At the start of a new school year, it’s common practice for parents to schedule routine physicals, which include vision and hearing testing. What should also be added to back-to-school preparations is a routine dental checkup. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental checkups are as important as booster and immunization shots. Unfortunately, some states have irregular checkup requirements, as far apart as three years, and some states have no requirements at all. So what does this mean for children?
- Routine dental examinations uncover problems. The American Dental Association reports that more than half of children between the ages of 5 and 9 have at least one cavity or filling. Untreated problems can be very serious and lead to eating difficulties, weight loss, impaired growth, poor speech development, and systemic infection—all of which—can have an adverse effect on school studies.
Dr. Kenneth Rogers, DMD, a board certified pediatric dentist says, “Long-term neglect can lead to tooth decay, nerve damage, and pain and suffering. On the other end of the spectrum, infection can affect the soft tissue of the face and turn into a medical emergency.”
- Establishing a routine early in life helps ensure successful lifelong prevention. Many individuals are unaware of the health risks associated with poor dental care. Dr. Rogers purchased Bright Smiles of Winter Haven in 1990, and quickly implemented community awareness initiatives to help educate parents. The office staffs a dental health educator who speaks regularly with community groups and distributes educational materials. The educator also visits over 30 area schools each year and shares with nearly 4,000 children about the importance of proper dental care. Dr. Rogers says pediatricians and the medical community, have also been helpful in fostering awareness and referring families for early care.
- Poor dental health has been associated with a greater chance of diabetes and stroke. With the risk of such serious health issues, proper dental health needs to be a high priority in children’s lives. Dr. Rogers works with parents to devise ways to help engage children in proper dental care. “What works the best is establishing a routine,” Dr. Rogers explains. “Children perform best when following a well-established routine, in fact, they may even remind their parents of the time to brush.”
- Prevention is better than cure. Pediatric dentist offices, such as Bright Smiles of Winter Haven, welcomes patients as young as one-year-old, even younger if they were born with a tooth. The first visit is counsel-based and provides an educational overview of proper dental care. One particular area of concern with infants is when parents use a bottle or sippy cup with milk or juice, something other than water, to facilitate sleep. Dr. Rogers recommends a child’s first appointment for cleaning and routine checkup be made when the child turns three.
- Dental health awareness helps ensure other trauma prevention. Tooth decay is one area of concern for dentists. Another is protection from mouth injury, as serious mouth injuries can occur during common school and afterschool recreational activities. Dr. Rogers shares with his patients about the importance of taking precautions when engaging in such activities. Precautions include wearing mouth guards with contact sports, helmets with bicycle riding, keeping your eyes open while swimming, and adding protective nets around trampolines.
Good oral hygiene stems from overall good diet and health care. This fall, Florida school cafeterias are meeting new federal nutrition standards for school meals, ensuring that meals are healthy and well‐balanced and provide students all the nutrition they need to succeed at school. With the addition of a wider variety of vegetables, larger servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, and more grains, children should see fewer food items known to promote tooth decay. The most well-known culprits are foods with high sugar or carbohydrate content, as well as sweetened fruit drinks and sodas.
story by JO LYNN DEAL