A Gentle Touch for Little Teeth
Dr. Fara Bender has been practicing pediatric dentistry for over 16 years at her Lantana and Jog Road location. She specializes in helping children feel good about going to the dentist and giving them a healthy smile. Her interest in the medical field started at an early age. During play times, she would be the first to rush out a first-aid kit if a playmate got injured. But it was Dr. Bender’s early experiences with her own dentist that built the abundant empathy she now possesses for her young patients.
As a child, her visits to the dental office were less than positive. In fact, they were pretty stressful. So, younger Fara grew up determined to turn her negative experience in pediatric oral care into a Disney World of dental adventures for her patients. Dr. Bender recalls, “I wanted to avoid creating anxiety in other children.”
When you walk into Dr. Bender’s office, stuffed animals and toys decorate every corner, nook, and shelf. There are murals and kid-friendly artwork on all the walls. Her staff even changes the décor monthly. Right now, one could experience a luau environment while getting a check-up.
Dr. Bender underscores the difference between pediatric and general dentistry, the biggest being behavior management for children. Therefore, both non-pharmacological and pharmacological techniques are used to care for her patients. The first method in the non-pharmacological category is what she calls Tell-Show-Do. In age-appropriate terminology, she explains and demonstrates her procedures. She uses funny names for instruments. The prophy cup (for cleaning) is called “Mr. Tickle Brush.” The suction piece is “Mr. Thirsty,” and the drill or handpiece is called “Mr. Whistle” because of its sound. Another technique is a distraction. She tells stories about her dog, plays popular kids’ music or shows videos. Pharmacological methods to alleviate fear include the safe use of medication for more major treatments. Very young or anxious patients may need sedation. Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) is used for minor applications.
Dr. Fara Bender received her Bachelor of Science from The University of New York at Albany and her DMD degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She then completed her General Practice Residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach and her Pediatric Dentistry Residency at the University of Florida, Shands Hospital in Gainesville. This included a one-year clinical rotation at Miami Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Bender believes that education—especially for parents—is the key to good pediatric oral health. She is known for is her ability to involve parents in the care of their children’s teeth. Many times guardians are segregated to the waiting room, while their child is in the dentist’s chair. Dr. Bender’s philosophy is the opposite. She encourages parents to accompany their kids to the procedure areas. And it is her intentional inclusion of parents in the process that attracts families to her practice.
If she could get one message across to parents, it would be the importance of prevention. Many adults adopt a lackadaisical attitude toward their children’s oral care and think, “Oh, they just have baby teeth, which are going to fall out anyway.” But the worst thing they can do is postpone medical attention that might detect problems while they are small. It’s much more difficult (and costly) to treat big problems.
Dr. Bender feels there are many misconceptions about current health trends in relation to pediatric dental health. The first is the notion that if a food is “organic,” it is always good for their child. Organic food doesn’t necessarily equate low-sugar. Although it may go against the grain of nutrition trends, Dr. Bender advises against certain organic snacks and foods. For instance, parents may think that a 100%-juice drink is healthy for their child. What they aren’t considering is the high content of sugar—albeit natural—that will promote tooth decay. Better to offer water, and curb the fruity liquids.
Dr. Bender’s therapies are always customized and gently administered to her young patients. The bottom line for Dr. Bender is, “We are treating children, not just teeth.”
Dr. Bender would also like to debunk the myth that fluoride, filling amalgams and X-rays are inherently bad. Fluoride has proved to be the most effective way to strengthen tooth enamel, therefore preventing cavities or—if left untreated—root canals. Also, X-rays are a safe and necessary means of revealing early stages of tooth decay and permanent-tooth growth issues. If parents wait till their child complains of pain, the remedy is much more complicated and X-rays are necessary anyway. The fear that filling materials may leak into the child’s system as toxins are really unfounded. Bacteria due to untreated cavities are a much greater health threat. Bacteria can enter the body through compromised teeth and cause more serious damage.
Access to dental information on the internet is also a concern to Dr. Bender. While some content is helpful in understanding a symptom, internet research should never substitute the care of a trained oral doctor. Parents should prioritize their children’s dental health, not delay it. Regular dental visits help build oral hygiene habits those children will carry throughout their lives.
The best thing about her profession, Dr. Bender says, is seeing children develop from toddlers to graduates. When a child is aging out, sometimes they ruefully ask if they “have” to move on to another office. She loves it when her former patients return as young adults to visit and show off their pride in their smile.
Fara Bender, DMD, PA Pediatric Dentist is located
6169 Jog Road, Suite B-5 Lake Worth, FL 33467
Call today to make an appointment for your child’s dental care @561 433 5544 or visit www.littleteethbigsmiles.com
Photography by Meric Tunca