Ask the Experts: July 2020


One thing we all have in common as parents are questions. Lots of questions. Whether it’s concerning how to save for your child’s college fund, best practices for dental care, or how to talk to your child about a death in the family, it can feel overwhelming at times. While Google is handy, it can also be confusing and most importantly, unreliable.

We are so excited to introduce a new feature on Charleston Moms called Ask the Experts where a team of local experts will answer your burning parenting questions in a monthly blog post. Our hope is that you get answers to some common questions that many parents have and connect with these amazing resources right here in our community!

Want to learn more about our team of local experts? Have a question? Ask it here and it will be answered in next month’s post! 

*This is a sponsored post, presented by our valued local partners. While we love sharing these resources with our readers, we have not personally vetted each individual business represented here and encourage our readers to do their own research to find the best fit for their family.

Children's Health

Q: I hear a lot of conflicting ideas about which sunscreen is best to use on babies and toddlers. Are there certain ingredients or strengths I should look for or things to stay away from? Thanks!

A: Timely question! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends several sun safety strategies:

• Whenever possible, wear lightweight long-sleeved clothing to protect skin from the sun.
• Wear a hat with an all-around 3” brim.
• Limit sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm to avoid the strongest UV rays.
• Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection.
• Keep babies under 6mos of age out of direct sunlight (i.e. use a stroller canopy, tree, umbrella, shade). If shade is not available, use sunscreen on small areas of the body such as the face.
• For babies older than 6mos, apply to all areas of the body but apply with caution around the eyes. If your baby rubs sunscreen into his/her eyes, wipe hands and eyes clean with a damp cloth. If the sunscreen is irritating, try a sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. If a rash develops, call your pediatrician.
• Use a sunscreen that says “broad spectrum” on the label indicating it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
• Use a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 up to 50. More studies are needed to know whether more than SPF 50 is more protective.
• If possible, avoid sunscreen with oxybenzone due to the mild hormonal properties. However, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all.
• For the nose, cheeks, ears, and shoulders use a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
• Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas 15-30 minutes before sun exposure any time you spend time outdoors, even on a cloudy day.
• Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.

Elizabeth Mack, MD, MS
Division chief of pediatric critical care
MUSC Children’s Health

Oral Health

Q: Is it common for kids to have braces recommended when they still have some baby teeth?

A: Braces with baby teeth… while it may seem unnecessary, it can be very beneficial. Early or Interceptive treatment is typically a short round of orthodontics (about 6-12 months)– maybe with braces, maybe with an appliance– that has a specific objective. About 10-20% of the average orthodontic practice is Interceptive treatment, so it is fairly common.

By 7 years old, the first permanent molars have erupted and can give orthodontists a good indication of the developing bite. While most turning of the teeth, spacing, mild crowding, etc can ABSOLUTELY wait, there are some things that are better treated between 7 and 9 when the growth of facial and jawbones is ideal for intercepting problems before they become more severe.

Things to look out for:
1. Crossbites- If the bottom teeth are outside of the top teeth either in the front or back, early treatment may be indicated.
2. Severe crowding- Early interventions can be done to improve future orthodontic outcomes.
3. Severe protrusion- If the front teeth are sticking too far forward, these teeth can be at risk for breaking.
4. Low self-esteem- Kids can be tough. An easy round of interceptive orthodontics can nip bullying in the bud!
5. Too much overlap of the front teeth- A removable retainer is an easy way to use growth to improve future outcomes.
6. Sleep-disordered breathing- Snoring is NOT normal in children. While braces may not be the necessary intervention, your orthodontist can help direct you toward appropriate treatment to help address this issue. Treatment examples- expanders, allergy, tonsil/adenoidectomy, baby CPAP.

Dr. Katie Bullwinkel
Board Certified Orthodontist
Bullwinkle Orthodontics


Q: How much money should the average family have in an emergency fund?

A: I am so glad you brought this up. EVERYONE should have an emergency fund. Study’s have shown 41% of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover a $1,000 emergency. Especially with the times we are experiencing right now, it is more important now than ever to make sure you have some funds set aside for an emergency.

The exact amount an average family should have set aside is going to vary. A good rule of thumb is six months of your expenses. I recommend keeping this money in a high yield savings account or money market. Some people tend to be more conservative and like to have more than six months saved. Be careful not to have an over-funded emergency fund. Money in a savings account doesn’t earn very much interest so its important to put that extra money somewhere it can grow and keep up with inflation.

It is also important that you only use that money for emergencies. This includes job layoff, car repairs, house repairs, unexpected medical expenses, etc.

If you are working on growing your emergency savings account, a good way to hold yourself accountable is to set up direct depositing. If you wait until the end of the month, nothing will be left. This might require you to adjust your budget to reach your goal. If you limit yourself on eating out during the week or canceling subscriptions you don’t use, that can help.

Caroline Mahoney, Financial Services Professional
Steven Fazio, Financial Services Professional
Riley Knudsen, Financial Services Professional

New York Life, Charleston


Q: With lots of the usual enrichment activities closed or canceled for the summer and traditional school looking unlikely for the fall, what are some ways parents can prevent too much of a slide or ways we can encourage learning and educational activities?

A. How to Overcome the “Summer Slide”

While everyone loves summer, the “summer slide” is real. When students are not in school, their academic abilities can decline – particularly in reading and math, says Meghan James, one of Mason Prep’s 7th and 8th-grade math teachers, “We always have to spend time at the beginning of the year reviewing. If students have been active and engaged over the summer, this review time is much faster.”

Ashton Hooker, Mason Prep’s 5th and 6th-grade reading teacher agrees. “Research suggests that students who are engaged in reading over the summer will then excel in reading achievements in the fall. Daily summer reading is a crucial activity to avoid the summer slide, where students can lose up to three months’ reading comprehension progress. Not only is progress lost, but often students’ interest and passion for reading declines with the summer slide.”

In order to combat the summer slide and encourage learning, try these tips from our teachers:

1. Read!
Students should be reading each day (or enjoying someone reading a book to them if they are not reading on their own). Students can explore different types of reading material to include novels, magazines, manuals, plays, newspapers, comics, poetry, travel brochures, and recipes. Audiobooks are also an excellent source of quality reading material to prevent summer slide, and these can keep students engaged while traveling.

2. Tackle Summer School Work
Most likely, your school has given your child summer work to complete. Make sure he or she works on these assignments through the summer rather than trying to complete all the work the week (or day!) before school starts. These assignments are not “busy work,” they are meant to keep your child’s skills sharp.

3. Try New Activities
Activities provide learning experiences for all ages, so be sure to get out of the house and do new things (there are plenty of activities you can do while maintaining a safe distance from others). Try fishing, visit a historical site, or explore a bike trail and talk about the things you see along the way. Exposing your child to new experiences promotes curiosity and, in turn, learning. Family game time is also a great way to get your child to use his or her brain. Playing games (those that are specifically math/reading focused and those that are “just for fun”) and working on puzzles requires kids to think and can set the stage for family conversations.

4. Go Online
There are numerous online sources that provide learning activities. Here at Mason Prep, we put together a list of these resources to help families when we were e-learning last spring: These fun activities and games are perfect when children need some quiet (and cool!) time inside.

Combating the summer slide doesn’t need to involve tutors and workbooks. Meaningful learning experiences can be easy to incorporate into those precious weeks of summer. And when the first day of school rolls around, your student will be ready to learn!

Joanne Stemple
Director of Communications
Mason Prep School

Oral Health

Q: At our last checkup, my dentist told me that our toddler has a cavity in a front tooth and that it would need to be filled. I was referred to a pediatric dentist near my home to have this done, but haven’t had an appointment yet. I read online that there are a few different ways they fill kid’s teeth and am wondering what would be the best option to have a front tooth filled?

A: This question is similar to asking which vehicle is the best. While cars and trucks all get around on four wheels, some are better suited for particular conditions over others. You wouldn’t purchase a sports car to haul large bulky items around town.

Not all cavities are the same size nor are they located in the same location on the tooth. These two factors alone could have significantly different treatment needs. Your child’s comfort level will also be taken into consideration. You wouldn’t want to take a ride down a bumpy road in a sports car just to say that you rode in one. Your child’s pediatric dentist will discuss your treatment options based on the child’s needs, as well as how to safely and comfortably do so. That way the kids will have a lifetime of good dental health and positive experiences.

Dr. Mike & Dr. Will

Board Certified Pediatric Dentists
Kids Teeth

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