SEATTLE -- Six-year-old Chanel is a lucky girl. She is being fitted with a spacer so she can avoid braces down the road.
That's not why she's lucky though. It's because her mother takes her for regular dental visits. Many kids are missing out.
"In our county alone there are tens of thousands of children, preschool age, who have never been to the dentist," says Dr. Joel Berg, director of the newly opened Center for Pediatric Dentistry at Magnuson Park in Seattle.
Berg says the new facility will help change that for kids.
The new center is a partnership between the University of Washington, Seattle Children's, Washington Dental Service and its foundation. It's able to handle40,000 dental visits for kids every year. It will provide education for pediatric dentists, serve as a research center, and help set policy for kids' oral health.
Dr. Berg says the need is painfully real.
"We see children in the emergency department of the hospital every week, every day sometimes, with swollen faces, dangerous, potentially life threatening infections from what was originally a cavity in a baby tooth," said Dr. Berg.
Some of those children will be treated at the newly opened center. But Dr. Berg says preventing cavities is the real key to oral health. A checkup at age one provides a good start, followed by monitoring a child's sweet tooth.
"Everywhere they go, there's another piece of candy, there's another sticky candy, so it stays on the teeth for a long period of time," said Dr. Berg.
When children visit the new center, parents will receive fliers that offer an easy guide to preventing tooth decay. Both the kids and their parents can expect a quick tutorial in tooth brushing technique. It's something Chanel's mom Alaina says her daughter is still learning.
"We let Chanel brush first, and then I come in after, and do the official brushing," said Alaina.
Dr. Berg says that's a good approach for children under eight years old. And it's giving Chanel a healthy smile.
He says there's another benefit of taking kids to the dentist early on. Preventive care is often painless, so kids aren't as likely to fear going to the dentist.