Dentistry Is Kids’ Stuff
Conversations about pediatric dental care can begin before the baby’s even born. Here, we recap the topics to discuss, according to the patient’s age
I have a deep passion for the dental industry and the contribution each of us makes to our patients’ health and well-being. That’s why I serve on public policy boards that focus on children with special needs and their access to care. I’m also committed to nurturing the next generation of dentists, so I’ve been a professor at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., for seven years and am an adjunct faculty member at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital with the Department of Pediatrics and the School of Law and Equity. I did my undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology at Duke University, which opened my eyes to how people from other cultures interact with health care. While earning my master’s in maternal and child health, it became clear to me that good health starts in the womb. I had a “light bulb moment” when I realized that pediatric dentistry would allow me to help children begin a lifetime of positive oral health habits and support those born with certain risk factors.
Today, my scope of interest has expanded, and I see oral health from a variety of perspectives, including overall public health, the cultural and nutritional environment of our patients, and the developmental growth and needs of the individual child sitting in my chair. I also view it as a mother of two children myself.
Everything starts in the womb
The more I’ve learned and practiced, the more it’s evident that pediatric dentistry is about more than baby teeth. Children born to mothers who have poor oral hygiene or are in poor health may be at risk for a variety of future general and oral health problems. Moreover, while a child’s diet is responsible for 95% of caries, some oral problems have their root cause in utero. As dentists, we need to monitor these problems and collaborate with our cohorts in the health care community to manage their treatment.
You can draw a straight line between the mother’s health and the future health, growth and development of the child she is carrying, because the baby’s teeth begin to develop in utero at just six weeks.
How family dentists can help
Family dentists have an opportunity to support both women of reproductive age and expectant moms by making sure they understand that their overall health—including their oral health—has a direct impact on their baby’s teeth.
When the opportunity arises, dentists can chat about everything from the roles of nutrition and lifestyle to how a lactation consultant can help a mom through breastfeeding challenges. They can provide guidance about teething and let parents know that they can reach out to a pediatric dentist, who has a wealth of resources to offer.
It isn’t unusual for parents to ask their family dentist about their worries. Dentists are often the first people to hear about teething, sleeping or feeding concerns, or that teeth might be missing or are erupting in an abnormal pattern. General dentists also have first-mirror knowledge of the parent’s dental history. Any time a general dentist hears about teeth concerns with a child or red flags in genetic history, it is an opportunity to engage and refer the patient to a pediatric dental specialist.
We are part of the larger health care community
General dentists have the opportunity to remind those in their patient care teams about the importance of oral health for children and that the first dental visit should take place at just 1 year of age. As dentists, working together to address comprehensive family health concerns is a required component of our job as part of a larger medical community. We’re not just the “teeth doctors”!
Questions about infants
One thing that’s unique about my practice is my work in releasing tethered ties through laser frenectomy. This procedure is used to release a tongue or lip tie to help children feed, speak and breathe more clearly and cleanse their mouth better.
Because of the proven health benefits of breastfeeding, frenectomy is, at times, a necessary procedure for moms looking to improve nursing for their newborn. This has become a hot topic in the new mom community, and families may look to their general dentists for guidance and reassurance. The important message to get across is that this procedure should be explored as a team, which may include a lactation consultant, a pediatric dentist and possibly an infant chiropractor or bodyworker.
In fact, any time families talk about infants is a teaching moment! Most families need guidance understanding the life cycle of teeth, how the introduction of solids increases the need to have an oral health routine and how common dental trauma is at such a young age, especially as young children are learning to walk. I find that most parents are receptive to this guidance because parenting books often lack detailed information about the topic of oral care.
Baby’s first visit to the dentist
Generally speaking, a child’s first dental visit should be as close to age 1 as possible. Exceptions to this rule include children born with teeth or those born with craniofacial abnormalities, who should be under a pediatric dentist’s care earlier. At that first appointment, I’m looking at the child’s oral development and seeking information on a range of topics from birth and family dental history to sleep problems and respiratory issues such as snoring.
Parents are often surprised by the amount of time we spend talking about feeding, swallowing, nutrition and their functional relationship to oral health. In truth, the entire conversation is geared toward identifying risk areas and potential future concerns.
Refer link: https://www.dentalnews.com/2021/03/09/dentistry-is-kids-stuff-by-dr-jonelle-anamelechi/