Why do kids and adults need to see the dentist?
By Dr. Susan Maples, DDS
Most parents know that taking their kids to the dentist twice a year is recommended. And since February is National Children's Dental Health Month, not only is it a good reminder, there are some very important reasons to do it that go much further than having pearly bright whites. What do all parents need to know?
Your child’s oral health dictates their overall health. Preventing our most prevalent diseases, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory disease, starts with healthy teeth and gums. Teaching kids how to prevent oral disease, especially Caries disease (cavities) and periodontal disease (gingivitis and gum disease) is critically important. What goes on in your children’s mouth plays a huge role in what goes on in the rest of their body.
Caries disease (dental decay) is the most prevalent disease affecting children in our country. By two years old 20% of American children already have tooth decay and one third of three-year old. The good news is, it’s 100% preventable. Caries disease is a transmissible bacterial infection that can be prevented if we stop swapping saliva with babies, and we ratchet down the sugar consumption that feeds the bacteria responsible for decay.
Wearing braces is preventable too! It’s estimated 75% of kids today, need braces for crowded teeth or jaws that are too small and genetics is not the cause. Starting in infancy, there are things you can do so your child’s oral facial development will predict they don’t fall into this unpopular majority.
Say no to the polish. The only reason your hygienist should polish your child’s teeth is to try and remove stain. That’s it. In fact, polishing is particularly harmful to baby teeth, as the polish abrades the fluoride-rich enamel surface that we have built up over repeated applications. Ask your registered dental hygienist to spend the time helping kids learn to clean their own teeth thoroughly, each and every day.
Oral cancer from HPV is increasing at 30% a year. Your child’s pediatrician probably discussed HPV as it relates to cervical and penile cancers, but you may be surprised to learn that oral cancer is the number one HPV-malignancy in the U.S. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, so why do we include it as a topic for children? It’s estimated that about 14% of 13-year-olds, and 41% of 15-year-olds have already participated in some form of body part sexual behavior. To prevent HPV-oral and throat cancer, we need to spread the word that oral sex is not safe sex and the HPV vaccination saves lives.
Your Infant needs a dental exam too. It’s recommended by all health authorities that children be seen under one year—soon after the eruption of their first teeth. This is part of a massive effort to reduce the risk of Caries Disease (tooth decay). But we are looking at more than just teeth. We check for oral facial growth and development, sleep and/or breathing disorders, swallowing issues, nonnutritive sucking habits, foundations for good nutrition, systemic fluoride needs, what to do in the case of traumatic blow to the mouth, and at-home dental safety guidelines.
Dr. Susan Maples, DDS is author of the book “Brave Parent: Raising Healthy, Happy Kids Against All Odds in Today's World.” Not only has she been a practicing dentist for more than 30 years, she’s also a health educator and one of the pioneers in the connection between oral health and systemic health. (https://beabraveparent.com/)