By Dr. Stephanie McGann, DMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times
Let’s start from the beginning, that’s right great teeth start from great care of our kids. We have seen decades of dental disease declining in kids who receive routine preventive care and early intervention of dental problems. For most people taking our kids to the dentist twice a year is just want we do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work.
Since February is national children’s dental health month I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about what sometimes happens when we take preventive dentistry for granted. My purpose today is to remind parents and caregivers to pay attention to the dental needs of the children who depend on them.
A huge part of the great success of preventive dentistry over the last 50 years is the implementation of fluorides in dental products, community water supplies and clinical care. Today with the increased use of bottled spring or purified waters, people choosing products that don’t contain fluoride and parental refusal of recommended fluoride treatments at the dentist office – we see more dental decay. While we can each make choices for ourselves and for our children we must always remember these choices have consequences.
Timely visits make a difference. When we see a child in the office for a preventive visit and recommend they return for a filling or other procedure, be diligent about following through. Nothing is more disheartening than to see a child in January who has a cavity and then see them again six month later only to find the cavity is now 3 times as big and may need more treatment or possibly not be able to be repaired. I know families today are busy, I am the mother of teenaged twins, but be sure to follow through on dental care.
Now let’s talk about the kids we don’t see. The underserved, uninsured children whose parents have few options. Until recently some of the only choices for these kids were charity or sliding scale clinics where basic needs could be met. Unfortunately, the need for these services far outweighed the capacity of most community clinics. Obamacare fixed some of that by including very limited preventive dental care in medical policies that covered children. At least all kids could see a dentist and receive the preventive services they needed. That may be a going away soon, who knows.
Teeth can be destroyed by drug use. There I said it, no sugar-coating or fancy language. Cocaine and opioid abuse can take a healthy mouth and devastate it in a short time. Please don’t look the other way or think it can’t happen to my child. Drug abuse is everywhere. Drug use does not single out disadvantaged youth or affluent teens. While drug use is not specifically a dental problem, the dental ramifications are serious.
With all things, the benefits must outweigh the risks. The benefit of keeping current with preventive dental visits and addressing concerns while they are small and easily manageable, far outweighs the potential risks of invasive dental procedures, dental extractions and damage caused be missing teeth. For the health of our children, be sure they are getting the care they need.
It all starts with childhood dental care. If a child receives great care and continues with healthy habits and routine dental visits they can expect to have a reasonably healthy dental outcome for most of their life. A youngster who has large fillings in the teeth and has had haphazard dental care, and unmotivated oral hygiene can expect over the course of their life to have to spend significantly more time and money maintaining their teeth in adulthood. If you want to invest in your child’s future, take care of their teeth today.
Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and along with her partner, Dr. Marie Scott, operates The Brandywine Smile Center, a family-friendly dental practice in Concordville. Dr. McGann has opened a new practice in Valley Township, Rainbow Valley Dental. She is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.