By Dr. Rosa P. Shelton, DDS, Pediatric Dentist
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), dental caries (cavities) is not only the most common disease in children, but it is also more common than asthma in adolescents. For us dentists, the data is alarming in great part because the disease is highly preventable. That is why here at Whittier Street Health Center’s Dental Services Department, we focus our efforts not only in treating the damages of dental caries, but also in educating patients as well as parents, guardians, and care givers about different strategies to prevent the disease and avoid recurrence.
I joined Whittier Street Health Center in the summer of 2013 to start the Pediatric Dental Program. Since then, we have served children in the community ranging from 12 months of age to 18 years of age. We brought our services to Pediatric Medicine and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for approximately six months in 2014 as part of an initiative to introduce new mothers to the concept of the “dental home” with the purpose of providing comprehensive oral care, including preventive programs based on an individual’s needs—as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). The AAPD recommends that children make their first dental appointment by 12 months of age. Usually, parents bring their children in at 3 years of age, which may be too late to prevent dental caries.
During the initiative’s weekly rotation, we had the opportunity to work in conjunction with our Pediatricians and perform dental screenings, cleaning, and fluoride applications for patients and families participating in WIC. We also provided preventive measures for oral hygiene at home and suggestions about changing eating/snacking habits. For example, many people do not know that sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks are a leading cause of tooth decay. As a result, we were able to identify cases that needed to be referred for operative procedures at our dental clinic that otherwise would have gone untreated and possibly cause pain and infection.
Some of the most important information we share with our patients and parents/caregivers regarding diet and habits concern the effects of a high refined carbohydrate diet, “sticky” foods, and late night feedings. Frequent snacks cause the acid levels in the mouth to remain very low, making the teeth more susceptible to attacks by bacteria that cause caries. Also, the AAPD recommends that children up to age 6 do not drink more than four to six ounces of fruit juice daily.
Pediatric Dental Services at Whittier Street Health Center
We offer a range of different procedures for our pediatric population, depending on their individual needs: the typical “white” fillings (resin composite) or stainless steel crowns (“metal caps” or “metal crowns”) for primary teeth, which are needed when tooth decay affects multiple surfaces of the teeth; nerve treatment for primary teeth; preventive treatments such as sealants, which are recommended for permanent molars as soon as they appear in the mouth. Since almost 90% of the carious lesions are seen on the pits and fissures of the molars, sealants are a special dental material than can be placed in that area to make them less susceptible to caries.
We now also offer a wide variety of restorative materials for caries control in younger children, especially for children who suffer from Early Childhood Caries. In some instances where extensive dental treatment is needed and/or in situations where the child is very young and unable to cooperate or suffers from a medical condition that prevents them from having the treatment done in our clinic, we work closely with another pediatric dentist to whom we refer to take special cases for hospital dentistry at Franciscan Hospital.
Here is a recent article that has been widely recommended by pediatric dentists and that I think offers clear information for parents: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/02/08/7-mistakes-parents-make-with-their-kids-teeth/
If you would like to make an appointment for your child at our dental department, please call 617-989-3240 or 617-989-3229, or make an appointment online at http://www.wshc.org/make-an-appointment/
Remember: caring for your child’s teeth now will help them keep their beautiful, healthy smiles!