Kids and the Dentist – Interview with Dr. John R. Vitale

Children will feel comfortable at a dental office if they are used to visiting with their parents early on. We encourage for children to start getting check-ups at the age of three and we recommend sealants on permanent molars and bicuspids.

At what age should kids start seeing a dentist? What happens during the very first visit?

Dr. John Vitale: I always tell parents to bring their children around three years of age. I think that’s the perfect time to start a child because I think their attention span is a little bit longer. During the first visit, what we generally do is we get a mirror and show them what a mirror looks like. We give them a big mirror to look at and we count their teeth. By counting their teeth, we’re also taking a visual and checking to see if they have any rampant decay and things like that. The first visit is generally a get to know you type visit.

What is the benefit of Fluoride? Most public water supplies are treated with Fluoride but if it is not, should kids take fluoride supplements?

Dr. John Vitale: Well, fluoride is certainly beneficial to a certain degree with children. It makes the teeth a little bit harder and more resistant to decay. There are some adverse effects of fluoride also like browning of teeth and things like that. Overall the general benefit is good. I’m not a proponent to be honest with you of kids taking fluoride supplements unless they have a history of rampant decay or a higher carriage index which means they get more decay in their mouths. If their teeth are healthy and they brush their teeth properly I’m not a proponent of taking additional supplements.

What are dental sealants? And do all kids need them?

Dr. John Vitale: Dental sealants are basically clear liquids that are made up of composite resin that are clear glass beads and a matrix and what we do with those is we apply them to the teeth, we etch the tooth with a little bit of an acid and then we put this clear liquid on them. The liquid goes into all the nooks and crannies on the biting surface. We do this on permanent molars only and on bicuspids which are the side teeth. On the biting surfaces of the side teeth also. We do not do them on any primary teeth or baby teeth.

Should kids be using all those fancy toothpastes that are on the market? What is the best toothpaste for young kids to use?

Dr. John Vitale: I don’t think it’s necessary for children to use all fancy toothpastes. I think the best toothpaste for a young kid is a toothpaste that he or she likes. It’s not the toothpaste, they’re all basically the same. All the major manufacturers do a good job with their toothpastes. I think that whichever one you’re comfortable with and you use properly, I think you’ll be okay.

Many kids fear going to the dentist. What advice do you have for parents on easing kids’ anxiety?

Dr. John Vitale: Well I always tell parents that if they intend to bring their children to me or any other dental office, what they should do is take their child with them before the child is ready for any dental care. What ultimately happens is when the mom or the dad sits in the chair and the child is around playing and looking around, he or she gets familiar with the surroundings in the office. Often enough a mom will put a child even on their lap while they’re getting some work done and it just eases the tension. The familiarity of the dental office is very important because you’ve been there before and you’re only going again. Getting used to the practitioner who is there and the assistants who are there – all of these things make it feel like home so that when your child is ready to go to the dentist they’ve been there before and they’re happier than walking in for the first time to a place that they’ve never been before.

If you are interested in speaking with Dr. John Vitale, visit or call 201-521-9800 to schedule an appointment.

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