Say ahh! Preparing your little one for the dentist

by Mary Helen Darah

Olivia Slates, a 2009 Sylvania Southview High School graduate and Homecoming Queen, is enjoying her career as dental hygienist at Jon Frankel Dentistry. Slates is a graduate of  the Owens Community College hygienist program.

“I received my associates degree from Owens,” she stated. “Their program is currently ranked third in the nation. I have been with Dr. Frankel’s practice for nine years, spending the first two years as an assistant while attending school.”

Slates was featured in a YouTube video showing kids what to expect at visits to the dentist that went viral. The video has over nine million views. She strongly believes that it is vital for children to have a positive dental experience. “We usually see kids after their first tooth emerges,” she stated. “Age two or three is a great time to come in. They are excited to come in and you can explain things to them, plus they have more teeth!”

The hygienist believes the first appointment needs to focus on fun. “We want to show kids that the dentist office is not a scary place. I tend to use a ‘show and tell’ interactive approach,” said Slates. “I show them the water syringe which I refer to as the squirt gun. We use terms they will understand. I then let them spray a little bit of water. The involvement of the kids helps lessen the fear they may have of the equipment.”

Another ritual Slates does during an appointment is to count the child’s teeth. “We go through and count the teeth out loud and often they count along with me,” she said. “I ask them how many teeth they think they have. You can imagine some of their guesses. I let them choose their toothpaste and fluoride flavors and color of toothbrush. I remember how big those decisions were for me as a kid. I then remove any plaque, if necessary. Mainly the appointment consists of counting, polishing, flossing and fluoride and lasts about 40-50 minutes. We do not get x-rays until age 5.”

Parents can prepare their children by having them brush their teeth at home. “This gets kids used to having a toothbrush in their mouth before they come and see us,” explained Slates. “It is helpful for parents to relate to their children that going to the dentist is a regular, fun activity. Also, parents can make healthy food choices for their children so they do not come in with a mouthful of cavities. Parents are welcome to come back and join their child. We go through hygiene, diet, and what they should be doing at home in regards to dental care. We also need to know from parents if their child is sucking their thumb or using a pacifier.”

Olivia Slate’s educational video
‘A Child’s Visit to the Dentist-an educational video for kids’ 

Not all appointments run smoothly, but Slates and her team have methods of dealing with less than positive situations. “If a child is scared or misbehaving, we tell them about the treasure chest. All we have to do is say that if they are good they get not only one prize, but two. Anyone can get a prize but that extra goodie goes a long way. Their whole demeanor changes. That is the best part of the visit for them and they forget everything else. We also have a television they can watch while I’m working. I ask them what they would like to watch so they feel they have control.”

Slates truly enjoys her career. She stated, “I love my job and working with kids. They are so genuine, get excited about the littlest things and love learning. It’s such a rewarding experience to give them a positive time at the dentist. They are fun and say what’s on their mind. They are the highlight of my day.”

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