A healthy smile means a healthy child
As a parent, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing your child laugh or seeing that big smile light up his or her face. After all, most parents just want happy, healthy babies. However, if your child is not receiving proper dental care, his or her health could be at risk.
Oral health is a big part of overall health, and caring for teeth and gums are important steps to keep babies and toddlers healthy. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child should have his or her first dental appointment after the first erupted tooth or by age one. Yet many parents wait until their children are in grade school before scheduling their first dental visit, but that may be too late.
“Common oral problems can turn into serious health conditions when ignored,” says Amy Marko, Senior Vice President of Dental Products and Professional Relations for Starmount and Unum. “So many of the major dental procedures performed on toddlers and young children today could have be less severe or even avoided with proper preventive dental care and oral hygiene.”
Marko believes that more education geared toward new parents may help avoid a lot pain and expense caused by pediatric dental misconceptions. February’s Children’s Dental Hygiene Month is the perfect time to help educate parents.
Dr. Robert L. Delarosa, a founding partner of Associates in Pediatric Dentistry in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helps dispel three common misconceptions about pediatric dental care:
Myth #1: Since baby teeth fall out, they are not as important as permanent teeth are.
“This is something we hear so many times, and it couldn’t be further from the reality of the issue. Primary or baby teeth serve several critical roles in a child’s development, from facial growth to speech development, guidance of eruption of the permanent teeth, and proper jaw function.”
Tip for parents: Taking care of baby teeth is just as important as taking care of permanent teeth, including dental visits every six months.
Myth #2: It is not necessary to repair baby teeth that have developed cavities.
“This is an issue that we have to confront frequently. Baby teeth decay in the same manner in which permanent teeth do, and are subject to the same negative potential consequences, including infection, pain, and loss of tooth structure leading to space loss and bite changes. And, all of the baby teeth are not completely lost until our patients are twelve or thirteen years old so decay cannot be ignored or left untreated for any prolonged length of time. In addition, we tell our families that the biggest indicator in patients having decay in the permanent teeth is if they had decay in the baby dentition. So it is very important to keep the baby teeth healthy to promote healthy permanent teeth later in life.”
Tip for parents: It’s important to repair cavities in baby teeth to avoid future negative impacts and to promote healthy permanent teeth.
Myth #3: Chips, crackers and other “non-candy” type treats are not bad for baby teeth.
“While it is true that some types of foods and fluids have more sugar in them, the end result of decay can still occur with any substance that can be converted to acid by the bacteria in our mouths, especially if they are consumed frequently. This is an important concept because we want to avoid ‘grazing’ with any cavity-producing substance. So we recommend our families limit this exposure to a snack or meal times.”
Tip for parents: Limit your child’s consumption of food to meal times and a snack to avoid the potential of cavities from unlimited “grazing”.
Dr. Robert L. Delarosa is the founding partner of Associates in Pediatric Dentistry, a Board Certified Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American College of Dentists.
Dr. Delarosa has served in leadership roles in numerous dental professional organizations at the state, regional and national levels, including President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
He has lectured extensively to many organizations and groups, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Southwestern Society of Pediatric Dentistry, Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry, and the orthodontic study group (g)nathos.
Amy Marko is the Senior Vice President of Dental and Vision Products and Professional Relations for Starmount, Unum Group’s dental and vision center of expertise. She has an extensive 40-year background in dental insurance and dental support organizations, starting her career in managed dental care in 1977.
Marko has been an active member of NADP since its inception, serving as chairperson on several NADP committees and commissions. In addition, she was elected to and served on the NADP Board of Directors from 1999 through 2004, and the 2017 recipient of the Gabryl Award.