Introducing kids to the dentist requires a gentle approach

OREGON CITY, Ore. - February is National Children's Dental Health Month and local dentists are using the opportunity to talk about dental care for toddlers.

"We're trying to make sure that children themselves don't develop those same fears and anxieties that adults do have," said Dr. Shelby Setter, a pediatric dentist with Kaiser Permanente.

Pediatric dentists are schooled in child psychology in addition to dental health.

KATU visited Dr. Shelby's (as she's known to her patients) at her Oregon City office. Her approach to kids is gentle as possible to make sure they're comfortable.

"If you can shape their earlier experiences to be positive ones, then they're more apt to follow through with future oral health visits," she said.

Two-year-old Kate Joachim was in Dr. Shelby's examination chair. Her mom, Sandra, was close by her side. Dr. Shelby made sure to show Kate every tool and instrument she was going to use. She even let the little girl handle them herself to become more comfortable.

"To start her off on the right step with enjoying the dentist and enjoying coming here is kind of a huge stress off me," said Sandra Joachim.

Dr. Shelby believes every patient is different and says different kids have different comfort levels.

"Sometimes we're able to get a slew of work done," said Dr. Shelby. "Cleanings, X-Rays, and the whole gamut of experiences and sometimes all we get to do is just ride up and down the chair and it takes a couple of times before they get comfortable being here."

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is the most common disease of childhood. Approximately 60 percent of children experience decay in their primary teeth by age five.