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Pediatric Dental Health: More than Just Clean Teeth

Dr. Yeroshalmi and Bugsy teaching children how to properly brush their teeth
Bugsy and Magi the Dragon -- dental health education puppets

Doctors at Jacobi Medical Center have a special side-kick in the fight against bad oral health among children. “Bugsy,” a love bug puppet with a full set of teeth and an oversized toothbrush is their special weapon in bringing healthy smiles to children and helping them develop good habits early.

“We want to capture the imagination of children by using this fun puppet to demonstrate brushing and flossing techniques,” says Dr. Yeroshalmi, Chief of Pediatric Dentistry at Jacobi Medical Center. “Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular dental visits helps children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.”

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and a time when pediatricians and dentists all around the country and at HHC focus on raising oral health education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment necessary to maintain the oral health of infants, children and adolescents.

At HHC, oral health is more than just clean teeth; it is recognized year-round as an integral component to general health.

“A healthy mouth correlates with a healthy body. Having healthy teeth is a life-long commitment that begins in childhood,” says Dr. Sheldon Stachel, Associate Director of the Department of Dentistry at Woodhull Medical Center. “We encourage our young patients to keep a healthy mouth by brushing their teeth, flossing and having regular dental screenings.”

HHC staff believe in the importance of having a dental home where children can have an ongoing relationship with the dentist to ensure comprehensive, accessible and coordinated care in a family-centered way. Dental teams focus a lot of attention on parent education and advocate for healthy eating habits since diet and nutrition play such an integral role in dental health.

According to Dr. Yeroshalmi, the top four things that kids and parents should know about dental health are 1) brush and floss at least twice daily 2) limit sugary drinks with children 3) encourage healthful foods like fruits and vegetables and 4) schedule regular dentist check-ups.

HHC pediatricians and dentists follow the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommended guidelines to encourage that every child see a dentist by age 1 and then schedule regular check-ups approximately every 6 months to a year after that. Pediatricians conduct the initial visual assessment of the child's oral health and look for things like decalcifications, which are white spots/lesions on the tooth that indicate early caries. Pediatricians then refer patients to HHC pediatric dentists for further assessment and follow-up.

Dental caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 60% of children experience caries in their primary teeth by age 5. Nearly 1 in 4 children, aged 2 to 11 years, has untreated cavities or caries in their primary teeth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dental caries, periodontal diseases, and other oral conditions, if left untreated, can lead to pain, infection, and loss of function. These undesirable outcomes can adversely affect learning, interfere with eating and adequate nutritional intake, speaking, self-esteem, and daily activities.

While poor diet and oral hygiene certainly play a role, cavities are actually caused by a disease called caries, which is five times more common than asthma. Children experiencing caries as infants and toddlers have a much greater probability of having caries as adults.

“It is never too early to start learning and reading about oral healthcare,” says Dr. Peter Catapano, Director of the Pediatric Dental Clinic at Bellevue Hospital Center. “Oral health literacy is so important for both the parent and the child and can help prevent problems, like early caries, before they start.”

In observance of the national recognition month and this special focus on children’s oral heath, on Feb. 3, 2011 Jacobi Medical Center will offer any infant, child or adolescent from local low-income families presenting for their pediatric appointment free dental services ranging from screenings and cleanings to application of Fluoride treatment. Dental care is available to children and adults at most HHC hospitals and large health centers all year round. HHC dental services include preventive and restorative care; crowns, bridges and implants; oral surgery, emergency care, and jaw surgery and reconstruction.


February 2012

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  • Discharges: 205,791
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