It's all smiles: pediatric oral hygiene can lead to better overall health

Children, Dental

To achieve beautiful pearly whites and help stave off health issues later in life, it’s important to start good oral hygiene at a young age.

Dr. Wayne Given has been practicing dentistry for 40 years. Now a part of the Pediatric Department and Clinic as a clinical associate professor at West Virginia University, he was inspired by his family dentist growing up in Nicholas County.

“I always had an interest in teeth, and he took the time to answer my questions, and my interest grew, and he was supportive and encouraging that I could become anything I wanted to be,” Given said. “And that thing was a dentist. I had no interest in doing anything other than dentistry.”

Given said the sooner that children start getting regular checkouts, the healthier their mouths will be for the rest of their lives. While doctors once recommended a child see a dentist before the age of 3, that’s moved up.

“The recommendation is that a child should be seen at 6 months or no later than 1 year for their first dental examination,” Given said. “We see a number of children that unfortunately didn’t start young and as a result have multiple dental issues.”

One major problem from not starting early can be pain, which can impede concentration or focus.

“It makes a painful situation oftentimes for the child, and it interrupts their normal learning and development because they’re distracted with the pain,” Given said. “They get sidetracked so they’re not focused or listening to teachers.”

Other issues can involve diet. It can be difficult to eat healthy foods if teeth are broken or hurting, which can lend itself to a poor diet, which can hurt the teeth, which causes the cycle to continue.

Poor dental health can also affect the development of speech, especially if the upper front four teeth are lost at an early age.

“They’ll have difficulty with certain words,” Given said, “which can lead to being bullied or picked on by their classmates.”

Dr. Kelly Nelson of Mountain State Medical Specialties said dental health is related to several other types of health issues, and good oral hygiene can even ward off specific issues.

“There’s a lot of studies that show folks that floss routinely have lower rates of heart disease, so there’s thought to be a connection between flossing and not forming plaque leading to longer lives,” Nelson said. “Another angle, especially in diabetics, is oral health is very important. If you get an infection or cavity in the mouth, there can be seriously adverse affects on sugar and overall health.”

Because teeth are also visual and often one of the first things to be noticed about a person, good dental health can also help with mental health.

“Our overall appearance is certainly important to our mental and emotional health,” Nelson said. “You want to have a healthy set of chompers so you can look good.”

Given said bad teeth can limit an individuals social life or cause difficulties finding employment.

“People are often not (hired) because they don’t want their clientele seeing a person that doesn’t have healthy-looking teeth and gums,” he said.

West Virginia and Appalachia as a whole have a long history of being associated with stereotypes about bad oral health.

“There are a lot of statistics tat have been born out of these discrepancies or shortcomings. There are statistics that say in 2006 in West Virginia, dentists pulled (over) 31,800 children’s teeth,” Given said. “And 40 percent of the state’s retirees had none of their natural teeth remaining. That’s from the National Institute of Health.”

Health care providers work to combat this issue through actively making sure residents are educated and by getting parents to make sure their children go to the dentist regularly.

“There has been a great improvement over recent years, and pediatricians are seeing families taking their children to see a dentist on a regular basis,” Given said.

If your child has yet to see the dentist, we would LOVE to see them! We offer complimentary initial assessments and oral health consults to any child under the age of 10 years old. Call our office today 214-368-0900!

Source:  The Exponent Telegram



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