Dr. Tomasz Piekarczyk from Poland: “It is essential to build a positive relationship with dental care from early childhood.”

In paediatric dentistry, it is absolutely essential to educate parents and involve them in their children’s daily home oral care, says Tomasz Piekarczyk, a paediatric dentist based in Poland’s southern city of Krakow. Read more about Dr. Piekarczyk’s experience and his tips on how a positive attitude to proper oral care from early childhood can lead to lifelong good oral health.

What routines do you find most critical for maintaining proper oral health?

Thoroughly cleaning bacterial plaque from the surface of the teeth and gums is essential. Everyone knows that toothbrushing is important, but a lot of people don’t know that brushing teeth should be practiced with an instructor who teaches the proper technique, step by step.

Patients’ lack of oral hygiene knowledge is still underestimated – many patients are not aware of the importance of interdental cleaning. They are often surprised when caries occur because they are convinced they are doing everything right, just because they are brushing twice a day. We need to educate them about possible risk areas when it comes to caries formation or gum disease development. Interdental spaces and gingival sulcus are still very often forgotten when it comes to oral hygiene.

What does the word prevention mean to you?

Prevention means staying healthy. In paediatric dentistry, it is very important to educate parents and involve them in their child’s daily home oral care. Also regular control visits at a dental office should begin when the first tooth appears.

In our clinic Let’s DENT a parent learns how to use a flosser between the incisors of their one-year-old child. It may sound unbelievable, but in fact, it is very important to teach parents how to take care of their child’s oral health from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, it is still not common for parents to care properly for their children’s teeth. It is often caused by widespread – yet misleading – opinions about milk teeth not being so important. Our task is to educate parents about the importance of caring for milk teeth, and the proper home oral care necessary to keep milk teeth healthy until they are replaced by the permanent teeth. That is prevention in its true meaning.

What is your “golden rule” or advice that you tell your patients often?

I always emphasise that it is necessary to brush each tooth and not miss the difficult places on the sulcus, on the side of the tongue, cheek and between the teeth. Each of my patients and their parents are referred to a hygienist for individual oral hygiene training using the iTOP method. It is essential to follow the proper technique as this is the key to oral health in general. It is not shameful to not know how to brush teeth the right way – our generation was not taught how to do it. But now is the right time to spread this knowledge because prevention in the form of proper cleaning is the key for good oral and, subsequently, overall health in future.

What’s the biggest challenge of your job?

Treating a child who comes to their first visit with a toothache. That’s the reason it’s so important to examine a child’s teeth in the dental office, even when the parent is convinced that the teeth are healthy. At home, no one will examine teeth thoroughly enough to notice early warning signs. Not even a dentist. Caries starts with a small spot, which can more easily be identified in a dental office, and it is very important to discover the caries when it’s still in the initial phase, so that the tooth can be gently treated and preserved. This way the proper development of the jaw and adult teeth can be ensured.

Welcome to the Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Proper routines in prevention are the future of dentistry – that’s why we at Curaden launched the Billion Healthy Mouths Club – a community of dental professionals committed to the importance of prevention and a holistic approach to dentistry. Dentist Mario Sergio Giorgi is one of those dental professionals who shares these values, and we proudly present her experience and thoughts with other like-minded people from the field. Keep reading our Gently magazine to discover more interviews with forward-thinking professionals from around the world.

What’s the thing that you like about your job the most?

I am passionate about paediatric dentistry, and working with children brings a lot of joy to my life. What I like most is the change in a patient’s approach to treatment. When instead of fear, the child feels special and their mood after the visit is good. Patient cooperation is essential when performing treatment procedures.

My clinic is set up exclusively for the care of children. Procedures are performed under nitrous oxide sedation, and an anaesthesiologist is available. Children enjoy coming back to watch another episode of their favourite cartoon during the treatment. Parents of my patients often ask me: Why wasn’t there such a clinic 30 years ago, when they were children? That’s very nice to hear.

I think it is very important to build a positive relationship with dental care from childhood, this is the foundation for good dental health throughout one’s whole life. Many adults have bad teeth just because they have traumatic experiences from their childhood. Our mission is to change this and bring a safe and joyful environment around dental care and treatments from the very first experience in the dental chair.

What’s the most important thing in terms of an oral care routine from your point of view?

The skills we hone. A parent cleans their child’s teeth before the child learns to do it effectively themselves. During the individual training, the parent learns a lot of tips to prevent the most common mistakes. Parents take an examination at the end of each part of training. This way the right cleaning skill with practical exercises are provided to parents so they can not only effectively clean their children’s teeth, but they can also teach their kids how to brush their own teeth in future. I am proud that in Let’s DENT many children know how to use an interdental brush by the age of 6.

What’s the biggest oral health myth that you fight against?

When I talk to patients about brushing their teeth, the most common thing I hear is that they need to scrub their teeth very hard. This is quite a dangerous myth. I keep telling them they should carefully polish their teeth using a soft toothbrush with bristles that do not hurt the gums. Scrubbing teeth is also no substitute for using an interdental brush or flosser in the spaces between the teeth.

Our aim is to show patients that they can have really smooth and clean teeth, without using any pressure. All they need is a quality soft toothbrush, gentle toothpaste and the right technique. They can feel the difference even after the first cleaning. It is important to explain the basics of biology connected with hard and soft tissues in the mouth, so the patients are aware that they can actually damage their enamel with hard brushes and highly abrasive toothpastes. The right knowledge and practice can deliver great results and a truly significant change in one’s oral health.

Dr. Tomasz Piekarczyk is a graduate of the Faculty of Dentistry at the Medical University of Silesia. His work and passion is primarily dental care for children and educating parents about prevention. Tomasz Piekarczyk is a dentist appreciated for his innovative approach to the youngest patients, especially those who are afraid of dental treatment and come in with dentophobia. He is iTOP trained and uses iTOP methods in his training of parents to prevent the consequences of neglected oral hygiene. Dr. Piekarczyk is the founder and owner of Let’s DENT Specialist Children Dentistry Centre in Krakow, southern Poland.