A Hands-on Experience For Kid

By Dr. Lynn Fujimoto
Interviewed by Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - June 10, 2009
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Dr. Lynn Fujimoto
Pediatric Dentist

Interviewed By Melissa Moniz

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

I went to high school at St. Andrew’s Priory. I received my undergraduate from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Then I went to Washington University School of Dental Medicine, which is also in St. Louis. And to become a pediatric dentist, I did an additional two years of schooling at UCLA.

How long have you been practicing?

28 years.

What is the age range of your patients?

We like them to start when they are 1 year old, and we see them all the way up until college. We are noticing that we are now seeing patients earlier. Before we would often not see patients until they were 2 or 3, but now parents are bringing them even earlier, which is good - usually when their first teeth come in.


What are the biggest differences working with children versus adults?

With children, you need to be a little more patient, and we show them a lot of things. We let them feel things and it’s more show, tell and do. For the kids, it’s more a hands-on experience.

Can you talk about your office decor and the care you took in creating a kid-friendly atmosphere?

The artist who worked on our office came from Mexico, and he used Disney Golden Books to paint the murals, so we have Mickey Mouse and Peter Pan. It looks exactly what it looks like in the books.

Dr. Lynn Fujimoto shows 4-year-old Tamahere Paahao a stuffed animal’s teeth before his dental exam

How do you treat a cavity in a child’s baby teeth versus their permanent teeth?

If the cavity is very big, then sometimes you need to put a full cap on the tooth, which is the silver crowns that you see, especially if the cavity is on the back teeth. The silver crown is a temporary crown, unlike the crowns put on as adults, which are custom made to fit that tooth. For the baby teeth, it’s kind of generic.

At what age do all of a child’s permanent teeth come in?

Usually the permanent teeth are all in about age 11 or 12.

Once a child’s permanent teeth come in, do the shape, color and placement stay the same?

Sometimes parents are concerned that their child’s teeth are so huge. But they’ll grow into their teeth. But what comes out is what you’re going to get. It doesn’t change. Even a lot of yellow. That will stay. There’s all these emphasis on white teeth, but we don’t recommend doing any whitening treatments until they are older. Teeth normally have a lot of yellow hues to them, so parents shouldn’t be alarmed. It’s not natural to have super-white teeth.

What special care do you and your staff offer to ensure the children have a positive dentist experience?

Most of my staff has been here almost as long as I have, so over 20 years. And so they’re all comfortable and great working with children.

Can you talk about fluoride and its importance?

The fluoride that you swallow, from 0-3 years old, we give them 0.25 milligrams, and from 3-6 it’s 0.5 milligrams, and 6 and up it’s 1 milligram, so it varies depending on how old the child is. And this fluoride that you take in the form of vitamins or liquid goes into the system and into the new teeth that are forming and makes them stronger. This is different from the fluoride that’s in toothpaste and mouth rinse, these are all topical fluoride. Topical fluoride works to strengthen the teeth that are in your mouth, but the ones in vitamins actually help the permanent teeth develop.


Besides not brushing and flossing regularly, what are some key things that cause cavities?

No. 1 is putting the child to bed with a bottle, and the bottle has juice or even milk. Or even breast-feeding - if you breast-feed your child once their teeth come in, we see a lot of decay on the teeth. A lot of times people don’t think about that with breast milk. That’s why it’s great when parents come in early because we can counsel them. What helps is if they do give their child a bottle before bed or nurse at night is to get a warm wash cloth and wipe their teeth and gums down once they finish, then put them to bed.

When you are doing procedures that require numbing, are the options the same as what’s available for adults?

It’s pretty much what’s available for adults. We do use a kid-friendly topical before we numb them. It’s a bubblegum or berry flavor that numbs the gums before we inject them. A lot of times the kids are pretty good. If they need a lot of work do be done like multiple crowns and the child is very apprehensive, then the parent may choose to have it done in the hospital all at once. Or we also have a liquid sedation that children take before they come in to help them relax. It doesn’t totally put them to sleep, so if you want your child to be totally put to sleep then you need to go to the hospital and do it under general anesthesia.

At what age can a child be considered for braces?

Once all the baby teeth fall out, so between 11 and 12.

Do you usually recommend that a child put on braces sooner than later?

It all depends on the child. The main thing for me is their oral hygiene. If the child isn’t taking care of their teeth, then I tell the parents to wait on the braces. Once you put the braces on it’s hard to keep the teeth clean, and the person has to be very responsible to go in there and brush and floss regularly, because otherwise you take the braces off and you’ve got holes all over the teeth. And we see that all the time.

Do you recommend that parents with children a little older (ages 5-10) continue to brush their child’s teeth, or is it OK for children to brush their own teeth?

I think parents need to check on them and don’t assume that they’re doing a good job. We say once they can write their name really well that they probably have the dexterity to brush on their own. But I always tell my parents to go in and check, even doing those rinses that colors the plaque, so the child can see where they’ve missed.

How often should parents bring their child in for checkups?

Twice a year is good, unless you have different problems. Sometimes I have parents who want us to see them every three months. For instance, some kids who swim a lot get a brown stain on their teeth from the chlorine in the water. So they’ll come in more often to clean that. But every six months is good.

 

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