen in the dental chair and show a child that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

At your child’s first formal dental visit, we will take the time to make sure he or she feels comfortable before we ask to see the teeth. Adult attitudes toward dental visits are often shaped by early childhood encounters at the dentist. We aim to provide a relaxed and joyful experience, in the hopes that positive interactions will allay any potential stress or anxiety.

Children’s Unique Dental Needs

Oral hygiene should begin as soon as a child has teeth. Infants’ teeth can be cleaned with a wet washcloth, piece of gauze, or a specially designed infant toothbrush. In addition to cleaning the teeth, avoid any sugary or starchy foods near bedtime or nap time, which can create a decay-friendly acidic environment in the mouth.

Never put your child to bed with a bottle, as this can lead to early pediatric decay (sometimes called baby bottle decay).  Make sure he or she finishes the bottle at least a half an hour before bedtime. Try to use a pacifier or give a bottle with water in it, if your child likes to fall asleep with a bottle.

Make sure you use age-appropriate toothpaste with your child, as fluoride should not be used until a child is old enough to reliably spit out more toothpaste than he or she swallows. Swallowing too much fluoride can cause staining on the adult teeth growing in your child’s jaw, and may even cause poisoning. Use an age-appropriate toothpaste until you are confident he or she is spitting is all out.

Flossing should commence as soon as your child has enough teeth that they are pressed close together. If loose floss proves difficult for you or your child to wield, try some of the fun, flavored pre-loaded flossing picks made especially for small children.

Watch for Signs of Decay

Children’s teeth have thinner enamel than adult teeth, which means decay can develop and advance faster than in adult teeth. This is why we encourage parents to always monitor their child’s brushing and flossing habits. It’s even a good idea to brush the teeth yourself every now and then (up to age six or so) to make sure they are getting thoroughly cleaned. This also gives you the opportunity to notice if there are any discolored spots forming, which may indicate a cavity.

When a Pediatric Specialty Dentist Might Be Needed

Most children do fine with a family dentist, but there are some cases in which a specialist should be sought for pediatric dentistry. If your child has a medical condition that causes oral health problems, a specialist may have more experience with these cases. Additionally, early problems with tooth eruption are sometimes best understood by a pediatric specialist. Dr. Futenma provides appropriate care for all children, but he will be the first one to recommend a pediatric specialist if your child may be better served that way.

Call Creative Smiles to learn more about pediatric dentistry in Vancouver WA. Dr. Futenma and our dental staff love to see children have great first experiences at the dentist, and will give your children the attention and patience they deserve! Call 360-574-3061 to make an appointment.