Episode 05: Let’s Talk About Dental Health

Lets Tall Podcast

As new teeth start to pop through our babies’ mouths, new questions start to pop into our heads. How do we take care of these little baby teeth? What if they grow into toddlers that hate having those teeth brushed—can we make it fun? When do we take them to the dentist? How will their dental health affect their overall health? We’re going to explore the answers to these questions and more with Dr. Michelle Wihlm of Wihlm Dental and Jenna Linden from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin! 

Supplemental articles and resources mentioned in this podcast can be found on gooshkoshkids.com

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Meet our Guests

Dr. Michelle Wihlm

Dr. Michelle Wihlm was born in Oshkosh and graduated from Lourdes High School in 1999. She continued her education at Winona State University and Marquette University School of Dentistry. She returned to Oshkosh to pursue her career and established Wihlm Dentistry in 2008. Dr. Wihlm welcomed three daughters through adoption with her husband, Tony. Dr. Wihlm is an active Kiwanis member and volunteers on the Tri-County Dental Bus.

Jenna Linden, RDH, CDHC
Project Leader, Oral Health

Jenna is a dental hygienist and serves as the program leader for the oral health initiative at the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin. She’s passionate about improving children’s dental health to help them reach their full potential. Over the past 14 years, Jenna has worked in public health implementing creative approaches to increase access to dental care and decrease oral health inequities. Jenna enjoys being outdoors, reading, traveling, cheering on the Cubs, and going on adventures with her four sons- Lucas, Ellis, Cal, and Jack, and her husband Peter.

Meet our Hosts

Amanda Chavez, Owner & Creative Director, WiscoFam / Go Valley Kids / Go Oshkosh Kids
Born and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, Amanda Chavez has a deep love for her community. As a busy mom of 2 little girls, she and her husband are always on the lookout for fun things to do and share with others. Her work combines all of her passions – motherhood, design, and community. Some of her other interests also peak through as well, including baking, photography, and sewing!

Karlene Grabner, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation
Karlene Grabner is a graduate of Lourdes Academy and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where she studied finance and economics. She has shared her knowledge and passion for improving the Oshkosh community for the past 20 years through her work at the Oshkosh Community Foundation and Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. Karlene loves playing board games with her family, and when the weather is right, you’ll find them enjoying boating, wakeboarding, and kayaking with their dog, Bago.

Special Thanks

Liz Schultz, ProducerWiscoFam / Go Valley Kids / Go Oshkosh Kids

Marlo Ambas, Audio & Video Engineer, Ambas Creative


Amanda Chavez  00:00

Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk, the show that connects families in Oshkosh with local experts to talk about your parenting questions. I’m Amanda Chavez here with my co-host, Karlene Grabner and today we’re going to talk about dental and oral health with our guests. Dr. Michelle Whilm of Whilm Dental and Oshkosh and Jenna Linden from Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin. Kids in their teeth can be a real adventure, from surviving teething babies to choosing a toothpaste to helping them feel comfortable in the dentist chair. There are lots of things for new parents to manage when it comes to dental health. I’ve been looking forward to insight and advice from Michelle and Jenna to share with you all.

Karlene Grabner  00:36

Thanks for joining us today. Michelle and Jenna and Michelle, I know you’re from Oshkosh and went to Marquette School of Dentistry. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and your family and all that good stuff?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  00:48

I grew up in Oshkosh, one of 16 kids. So graduated from high school in 99. And then went to Winona State after that for undergrad and went to Marquette School of Dentistry. And my husband and I have three children that we adopted all from Alabama.

Karlene Grabner  01:03

Wonderful. And I heard there’s a fun fact about the Guinness Book of World Records.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  01:08

Right. Way back, I think 2009, my siblings and I ran in the Fox Cities Marathon. So set a Guinness Book of World Records for the most siblings to complete the same marathon. So all 16 of us ran it. Oh, wow. Yeah. And finished.

Karlene Grabner  01:25

Oh, wow. Very fun fact.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  01:28

So yeah, I think we still hold the record to this day. Oh,

Amanda Chavez  01:32

do you see all ages in your practice?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  01:35

We do. Yeah. So starting to really as early as one or six months after they get their first teeth to? I think we have some patients over 100.

Karlene Grabner  01:43

That’s wonderful. And Jenna, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and your family and all that good stuff?

Jenna Linden  01:49

Sure. Well, thank you for having me today. I’m excited to be here. My name is Jenna Linden. I am a dental hygienist, and I’ve been for 14 years. So far. I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, and I went to the University of Minnesota for dental hygiene. My husband and I have four kids, four boys there from ages one to 12. So we have a whole active house. Yes, definitely. 

Karlene Grabner  02:13


Jenna Linden  02:14

I work for the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, which is a children’s advocacy organization that’s housed within our children’s hospital. So we have several teams, one of them being oral health, which is the team I’m on and we help to lead innovative projects across the state to increase access to dental care for kids. And then we also run and manage our Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition which convenes oral health stakeholders and advocates to help increase access to dental care across the state for all ages. So you’re in an advocacy role. Yes, and I’ve worked my entire career in public health. I’ve actually wanted to be a hygienist since I was a little girl like around age 10 or 11. That was my mission. And it was it was like a practical way to help people which I love things like that. So that’s why I decided on dental hygiene. And once I saw the need that existed in dental, like through my schooling, they expose us to lots of outreach where we would see need across the lifespan from babies to elderly. And once I saw that need I couldn’t erase that from my mind. So I’ve worked in public health from there on out.

Karlene Grabner  03:16

Fascinating. Michelle, what brought you to the world of dentistry?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  03:19

Honestly, I think when I was in about eighth grade, my dad was reading a book, and he told me that I should go into dentistry. So, throughout high school, I job shadowed an oral surgeon here in town, an orthodontist in town, and I had always had really good experiences, even through getting fillings and stuff as a kid I’d always had really good experiences with my dentist, and so I just getting into the field and just doing a lot of observing and throughout high school. So really, that’s when I decided to be a dentist, and just kind of took the path.

Amanda Chavez  03:49

Thank you for joining us today. Jen and Michelle will take a quick break, and then we’ll be back to talk about dental health and oral health.

Karlene Grabner  03:57

Let’s Talk is brought to you through Go Oshkosh Kids’ partnership with the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. The Women’s Fund of Oshkosh works to improve the lives of women, girls, and families of the communities in Winnebago County through philanthropy, grant-making, and education.

Amanda Chavez  04:16

Michelle, what do parents need to know when they have babies and their first teeth? When is the recommendation for first visit, and what should we be doing at home until then?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  04:25

I mean, I think even as a baby, even before they get teeth, I think it’s important for parents to get in there and keep their baby smells clean. They make all kinds of infant toothbrushes and things like that. I usually tell people even just a thin washcloth on their finger, to just get in there and clean their babies. Now as a health, you’d kind of establish those really good habits as kids are getting older. Of course, once they get teeth, making sure they’re brushing their teeth, and then really not putting their kids to bed with bottles especially once they have tea so that milk sitting in their mouth is going to cause a lot of decay or soda or anything other than water. It’s going to cause sticking on their teeth, so just making sure that they’re not going to bed with that with a bottle at nighttime.

Amanda Chavez  05:06

I didn’t realize this and my kids aren’t even that little anymore. They’re 10. But that’s why those regular dentist appointments were important for us. But my 10 year old isn’t brushing on top of her gums like she’s just brushing her teeth part. Is that pretty common?

Jenna Linden  05:19

Absolutely. Yeah, I think that spot where your gums and your teeth touch together is a really common spot for plaque and germs to build up. So we always tell patients to kind of angle their toothbrush right into that connection point to try to brush out the germs and there’s like a little pocket there even that collects even more. So yes, that’s good advice. I can add a little bit to to the baby oral health. So one, I think uncommon fact that people don’t know is that babies aren’t born with the germs that cause cavities, but that it’s transmissible. So it’s important for parents to address their own oral health like prior to having a baby because you could transfer that bacteria. If you have like active cavities, through like really normal activities like sharing a spoon or kissing your baby or like cleaning off a pacifier with your mouth and popping it in their mouth. Like those types of things that you would do normally, as a parent, if you have active cavities, you’re kind of transferring and introducing that bacteria that causes cavities to your baby’s mouth.

Karlene Grabner  06:18

Wow. So almost like transferring a cold.

Jenna Linden  06:20

Yeah, right. So that’s really unknown to marry on the fact.

Karlene Grabner  06:25

Wow. Yeah, I’ve never heard that. Talk to us about both of you. Or either one of you about the sucking your thumb pacifier conversation, you know, those soothing type things that we all do with our kids? Like, how bad really is it? Or is it not as bad as some of us think it is?

Jenna Linden  06:41

That’s definitely a common habit, all of my kids, I’ve had pacifiers and loved them. So definitely a common theme that comes up in conversations with parents. And I think I say try to kick the habit between two and three. Because your teeth will adapt and adjust after that fact, if you’re removing that object from their mouth eventually. So I think it’s okay. And it’s an important habit that kids use for soothing so I try not to discourage it. We do say don’t dip it dip, pacifiers and anything sweet or sugary, because that sometimes happens in certain cultures, too. So we would advise against that. What else would you say?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  07:16

Yeah, I mean, I tell patients all the time, and just, you can’t take it away from them. And they need that, that’s important coping skills for them with soothing, pacifiers are a little easier to take away than a thumb. But if a kid needs a pacifier to go to bed at night, you let them use it and maybe take it out before like before you go to bed if you check on them, so they’re not sucking on it all night long. So that constant pressure of the thumb or the past figure on the roof of their mouth is eventually that’s gonna cause their teeth to narrow their palate to narrow and can cause more dental issues. But your age two to three is very normal age. I mean, I my older two, I think I was a little more of a firm parent. And I just stopped him at age one, pretty cold turkey and they cried it out. And you know, then they learned other coping methods. And it was fine. As the kids get older, it’s a little harder to remove it and get them to take it away. So my third child, it took my babysitter to convince her a little after the age of two to get rid of it, and then she was fine. But so each you kind of whatever works for you. But yeah, the sooner the better. Don’t want the kids walking around with pacifiers sucking their thumbs constantly. That’s that constant pressure is what’s going to cause them problems.

Amanda Chavez  08:25

I’m glad you said that. Because I do remember, I had a lot of rules before I had children about what I was not going to do. And having a pacifier was one of those rules. And then I don’t remember a lot when they were little except for the long nights. And that pacifier I think was popped in that first day when we’re, yeah, first day home, probably. 

Karlene Grabner  08:45

Somebody gave me the advice, and I think it’s still one of the funnest things we ever did. But we packed both my kids we packed up all the pacifiers in the house; they were about two, two-and-a-half, maybe packed them all up, put them in a little bag, and took them to the hospital for the new babies. So I called the hospital and said I will be walking with my child and a bag if you will, please take the bag and throw it away after I leave, and the kids still remember that they passed their pacifiers on to the new babies.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  09:11

I mean, I have my neighbors have done where they take the pacifier, and they do a Build-a-Bear and they put it in sight, you know. So, I think there’s lots of different things that are just kind of the kids will really remember, and whatever that is motivated you, whatever the kids are motivated by you. Some patients or some kids have to you cut the pacifier, you hide them, or just little by little take them away your tooth, or the pacifier fairy comes and takes it. And so there’s all kinds of different things that people do, and they work and you just kind of have to find what works for your kid.

Amanda Chavez  09:41

The worst part is when you find that, like one under bed or in the toy box right after—

Jenna Linden  09:47

 It resurfaces.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  09:52

Undoubtably, yep, oh the three-year-old’s walking out with it.

Karlene Grabner  09:56

So I have a question because I feel like you can’t get away from it in the world. Sugar like juice boxes and sugar seems to be in everything. And I’m a, we’re both working parents in our household and trying to monitor what my kids eat even now my kids are 15 and seven. I feel like every single thing has sugar in it. So like, can you guys address is that as bad as we all think it is or not as bad as we think it is?

Jenna Linden  10:19

I would say yes, it’s everywhere. And part of it too, is like carbohydrates, right? More than more than even just sugar. So like, fermentable carbohydrates, like goldfish and pretzels and chips, like those are a big culprit for cavities because they kind of sit and hang out in your teeth as a child eats them. So a couple of things to combat it, we talk about frequency of eating versus what you’re eating sometimes. So like, the two cookie example would be say you eat two cookies right now that’s like a 20 minute acid attack on your teeth. If you eat one cookie now, and 120 minutes later, that’s like 40 minutes of acid exposure in your mouth. So thinking about, Okay, we’re gonna have three meals and two snacks today and keep the meals, like, on a routine schedule like that. And then only water in between, if you’re gonna, if you give your children anything with sugar, and drink format, I would say I would only be with a meal. So they finish it, and it’s done. Don’t put that like in a sippy cup and have them walk around with juice during the day because you keep getting that exposure over and over again. And then water after sugar is like my mantra, like water after sugar, water after sugar. So if you can, even if you can’t brush at school, like have a drink of water and rinse your mouth out after lunch a little bit to kind of re-buffer the pH in your mouth and get back to a healthy level.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  11:32

Yeah, no, I was just trying to think that there was anything else that I would I mean, I think even just snacks to send, just as those hard crunchy things, are hard cheeses are is always a good thing. sending your kids lunch, have them eat like the cheese at the end that can be neutralizing and cleansing of the teeth, apples, carrots, things like that can be good last items for them to eat in their lunches or snack time as well.

Amanda Chavez  11:51

It’s transitions kind of into that like, Okay, we have school-aged kids, right? We’ve been brushing their teeth since they were a baby now. Then how do we encourage that healthy dental health are continuing to brush? I think my kids know they have to brush, but I think they still ask every night. Are you sure we need to? Are you? Why do we have to do this? Are you sure?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  12:14

Yeah, so the nighttime mood is really when your mouth is a little bit more dry, you’re not drinking, you’re not eating. So it’s not going to neutralize those acids in your mouth. So that’s really when those cavities are going to forum. So, you know, ideally, kids, everyone should be brushing morning and night, most important time is going to be at nighttime. So I mean, I’ve honestly made my kids get out of bed to brush. And so I just really reestablishing that for you and my kids, you asked me most nights, and I tell them every single night to brush and floss. But you’re really just making sure that that is an expectation and that we follow up on it. Now I don’t have to do it quite as much with my 13-year-old. So she is pretty good with getting in there and brushing, not always flossing, but just making sure that we’re really consistent with that, because that is when they’re going to those cavities are going to start to form and periodontal disease will start progressing as well as they get older. 

Karlene Grabner  13:05

And I have heard there’s a like two minutes is that is that the secret that two minutes is how long you should be brushing, or is that just a myth?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  13:12

Two minutes is really what it’s going to take to really effectively brush and remove all that bacteria. There’s a lot of I, you know, most kids don’t really know the concept of two minutes. So I’ll tell them when you turn on their favorite song and their Alexa, or their phone, or whatever it is that they have. There’s a lot of different human brushing apps out there that will kind of walk you through the mouth and all the different areas of the mouth. I also really encourage parents to make sure so kids really don’t have the dexterity to get in there and brush effectively brush their teeth until probably about eight. So making sure that parents are getting in there and getting all those areas that their kids are missing is really important as well.

Amanda Chavez  13:47

What about the fluoride rinses? Like do you recommend those things?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  13:52

I do. I’m just, with all the sugars my kids are eating, the fluoride at nighttime is going to help to remineralize areas on their teeth that are starting to break down. So fluoride rinse right before this last thing before they go to bed is really helpful in helping to remove remineralize their teeth.

Jenna Linden  14:08

One thing to add to that too, this is like a really simple tip, but a lot of people rinse their mouth out after they brush, but it’s helpful not to rinse or not to like use water right after because then you remove that fluoride that would be great sitting on your teeth throughout the night right so don’t rinse right after you brush after you brush when you can use fluoride rinse but don’t rinse with like

Karlene Grabner  14:27

Don’t rinse with water or anything else? 

Jenna Linden  14:29


Karlene Grabner  14:29

Fascinating. So a tip that I heard years ago and just sticks with me was somebody had said the normal citizen parent does not understand how important dental care health is to your whole body’s health. I’m not explaining it great, but you know your stomach health your headaches and things like that. Do either of you have comments on is that accurate? Or, you know, is that a true statement? If we were do a better job of taking care of our oral health? Would we maybe all around be feeling better? Jenna, do you wanna answer that first?

Jenna Linden  14:58

I 100% agree with that. I think there is a growing body of evidence that shows the connections between oral health and overall health in all of the areas you mentioned, it’s very interconnected and key, for instance, say a patient has uncontrolled diabetes and they also have gum or periodontal disease, it’s harder to control their diabetes because of the inflammation process going on in their mouth as well. So they’re showing connections between that heart disease, pregnancy, we could go on and on with all of the connections, it’s never-ending.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  15:28

And of course, I mean, if a child has a cavity that’s not, you know, that’s sitting in their mouth and become you gets infected, that infection in anywhere in your body isn’t good. So periodontal disease and gum diseases, this type of infection, your mouth decay is infection in the tooth, so having an infection in your body, anywhere, isn’t great. For some reason, we feel like if it doesn’t hurt sometimes, but it’s not going to couldn’t be problematic. But it can go to other areas in your body. So it’s always important to have any sort of disease or infection taken care of and controlled.

Jenna Linden  16:01

There’s I don’t know if you’ve all heard of the story of Deamonte Driver. Have you heard that name before? This is a tragic story, actually. But he was a 12-year-old from Maryland who had an abscess tooth, and the mother was unsuccessful and trying to find a dentist to treat to do so they went to the emergency room, he ended up going through two surgeries and like six weeks in the hospital, and here the infection it spread to his brain, the infection from the to spread to his brain, he ended up passing away from like a preventable tooth infection that would have been resolved essentially by like a $80 extraction. So that was a really unfortunate catalyst to a lot of good things that have happened around the country trying to advocate for Early Access, and just recognizing how important it is to establish oral health early on in life really helped set up a child for a lifetime of oral health.

Marlo Ambas  16:53

Hey, it’s Marlo and the guy behind the board. And I had a quick question for you guys. Yeah, so I have a child at home that has a difficult time using toothpaste because of the flavor or taste. We’ve been told by her dentist that water is okay right now, just as long as they’re doing something. But at some point, they’re going to need to use toothpaste, right? Do you have any tips or recommendations as to what they can do to encourage them to use toothpaste? Or is there are there different kinds of toothpaste that they can find that aren’t stores?

Amanda Chavez  17:21

I have one kid that has a mint toothpaste and one that has the Tom strawberry one and they won’t try the herbs? They have said they’ve tried the other one, but they are they don’t like the other ones? I don’t know when you have to transition? Like do you have to do a mint toothpaste? 

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  17:37

So no, I mean, really, the most important thing is getting in there with the toothbrush. So you whether it is whether a kid doesn’t want to use toothpaste because of the flavor, the texture, there’s all kinds of different reasons like just for whatever reason, they’re just afraid of it. I mean, I the the biggest thing is getting in there with the toothbrush and manipulating that bacteria, so it’s not sitting on the teeth. So some things I’ve had patients try you using a fluoride rinse, maybe just dipping the toothbrush in the fluoride rinse. And so there’s some that just starting to introduce, there’s lots of different flavors of fluoride rinses out there, and there’s tons of toothpaste out there. So Tom’s and Tom’s does have some that have fluoride ends that’s a little bit more natural, but they seem to have a lighter flavor. So the Tom’s, the strawberry Tom’s, is a really popular one for patients that don’t like the minty stuff. There’s some that are just sensitivity toothpaste, or sometimes just have a lighter flavor. So I think sometimes kids even like them, I just have my three year old likes a sensitivity toothpaste when she uses toothpaste, but she doesn’t always like it either. So I think it’s not super important. The biggest thing is just getting in there and manipulating that bacteria brushing and flossing. It’s not super important. I have some adults that don’t use toothpaste because of you know, they’re really big daggers and like sudsing up toothpaste in there makes them gag really bad.

Amanda Chavez  18:53

So first time I heard about that was when I was pregnant. I couldn’t handle toothpastes when I was pregnant, and it just gagged me so much. And the dentist said to just use water.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  19:02

There’s some products out and some toothpaste too that like dry mouth ones, especially that don’t have that SLS that causes the sudsing in there. So sometimes that’s helpful as well, just finding a toothpaste without the SLS in it.

Karlene Grabner  19:14

So I have a question as they progress as children get older, like Amanda and my children are a little older. What are the signs you see to send them to orthodontists? Or what are the signs you see to take them to that next phase of or the appropriate age where they should go to see you know, for braces or all of that or what are your mid-level kids? What advice do you have for them?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  19:35

So I send to our orthodontist, and right now start to like to see kids around age seven or eight for their initial evaluation. So they a lot of times still have a lot of baby teeth at that time. But they are really just starting to watch their growth patterns to see when a good time would be for orthodontic treatment at that age for some of those kids that may be used their pacifiers suck their thumb for a while. That’s a really great age to do some Job expansion and create more space as well. So we send our kids most kids over to the orthodontist, usually about seven or eight and do those initial evaluations. And a lot of times they’re monitored, you know, every six months to a year just to watch their growth patterns before any treatment is actually done. But it’s a great way to just kind of evaluate and see if they’re going to benefit from orthodontic treatment later on.

Karlene Grabner  20:21

Well, if so, you can actually do like pre-care work with orthodontic work.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  20:25

Absolutely. Yeah. And so I find that with doing, like, so if they can do some jack expansion and stuff. Now, I’m not an orthodontist. That’s not my specialty by any means. But you know, when it’s like seems kind of early to send them over that, you know, to the orthodontist, that young, it can help to create more space. So prevents maybe more permanent teeth extractions in the future, we create space for that now, when their jaws are still growing. So that’s really in is helpful for planning. Dental Care, we understand, is not super cheap. So being able to plan for orthodontic treatment later on. If it’s new five years down the road, you can start saving now. And that’s helpful rather than getting a really big bill at one time.

Amanda Chavez  21:02

I really appreciate like, having that advocate for your kids and getting into the dentist, you know, twice a year. Sometimes it’s like, do we really need to do this. They bring up things that just to have that open conversation for certain things like yeah, how their teeth are starting to come in. We’ve had those conversations every time before we leave. Evie, my daughter has a bump on her tooth, she has a block in her salivatory gland. So we had surgery on that a couple weeks ago. And they referred us to somebody else. But they’re the ones that recognized it when they were cleaning her teeth. And then Evie had been complaining about it hurting. And I was kind of like the mom that was like, “You’re fine, it’ll be okay.” And they like validated that, and we were able to go see a specialist after that. So like that, you just see things that we don’t. I mean, I don’t look in my kid’s mouth that often, right, unless there’s an issue, but going into the dentist twice a year, and you’re able to catch those things, I think is, is invaluable. 

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  21:58

And I think just in general hearing some tips and tricks of keeping your teeth clean and healthy, your mouth clean and healthy, I think sometimes just comes coming from someone else. It’s just a good reinforcement for parents as well for their kids. Most kids don’t love to listen to their parents harping on them all the time. So you’re just hearing it. So oftentimes, I’ll have parents kind of pull me aside when their kid is in the room and they’ll talk to me first and just say, Hey, can you just reinforce make sure that you tell them that brushing with their electric brush is really important, or make sure that they’re getting in there for two minutes or flossing is really important. And so it’s just another person to help reinforce those really good habits and in their children, just that always coming from the parents can be really helpful as well.

Jenna Linden  22:40

I think that kind of brings me back to the idea of middle schoolers to because one of the programs that we lead at the Children’s Health Alliance is called Seal-a-Smile. And it’s a statewide school-based sealant program to bring dental care to schools statewide. And I’ve worked firsthand in that for many, many years. And one of the common themes we see is in middle school, that oral health often takes a bit of a dive, and it just so much plaque on the kid’s teeth. And so I think that is really important at that age, just to encourage them from someone who’s maybe not a parent, to just give your teeth a good scrub before bed. It makes a world of difference. And if that’s all you do, I’m glad that you’re at least doing that.

Karlene Grabner  23:22

So I’m like the worst role model there is for this question. But the whole thing is dentists sometimes, I don’t know, scares me a little bit. But what do you have any tricks for kids? Or do you see kiddos like are not afraid yet of going to the dentist or being treated? And it’s the parents and the adults that make that situation worse? Or what what do you see there?

Jenna Linden  23:41

I think part of it is the early exposure to the dental environment. So like the age one dental visit or when their first tooth erupts. If you’re bringing them in then which is a perfect time to bring them in. They’re only in the mouth for like a minute, the dentist is looking for a moment. But it’s a lot about like hearing the noises and being in the environment and helping with education with the parents. So I think that early exposure is really helpful. One of the other projects we do is trying to integrate medical or dental dental hygienists into medical clinics to see kids during the well-child visits. So then they’re being seen more frequently and having someone in their mouth early on. So I think that early exposure really sets a solid foundation for being more comfortable at the dentist, and prevention is so much easier than treatment in many, many ways. So if we can invest in that early on, that’s a solid foundation for oral health.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  24:34

So a lot of adults have had some poor experiences and that does transfer over to your kids. So if you’re telling constantly talking about how, how scared you are to go to the dentist and how you know how all these scary things that we use that you’re gonna get a shot, so you’re going to any of that, those are not really comforting words for kids. So if someone knows and recognizes in themselves that they have a lot of dental anxiety, maybe sending someone out So with your child to the dentist is a good idea, or just trying to really withhold a lot of your own emotions. Because, you know, if we can do a lot of prevention with kids, you’re getting them in the chair, just getting them use test, brushing their teeth, or get someone else looking in their mouth, they can have really good experiences. But most of that, a lot of that anxiety that we see in kids really stems from the parents. And I see when I bring kids back if we do have to do a filling, the kids that are most difficult to work on are the ones that have the parents sitting in the room, maybe a little bit overbearing, constantly asking the kid if they’re feeling okay, and does that hurt or anything like that, because that’s putting those ideas into their child’s head, like, oh, this should be hurt, you know, this should be uncomfortable, I shouldn’t be doing okay. And so if they just let us do our job, and either stay in the corner, sitting there, or in the waiting room is really helpful in creating a better experience for their kids in the dental chair as well.

Karlene Grabner  25:56

Yeah, so it sounds like trust the professionals there and let them do their Yeah, like you said, let them do their job.

Amanda Chavez  26:01

Hmm. Is there a rule like when parents should sit in the waiting room or go back with their kids? Or is there like a there’s some dentists that don’t allow parents outright?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  26:13

Dentists? 100%, and the dentist? Yeah. So I mean, I have parents that will come back, you know, into their kids teenage years. That’s fine. Yeah, as long as the kids are comfortable with that. I, me personally, and my practice, we don’t mind parents coming back, just because I have a hard time saying no, don’t. But there have been times that if we if we know that the kid may have a little bit of anxiety coming back, we would encourage a parent to stay in the waiting room, just because I think we can treat their child more effectively. But so I don’t I wouldn’t say in my practice, we don’t have you know, there’s not a specific rule. But there are I would see definitely had a lot of specialty offices, they a lot of times went have the parents come back, like a pediatric dental office. And sometimes just seeing us as a parent sitting back and seeing things happen to your child is harder than what’s actually happening to your child. So it’s, I think it just makes it that little that behavior management a little bit easier. Agreed. So I think, yeah, just totally depends on the office. 

Amanda Chavez  27:11

But I did ask our dentists last time if they still take out wisdom teeth, if that’s like a normal practice?

Jenna Linden  27:17

I would say it is. I mean, often, they’re hard to clean, and they’re they cause more crowding than good. So I think it’s still pretty common practice. If that’s the case.

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  27:25

Absolutely. Yeah, we started sending, we have kids as early as age 14, having their wisdom teeth out, at the specialists. So once those the roots are some kind of watch that on the x-rays that we take, especially the panoramic x-rays. So once the roots are starting to form, usually about three-fourths of the way formed is when we’ll refer them over to the oral surgeon and have them taken out, they’ll heal kids heal a lot faster when they’re in those teen years. So healing time that’s usually a lot reduced, versus if you wait until you’re in your 20s or 30s and start having some issues. And it’s a little bit more of a complex extraction typically.

Amanda Chavez  27:59

We talked about whole body health is there are there are other issues that are hereditary, like I have a friend that says, I just had horrible dental health, and my kids have horrible teeth, we’re always cavity prone. Like, is that? Is that a myth? Or is that true? 

Jenna Linden  28:18

Yeah, I think part of it. I mean, I never want to disregard someone’s belief if they think there’s like a hereditary thing with teeth. So I think part of it does go back to the transfer of bacteria. So like, if you did have poor oral health, and you had a baby, and then that bacteria was transferred, that in some ways is kind of genetic, that transmissibility of the disease process, there are some genetic conditions that could be passed down that affect the way that teeth form, as well. And what are your thoughts,

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  28:46

I mean, doesn’t say sometimes, just like the shape of the teeth, and so you can make things more difficult to keep clean. So there’s definitely can be a genetic factor. But a lot of it is just the habits that we established. So if a parent has really poor oral hygiene, they probably aren’t going to encourage really great oral hygiene in their children. Or if a parent has really poor eating habits, they’re probably not going to pass along really great eating habits to their children. So some of it is, is that so even if you do have even the genetic factors, that would be you know, some of the bacteria, shape of the teeth, you have different conditions that someone can have, you can still prevent decay, just a lot of it with that education piece, which again, goes back to kids maybe getting into the dental office a little bit earlier, and where we can discuss some of those things with parents, depending on what we’re seeing as his teeth are developing.

Amanda Chavez  29:34

Or like overcrowding and braces, like is that pretty? If you had braces, your kids likely to have them?

Dr. Michelle Wihlm  29:40

Yeah, I mean, a lot of the job, the shape of the job, the size of the job, a lot of that is going to be genetics, and that definitely would play a role based on parents. Know their parents if they have a lot of crowding. A lot of times, we’re gonna see that in the kids as well.

Amanda Chavez  29:54

This is really great. Having a path to follow for health care for kids is so helpful for parents. I’m looking forward to sharing this discussion and the ideas from today with our listeners on our website and social media. As always, after episodes, we’ll share all the things that we talked about today, along with local resources available to families in our community.

Karlene Grabner  30:12

We’ll talk about more ideas for Oshkosh area families in the coming months with our local experts.

Amanda Chavez  30:17

And in the meantime, visit gooshkoshkids.com and our Facebook page to continue this conversation. Thanks again to our guests, Jenna and Michelle, for sharing their time and knowledge with us. And thanks to our producer Liz Schultz, audio and video engineer Marlo Ambas, and, of course, to my co-host, Karlene Grabner, and the support of the Women’s Fund of Oshkosh. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in. And we’d love for you to share the episode with a friend, subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, or leave us a review. Let’s talk again next month.

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