The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that dental decay is the most prevalent infectious disease in our nation’s children, and a recent study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dental found that dental decay is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever in children. More than 40 percent of children have cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.
These findings are among the many reasons Dr. Nilfa Collins of Children’s Dentistry of Dublin urges parents to bring their children to the dentist as soon as they begin teething. Dr. Nilfa, as she is known to her patients, emphasizes that tooth decay, even in the earliest stages of life, can have serious implications for a child’s long-term health and well-being and is a disease that is, by and large, preventable with regular dental visits.
Dr. Collins recently moved to Dublin from the Nashua area where she practiced pediatric dentistry for more than 20 years, including 15 years working at her own pediatric dental practice. Her experience working with children is evident, immediately putting anxious patients — and parents — at ease.
Dr. Collins is excited to meet and serve the dental needs of the families living in the Monadnock Region and has designed her new office that offers many of the recent advances in pediatric dentistry, including laser dentistry, digital x-rays and intra-oral cameras. These advances combined with a compassionate and child-friendly staff go a long way to making your child’s visit to the dentist enjoyable.
As an effective way to begin a lifelong program of preventive dentistry and good oral and overall health, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that dental visits begin with the appearance of a child’s first tooth, typically around six months but no later than one year. Dental decay can be well-advanced by 3 years old, the age previously recommended to begin visits to the dentist.
To encourage early dental visits, Dr. Collins is partnering with local pediatricians and family practitioners, as well as many of the school programs that cater to youngsters to promote proper oral hygiene habits that lead to good oral health.
Historically, the approach to preventing the development of dental decay has been to establish and maintain good oral hygiene, optimize fluoride exposure and eliminate prolonged exposure to simple sugars in the diet. These are also the principles for the establishment of the dental home by 1 year of age, as endorsed by the ADA, AAPD and other children’s health organizations.
During a child’s first visit, Dr. Collins will check for proper oral and facial development to determine whether teeth are growing in properly and to detect early tooth decay. It also gives her the chance to walk parents through a home dental care program for their children.
During the initial visit, Dr. Collins and her staff will complete and discuss the following:
- An accurate risk assessment for dental diseases and conditions
- An individualized preventive dental health program based on the risk assessment
- Guidance about growth and development issues, such as teething, digit or pacifier habits and feeding practices
- A plan for emergency dental trauma, such as knocked-out or broken teeth
- Information about proper care of the child’s teeth and gums
- Information regarding proper nutrition and dietary practices
- Comprehensive dental care in accordance with accepted guidelines and periodicity schedules for pediatric dental health
- Referrals to other dental specialists, such as endodontists, oral surgeons, orthodontists and periodontists, when care cannot be provided directly within the dental home
Early preventive care also is a sound health and economic investment. Some parents avoid taking children to the dentist to save money, yet studies show that the dental costs for children who have their first dental visit before age 1 are 40 percent lower in the first five years than for those who do not see a dentist prior to their first birthday.
In addition to regular dental visits, Dr. Collins recommends that parents take the following precautions to help prevent tooth decay in children:
- Brush your child’s gums twice a day with a soft cloth or baby toothbrush and water even before the first tooth appears. Ideally, infants should have their mouths cleansed with a damp cloth after feedings.
- Talk to your pediatric dentist about your child’s fluoride needs. Infants require fluoride to help developing teeth grow strong, and children who primarily drink bottled or well water may not be getting the fluoride they need. Children who can reliably spit should be instructed to use a fluoride toothpaste approved by the ADA and rinse every night with an alcohol-free over-the-counter mouth rinse with 0.05 percent sodium fluoride.
- If you must put your child to sleep with a bottle, use nothing but water. Other liquids, including formula or breast milk, can damage teeth, leading to cavities.
- Encourage your child to brush her teeth after breakfast and before bed. Make sure you assist until the child is about 9 years old, with the manual dexterity to properly brush. Encourage flossing once a day as soon as teeth contact one another.
- Limit frequency of snacking, which can increase a child’s risk of developing cavities. Additionally, parents should permit their children to consume fruit juices only at meals and to avoid all carbonated beverages during the first 30 months of the infant’s life.
- Take good care of your own teeth. Studies show that babies and small children can catch cavity-causing bacteria from their parents. Caregivers should be educated to prevent early colonization of dental flora in their infants by avoiding sharing of utensils or cleaning a dropped pacifier with their saliva.
Together, you and Children’s Dentistry of Dublin can create a wonderful dental home to start your children on a lifetime of good oral health and help older children develop and maintain great dental habits that will lead to better overall health.