Guest Blogger: Craig Lustman, DDS
As a pediatric dentist working on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Downtown, I have dealt with patients with various and unique oral health care needs. When I served as a resident at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh practicing pediatric dentistry, one of the highlights of my experience was being part of the multi-disciplinary Cleft and Craniofacial Team. Plastic surgeons, ENT’s, orthodontists, pediatric dentists and speech therapists consulted and collaborated on multiple health care and daily life concerns. Parents oftentimes commented that they appreciated the depth of our knowledge relative to their child’s health, and how well we coordinated care.
I have continued to follow this multi-disciplinary care in both of my dental practices. When a child’s speech demonstrates a tongue thrust, a short/tight frenulum (tongue tie), or if the child continues to thumb-suck or use a pacifier, I know how critical it is to work with a speech therapist and coordinate an appropriate plan. Addressing these issues early will prevent oralfacial growth issues and allow for optimal speech clarity.
If a tight frenulum is the issue, sometimes we treat a child with a “frenectomy,” which frees up the movement of the tongue; when appropriate, we also encourage speech therapy to fine-tune tongue movements. Similarly, with a tongue thrust, I may design an appliance to alleviate a forward pushing tongue habit along with specific oral-motor exercises and / or articulation therapy from a speech therapist.
Multi-disciplinary experiences are invaluable to me as a pediatric dentist in understanding that there is no “one size fits all model.” The multi-disciplinary approach I employ in my dental practice enables us to customize care and genuinely give each patient the optimum therapeutic outcome. My mentor always stressed the important principle, “Don’t treat the tooth…Treat the patient.” By treating my patients with a multi-disciplinary approach, I know I am vested in treating your child with a “totality of care.”