February 28, 2017
Suncher Outten knows the importance of caring for her children's teeth, that's why her daughters Shania, 6, and Laila-Syke, 2, have both already had dental visits. By age two, both of her children had their first visit to the dentist's office. Outten is setting the foundation for her children to have healthy teeth as adults.
"They say the baby teeth are the foundation for adult teeth, and I've witnessed people with serious expense issues and health issues due to poor dental care, so I'm training my children to take care of their baby teeth so that they will take care of their adult teeth," said Outten.
Outten is one of those parents who does not ascribe to the myth that baby teeth aren't important because they will fall out anyway. That belief is a myth that dentist Dr. Shamika Strachan at Impressions Dental says she hears too often, and wishes people would do away with.
"It's time Bahamians refrain from the idea that baby teeth aren't important. I hear it too often that [baby teeth] are going to fall out anyway. That may be our culture, and how we were taught to think -- but where dentistry is concerned -- it's not the way moving forward. It's critically important to preserve children's teeth and introduce them to the dental environment from an early age," said Dr. Strachan.
"Baby teeth are the best space maintainers and act as a guide for where permanent teeth come in. When they are removed early, permanent teeth may grow haphazardly and then there's an issue of the child possibly needing braces, which is far more expensive than taking them to the dentist in the first place," said the dentist.
Dr. Strachan said the early removal of teeth does not necessarily mean that a child will need braces, as she said some children may need braces regardless. She also recommends that all children visit an orthodontist by the age of seven, while they still have their baby teeth, which is a recommendation by the American Association of Orthodontics.
The dentist said it is also vitally important to retain baby teeth to prevent life-threatening infections in childhood and later on in adulthood.
She said early visitation to the dentist provides a cornerstone for creating positive dental experiences that would foster healthy dental habits that can be carried into adulthood and passed on for generations.
"This generational inheritance of a positive attitude towards dental health is immensely important for our country, with our high rates of chronic illnesses, as poor dental health has been linked to conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Poor dental health can even result in complications during pregnancy. There is even evidence to show that there may possibly even be a link to erectile dysfunction in men," said Dr. Strachan.
She said good dental health is more important than it has ever been. She said people need to do everything they can to ensure that children have not only a beautiful smile, but healthy mouths and healthy bodies.
Outten said while she wants her children to have a healthy and beautiful mouth, she decided to introduce them to the dentist early to foster a positive image of dental visits. The mother of two has a dental phobia that she does not want to pass on to her children.
"My whole thing with taking them to the dentist early started because I'm so afraid of the dentist. My parents did not take me early, and that's why I think I developed the fear. I think I was around nine or 10 for my first visit. I had a cavity that needed to be filled and my mother tells me that I bit the dentist and the dentist bit me back.
As I'm not a fan of the dentist, I'm trying to not pass on my fears to my children and to get them started early with dental care - so that prompted me to take them early to get the proper care. They may be small, but teeth need to be cleaned and children need to be comfortable with the dentist."
The mother said her children's dental visits have been a learning experience for her as well, as she's learnt that the professionals can actually tell whether a child may have teeth issues at an early stage which she said is helpful to know to help with preventative care.
She said the dentist made the experience interactive and allowed each sister to assist with the other sister during their checkup and cleaning.
"They love their dentist. Dr. Kristen Darville plays with them and allows them to hold the vacuum when it is their sister's turn in the chair, so she provided them with an interactive experience."
Outten said for her it's nice to see her children developing a positive relationship with the dentist instead of one of fear. She encourages other parents to do so as well.
"Get them used to the dentist and build a positive relationship instead of a negative one," she said.
The mother said it's also good that she has dental health insurance to facilitate her children's oral care. She says if she didn't have dental health insurance she thinks she still would have ensured that her children received proper oral care. She says if parents have dental health insurance for their children they should use it.
February is globally recognized as National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM), an initiative begun in 1941. It started off as a single day event, then extended to one week and eventually the American Dental Association made it into a month long observation.
During the course of the month, the Impressions Dental team serviced 30 children at Great Commission Ministries with free cleanings and x-rays.
Dr. Strachan said it felt good to give back.
"We recognize that dentistry is an expensive field, nonetheless it's necessary to prevent systemic health risks and severe dental and facial infection that can potentially result in hospitalization, especially for kids. We are about increasing awareness," she said.
The dentist said good dental health is more important than its ever been, and that people need to do all they can to ensure that children have not only a beautiful smile, but healthy mouths and healthy bodies.
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