When was the last time your dentist asked about your child’s behavior? What about his sleeping habits or attention span?
If those questions are not part of your child’s usual dental checkups, you are not alone – but you might not be getting a complete picture of his or her health without it, says Dr. Nancy Hartrick, D.D.S. of Hartrick Dentistry in Royal Oak.
That is because good dental care goes far beyond keeping teeth clean and cavity-free. It should also evaluate all of the “systems in the mouth” including gums, teeth, tongue, tonsils and bone, to see how these structures impact a child’s airway and breathing.
“We are looking at children a little bit earlier and we’re looking at overall health,” says the leading local dentist, who opened her practice in 1988. “By the time you see crooked teeth, something’s happened. I think where we’re a little bit different is we’re taking a look back and asking why did this happen, rather than just fixing it.”
It is all part of trying to catch problems like tongue-tie and mouth-breathing, which can impact a child’s dental and facial growth, and lead to airway issues that cause long-term problems like sleep apnea, ADHD and cardiovascular disease, Hartrick says.
Early dental visits
So what should your child’s dentist be looking for? Signs of a potential problem can be subtle and could include snoring, frequent illnesses, dry mouth in the morning, chapped lips, trouble concentrating or listening at school, difficulty organizing tasks and headaches.
“No child should snore,” explains Hartrick, who also serves as a clinical instructor at the prestigious Kois Center, a top-ranking postgraduate dental teaching facility in the world. “If your child is exhibiting some behavior, snoring or sleep problems, these are some questions you might want to ask your dentist.”
Depending on the situation, a variety of treatments including therapies and dental devices can be used to get kids on a healthier track.
“We really feel strongly about having kids at least evaluated early so that they can be overall healthier and also grow and develop properly, the way they are intended to grow,” she says. “We are looking at the whole person and we are looking at their overall health. We want to be sure that their mouth is really healthy to support healthy growth.”
Young children should see the dentist by age 3, Hartrick recommends, though she advises examining kids earlier if the parents have any concerns.
“Early screening is really important to put overall patient wellness in the right direction,” she adds.
To help children feel more at ease, Hartrick Dentistry offers accommodations like headphones with music and virtual reality headsets so that kids can watch a movie during their visit.
Most importantly, though, Hartrick and her team work to ensure that everyone – children and grown-ups alike – feels comfortable when they enter the office.
“It is such a trust relationship,” she says. “That is the most important thing, in any type of relationship, that there is trust. Trust is one of our highest core values; that honesty and integrity dictate our actions.”
Hartrick is known for developing close relationships with the families she sees and believes in keeping her patients informed at every step.
“Coming into a dental office, it has to be about caring,” she says. “We are about people and we really want people to be healthy. They can feel that. I do not even think we really try; it is just something that comes naturally.”
A lifelong learner herself – friends even tease her about how much continuing education she attends beyond what is required (“That is my responsibility,” she notes. “There is so much going on that you really just have to stay up on things.”) – Hartrick also believes her patients should walk away with new information after each appointment.
“I want our patients to have left our office learning something new,” she says. “When we learn something, we want to share it with them.”
After all, “people are busy.”
“We want to take away barriers for people to learn and implant change. We try to give them information while they are here, we want to maximize their time,” she says.
Other services offered at Hartrick Dentistry include general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, screening and treatment for periodontal disease, myofunctional therapy, sedation dentistry, teeth whitening and more.
Hartrick Dentistry welcomes patients of all ages and is conveniently located at 32609 Woodward Ave. in Royal Oak, where free parking and easy entrance are readily available.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 248-712-1149 or visit hartrickdentistry.com.