Summer parenting: brushing up on dental care!

I’ll be honest. Like many of us, I wasn’t planning on spending this summer in Shanghai, and now that school has finished, I’m busy looking for ways to keep the kids occupied and entertained until September. Summers in Shanghai are brutal – high temperatures and high humidity mean I’m always on the hunt for indoor activities, preferably those involving air conditioning. The more informative and educational, the better.



Allow me to recommend a visit to the dentist. Really! This is an area of my parenting that could definitely use a little polishing up – my almost 6-year-old went to the dentist for the first time last week, my 8-year-old for the second time. We went to see Dr. Rana at PureSmile’s Jing’An clinic, and she immediately reassured me that whilst you really should take your child to the dentist around the time of their first birthday or when their first tooth appears (whichever happens soonest), it’s never too late to bite the proverbial bullet. Due to a lack of fluoride in the water in Shanghai, it’s much, much easier for cavities to appear here than in your home country (definitely more so than in the US or UK), so early prevention really is better than cure.


Neither of my children was particularly nervous about the visit, nor did they really know what to expect. We could have dropped in to visit the clinic in advance to take a quick look around and familiarize ourselves with the consulting rooms, and if you have a young or nervous first-timer, I’d recommend it. I talked to my five-year-old about how the dentist would ask her to open her mouth so that she could take a look inside, and how it wouldn’t hurt, but it might feel a bit strange, and that seemed to do the trick. I needn’t have worried at all – Dr. Rana is a very experienced pediatric dentist who put us all at ease, helping the kids get comfortable in the giant reclining chair and making sure they had a perfect view of Captain Underpants on the giant television screen in the ceiling.



The younger your child, the less invasive the exam – no cleaning or fluoride treatments in most cases, but a chance for both parent and child to get some advice on good dental health. My children got bonus points for confirming that they brush their teeth twice a day (the recommended amount), that they only used a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (more doesn’t mean better!), and that they spit the toothpaste out (the state of our bathroom sink will more than prove that). We all learned that it’s important to brush gently as well as thoroughly, and that even my five-year-old should be flossing every day. Oops, Dr. Rana’s top tip was that even if your very confident 8-year-old tells you that he can brush his teeth alone, it’s recommended (you could even say Doctor’s orders) that an adult supervises brushing until up to age 10. It turns out that 8-year-olds don’t know everything.



Both my children use children’s electric toothbrushes, as we like the timer function, although if you prefer a manual brush, providing that you use it correctly, it’s just as effective. A good dentist will show you and your child how to brush properly, and Dr. Rana did just that. I still lay my five-year-old across my lap to brush her teeth, which is the best way to get a good view of all the teeth. However, Dr. Rana showed me that I fell into a common trap of not using my finger to pull back those chubby cheeks and ensure a clear view of her upper back teeth, and a build-up of plaque on one particular tooth was evidence of my blind spot.



Dr. Rana showed my kids models of their teeth, both healthy white teeth, and those with cavities. They were suitably horrified at the cavities, and happily aced Dr. Rana’s quick quiz about the best and worst snacks for teeth (vindicating my parenting ability slightly): no surprises that lollipops and sticky, chewy sweets like Hi-Chews are two of the worst things you can put on your teeth, closely followed by sugary fizzy drinks. Luckily we don’t keep those in the house, and if the kids thought they might find sympathy by moaning with great feeling that “Mummy NEVER let us drink fizzy drinks”, they didn’t. The surprise villain for me was potato chips (or crisps to those us of from the UK) – not only do they stick to your teeth, but as carbohydrates quickly turn to sugar, so, in the end their effects are not too different from candy.


Winning snacks are cheese which not only provides calcium but also balances the acids in your mouth, sugar-free chewing gum (not swallowed of course), which will also increase the saliva in your mouth, and raw crunchy veg such as carrot and cucumber sticks. Take care with yoghurt, especially if it’s flavored – there can be up to 7 teaspoons of sugar in just a tiny pot. As well as eating healthy, Dr. Rana recommends a fluoride treatment every six months and covering the teeth with a clear protective sealant from around 6 years old. My son had a hairline cavity appearing on the only tooth which hadn’t previously been painted with this sealant, proof indeed that it really does make a difference.


Both my kids got to experience the space ship, AKA the x-ray room, where we discovered that my son can look forward to orthodontic treatment in the future and that my daughter is missing a baby and adult lower canine. Which is rare but not unheard of, and was fascinating for all us as we hadn’t noticed it. Oops. My son enjoyed being able to study the x-rays and pepper Dr. Rana with questions, and jumped at the chance to control the suction for sister’s consult. All in all, we had a great consultation, learning a lot whilst having fun at the same time.


Surely that’s an ideal summer activity?!


To book your own visit with Dr. Rana or other child-friendly members of the PureSmile team, click here to find the location nearest you. They have locations in Jinqiao, Jing’an, Hongqiao, and Minhang.