When patients come into our office, we don’t just look for cavities — we evaluate the child’s overall health. Tooth decay can be caused by any number of factors, from poor nutrition to a lack of oral care. But once it sets in, caries opens the gate to a host of other health problems for children, ranging from chronic infection to delayed development. So it’s in everyone’s best interest — especially the child’s — to make sure that primary caregivers are able to share information so we can refer (or defer) to each other when needed.
Having a network of providers is important for anyone’s healthcare regimen. It is especially important in the formative years, when preventable heath issues can be diagnosed and treated before they escalate into far-reaching ills. For instance, chronic ear and sinus infections in school children can be a sign of tooth decay. If your child’s pediatrician has a relationship with our office and authorization from you, the parent, to share that information with us, together we can tackle the whole problem.
Treating symptoms in isolation makes preventative care difficult and increases the odds for bigger health concerns down the road. Active collaboration and open lines of communication between pediatric providers benefits your child’s health in other ways as well. Our different healthcare perspectives contribute to a more full and accurate picture of your child’s overall health. When all of your child’s primary care providers are focused on your little one’s health, such active intervention increases the chances of early diagnosis of prevention of myriad conditions. As the saying goes “it takes a village” to raise a child, so it requires a network of caregivers to keep them healthy and whole.
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Though you can’t see them at first, most babies are born with 20 teeth — 10 on top and 10 on bottom. Before that baby reaches 15 years of age, he or she will likely replace those first primaries with a full set of 32 permanent teeth — possibly wisdom teeth as well — and undergo many dental changes. Because good dental health is the gateway to positive development in so many areas, having a relationship with one pediatric dentist can help ensure not only comprehensive dental care, but good health overall as your little one grows into adulthood.
Dental decay is the leading chronic childhood disease impacting children in the U.S. today. And the impact on young children’s health and overall development can be far-reaching. Untreated sugar bugs (what we call cavities) can lead to painful ear and sinus infections and even life-threatening infections to the brain. Fitful sleep, damage to permanent teeth, poor speech development, and malnutrition are possible physical consequences of untreated tooth decay. But the more far-reaching and secondary side effects are just as alarming: Poor performance in school, teasing from other children that leads to behavioral problems and low self esteem have lifelong implications.
Having a relationship with a trusted dentist who knows the child and his or her health history and who specializes in pediatric care is one of a parent’s most important weapons in raising healthy kids from infancy on. Finding a dental home after the first tooth erupts is recommended because so many preventable dental problems begin earlier than many parents might expect.
In its State of Little Teeth report issued last year, The American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) noted that tooth decay is often untreated in children under the age of 3, setting the stage for more serious health problems even before the first grade. Surveys show that 5-10% of American toddlers 3 and under suffer from oral health issues and about 40% of children entering kindergarten have tooth decay that ranges from minimal to extensive. Establishing a dental home very early in life helps reduce the risk of problems because preventative care should start at an early age. Regular visits also help forge a bond of trust between child and dentist, helping to ensure regular dental care and healthy habits well into adulthood.
Read More: Facts About Tooth Decay