Filling the gap isn’t just a saying for Dr. Justin Chafin, it’s what he does. As a dentist and owner of Firefly Pediatric Dentistry in Franklin Chafin sets out to create a pleasant experience for kids where coming to the dentist and cleaning their teeth is just a normal part of life. “There are so many adults that have had bad experiences when they were kids that they are terrified. So I don't want that to happen,” Chafin says.
Originally from Alabama, Chafin planted his roots in Franklin after attending Lipscomb University for undergraduate studies. He offered a few tips to share for kids and their teeth.
Q: At what age should kids start seeing a dentist?
Justin Chafin: The recommendation is the first visit by the first birthday or about six months after that first tooth comes in. A lot of times, the baby exams, when they only have four or five teeth, end up being a lot more about education for parents as opposed to actually doing a lot of work on the teeth. I do like to see [kids] really early because it gets them used to coming to a place and laying down and having a dentist look in their mouth.
Q: Is thumb sucking harmful for kids’ teeth?
If you stop it by age 3, then two-thirds, the majority, of those kids—even if they have problems with their teeth, where they're kind of flared out or the roof of their mouth is getting really narrow—will continue to grow and develop "normally." Once you get to age 4, if you're still sucking your thumb, then it's less than 50 percent. A majority of those kids will have some effects that last a long while. We like to stop them before 3 years of age if we can.
Q: What’s a common issue with kids that you see in your office?
JC: The main thing I see in this office would just be small cavities that are starting. That's the most common I see here for sure.
Q: Besides brushing, what's a way that kids can keep their mouths healthy as they grow?
JC: Go to the dentist. Just in case something is starting, we can catch it early and then it's a much, much smaller and easier fix if something comes up. Keeping and establishing habits of hygiene and keeping your teeth clean—even as simple as after you eat something sweet or something that gets stuck to your teeth, taking some water in your mouth and swishing it around to clear some of that stuff off.