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Friday, August 12, 2011

Back To School, Back to the Doctor and Don't Forget the Dentist!

If last week was your child's first week back to school then I can imagine it was a whirlwind getting all of his or her important documents together to enroll. My co-worker had a "laundry list" of required school supplies, permission slips, and back to school immunization forms to complete. While doctor check-ups are the required norm before going back to school, an increasing number of states are requiring dental check-ups as well.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggests that children should visit the dentist before their first birthday. AAPD states, "Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between 6 and 12 months of age. This visit will establish a dental home for your child. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.

Cavities as an adult scare me and I can't imagine how little people and teens would feel if they experienced tooth decay at a young age. "It's all about prevention, initial dental screenings and orthodontic consultations, treatment of existing conditions, regular visits and proper home care can prevent major dental and orthodontic problems in the future and may save lots of money in the long run," said Dr. Sana Pasha Augustus, a graduate from Howard University College of Dentistry.

I interviewed Dr. Genise A. Evans of Southern Smiles Family Dentistry to get her advice on how to prevent dental problems and hopefully reduce dental phobia in small children.

Q: Why are early and regular dental visits important?

Dr. Evans: Early office visits can help prevent dental phobia in young children and teens. Our office recommends seeing children as soon as the first tooth comes in. This allows us to educate parents on the importance of home care and creating positive habits. Our hope as family practitioners is to develop long term relationships with families. We like to see children early to get them acclimated to the dental office. We want to dispel myths and horror stories about dental visits. Early and regular visits to the dental office allow us to hopefully have mostly happy appointments; and should we detect developing decay we can address it before pain is the prevailing factor for the dental visit.

Q: Can nighttime feedings promote tooth decay in small children?

Dr. Evans: We encourage parents of small children to avoid bottle feeding or use of sippy cups at night. Those habits tend to promote the development of tooth decay. Although being a mom myself, I understand some parents find it necessary to offer night time feedings to small children but we encourage wiping their mouths with a cloth immediately afterwards. That small step can help prevent the development of tooth decay. We also recommend filling those bottles or sippy cups with water if your child needs that to fall asleep.

Q: What should children expect when going to the dentist?

Dr. Evans states: Dental visits for young children (2 and younger) generally involves the dentist simply taking a look in the child's mouth. Even if the child cries we praise them for opening wide enough for us to see everything and reward their attempted cooperation with cool gifts like a brand new tooth brush and dinosaur floss and stickers. Our hope as an office is that the child remembers the positives, so we spend a lot of time focusing on their triumph in allowing the dentist to check their teeth. We love to get mom and dad involved in the praise as well. In my experience this method makes for excellent dental patients (even into adulthood).

Q: What recommendations do you have for parents to help encourage brushing and flossing with their children?

Dr. Evans: We recommend parents aid their children with bushing and flossing every night. Night time is the most important time to ensure that children do not develop tooth decay. During the day children are talking, eating, drinking and their saliva is constantly washing the teeth. Night time is different, at night the mouth creates a dark moist warm environment that bacteria loves to breed in.

I tell the parents just like I tell the kids don't feed the "Cavity Creep" at night, make sure your teeth are very clean before you go to bed. Please allow your child the independence they seek in the morning. Let them brush their own teeth in the morning with a little supervision. It really isn't a big deal if they don't get the teeth sparkling clean, but it does matter in helping them independently learn the mechanics of brushing without compromising their overall oral health. Allowing them to brush solo at night can cause problems for the oral health if not done properly.

Q: Should children use training toothpaste or toothpaste containing fluoride?

Dr. Evans: One caveat to brushing that is extremely important is that if your child cannot spit do not use a toothpaste containing fluoride (use training toothpaste). As soon as your child learns how to spit (well) it is okay to use a regular kids' toothpaste (containing fluoride). Ingesting too much fluoride can cause staining on developing permanent teeth. However fluoride is important in developing healthy strong teeth and should not be avoided; only used when a child is ready (meaning they can spit more than they swallow).

Q: Is flossing important for children?

Dr. Evans: Flossing is as important for children as it is for adults. Occasionally children have gaps between all of the baby teeth which allows you to brush 360 degrees around the tooth surface. However many children lack the spacing and can only brush the front and back surfaces of their teeth; leaving a significant portion of the tooth untouched therefore prone to tooth decay. Flossing helps prevent the development of decay in between the teeth. Flossing with your child early creates good habits. The same way they have learned the importance of brushing twice a day, they will remember to floss once a day. Just creates excellent home care habits and decreases the potential development of tooth decay.

About Dr. Evans: Genise A. Evans is true G.R.I.T.S (Girl Raised In The South). She was born in Atlanta,GA and graduated from one of Atlanta's finest public high schools. Genise earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from The University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1993. She then moved north of 85 to attend dental school at Howard University in Washington, DC. There she earned a DDS degree in 1997. Upon graduation from dental school Genise chose to serve her country and improve her dental proficiency by completing an AEGD residency with The United States Army Dental Corp. After serving 4 years in the U.S. Army she moved back to her beloved Atlanta and has been practicing for many years. Outside of dentistry Genise enjoys time with her Power Ranger/Super Hero son and photography. Dr. Evans would love for you to become apart of our Southern Smiles Family.

About Dr. Augustus: Sana Pasha Augustus is originally from Silver Spring, Maryland and currently resides in Laurel, Maryland. She completed her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Chemistry from Clark Atlanta University in 2001. She completed both dental school and her orthodontic residency at Howard University College of Dentistry in 2011.

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