National Children's Dental Health Month
February 27, 2020
Even before a child is born, their dental health is being affected and determined, impacting if their adult teeth will last a lifetime.
During the month of February, COMTREA recognizes National Children’s Dental Health Month by raising awareness of pediatric dental care and encouraging children’s oral health.
Sandy Holifield, Oral Health Outreach Manager at COMTREA, explained, “Oral health begins before a child is born. If a mother has poor oral health, like gum disease or dental pain, the mother’s body produces chemicals that can affect the baby. Periodontal disease has been linked to pre-term labor. The healthier the mother is, the healthier the baby can be.”
Adult teeth can actually last a lifetime, but not taking care of baby teeth may impact the longevity of adult teeth.
Parents and guardians should take an active role in caring for a child’s teeth.
When an infant’s teeth begin to appear, take a warm, damp washcloth and wipe their teeth and mouth down after meals.
“Kids usually don’t have the ability to brush their teeth properly until they are at least seven years old. While a child may not want help, they are often not using the right angles and techniques to correctly clean their teeth. We tend to see a lot of plaque buildup on the back teeth, which is where kid’s struggle to brush,” explained Holifield.
Baby teeth reserve a spot and help guide adult teeth into place. Crooked baby teeth may not affect the alignment of adult teeth, but if this is still a concern after age 12, the child should visit an orthodontist.
“The biggest need is education to the kids, and even more parents,” said Dr. Courtney Garland, Director or Oral Health at COMTREA. “Children are a vulnerable population. Education, prevention, and early intervention are so important to keep children pain free and prevent bad oral habits and conditions that could follow them throughout their lives.”
“Children may not see the dentist until they already have issues, due to the perception by some that baby teeth aren’t important and will ‘fall out anyway’. If we could see all children by age one and provide education to their families, we could help stop the most common issues before they begin,” continued Dr. Garland.
“Can you imagine being in school trying to learn while you’re constantly in pain,” asked Holifield. “We’ve seen behavioral issues arise as a result of the pain. After we fix the dental issues, they are a perfect student.”
Providing dental care to children has challenges of its own to oral health providers.
“You have to be creative! Children can be more difficult to provide care due to age, anxiety, or special needs, but it is definitely rewarding to get them in the best place possible with their oral health,” explained Garland.
COMTREA offers two pediatric dentists, Dr. Darling and Dr. Autry, who received additional education in providing care to children.
As a Federally Qualified Health Center, COMTREA focuses on being affordable, accessible, and providing the highest quality of care.
Dental care services are offered in Hillsboro and Arnold to the general public. School-based health centers located at the Valley Middle School in House Springs and Dunklin Middle School in Herculaneum provide care primarily to students and their families. Additionally, COMTREA offers emergency care for patients to visit either same-day or within 48 hours.
Learn more about COMTREA dental care at www.comtrea.org/dental or call 1-877-COMTREA to schedule an appointment.