When it comes to kids, all parents try to make extra efforts to ensure that the best care is provided to their children. They are taken to the best doctor at the first indication of any diseases. However, the behavior changes drastically when it comes to dental health and a visit to a specialist doctor is often neglected. The thought of going to a doctor crops up only when the child suffers from an unbearable toothache. We all know that good oral care is more than a just two-time brushing of teeth and the sooner parents realize this, the better it is for the health of their children. As a healthcare practitioner, it is our responsibility to drive awareness on key issues that parents should watch out for when it comes to dental and oral care. Needless to say, we must drive home the fact that the first visit to a dentist should begin at 12 months of age to avoid prolonged dental problems.
Many dentists only examine their pediatric patient’s oral cavity to diagnose a cavity and proceed with treatment. However, it is always good if the child is checked and tested for other issues, if any, to ensure she doesn’t face problems at a later age. Incidentally, this also becomes an exercise in sensitizing children and their parents on the significance of oral hygiene and dental care.
So here are some for my fellow dentists for a more fulfilling pediatric dental care:
- Treat the child as a ‘whole’: Don’t just examine the oral cavity and exclaim “I got it! Got one decay.” The right approach towards an evaluation of dental diseases if examining the child as a whole is to understand the child’s food and oral habits. It is necessary to assess the jaw or facial structure of the child, as well as the parents – as jaws of either or both parents are usually inherited by the child. This gives a holistic perspective towards prevention and correction of dental diseases.
- Noticing habits: Children often engage in habits such as thumb sucking, teeth clenching, food consumption habits, mouth breathing and nail-biting which impact the child’s jaw size and causes malocclusions. With the intake of soft foods like burgers and beverages, children avoid healthy and fibrous food which doesn’t stimulate the lower jaws to grow bigger. When the lower jaws are not becoming bigger, it is understood that the upper jaw won’t grow bigger either. A deep vault of the palette will show a narrow arch and make it understandable that the lower jaw is not going to grow much. This is when intervention is required.
- Stress on prevention: Many dentists would avoid the conversation of prevention with parents as it might result in the lower patient walk-in. But it is the duty of every dentist to advise on the right way of examination and treatment. All developing malocclusions should be seen in three parts: Prevention, Intervention, and Correction. Always advise in three parts – before you tell the corrective or curative part, tell the parent about the preventive part which should be most important for a parent. It is also necessary that dentists intervene at the right stage and take the best measures to curtail further damage to the teeth. A dentist may decide to opt for certain necessary extractions, which have to be very carefully planned in consideration with the orthodontist.
In my personal experience, I believe that it is very important to provide a lot of counseling to the parents and tell them things – basic and simple tips – which they would otherwise ignore. Your effort should be to engage and enlighten.
Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Vimal Arora is the Board member of Governing Council of the ‘Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences’ and a Member of the Dental Council of India. He served as the Director General of the Armed Forces Dental Services. He was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Indian Prosthodontic Society and the Indian Dental Association. He was also awarded ‘Sushruta Award’ by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in 2015.