Keepin’ It Clean

Local Dental Professionals Discuss Importance Of Preventive Children’s Dental Care

Posted: February 4, 2014

Cathy Batten, hygienist at Drs. McIntyre & Whiting, helps Cameran Collins, 4, the daughter of Corri and Joshua Collins of Mount Crawford. (Photo by Matt Gonzales/DN-R)

Local dental professionals can’t emphasize this concept enough: better to prevent now than to treat later. The dental health industry hopes to get that message across during National Children’s Dental Health Month, which often gets lost among February’s other causes.

 “Oral diseases are completely preventable, so it makes sense to use a preventive education and early intervention model to address this burden on the general public,” says Lyubov Slashcheva, a 21 year-old student dentist at Virginia Commonwealth University who graduated from Turner Ashby High School as valedictorian at the age of 16.  “The hope is that if children are effectively reached with this model, they will age to maintain oral health throughout the lifespan.”

The American Dental Association pushes the concept of ingraining healthy dental habits into children’s daily routine at an early age. Its website states that the development of these habits will allow children to “get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.”

Parents often want to know how early they should start getting their children well-acquainted with healthy oral habits.

“Before [children] even have teeth,” says Bonnie Bauserman, dental assistant at Drs. McIntyre and Whiting Dental Care in Bridgewater.

Bauserman explains that parents should utilize a finger cot – which is a soft, terry cloth that hugs your finger – in order to eliminate plaque, formed from milk and formula residue, from an infant’s gums.  This is a practice that also gets the child acclimated to having an object in their mouth which, in turn, eases the transition to a toothbrush when teeth do come in.

Bottle Rot

Some parents may lay their children to bed accompanied with a bottle filled with formula or milk, without knowing that the substance can actually be destructive to the child’s oral health.

“Do not send your child to bed with a bottle of anything other than water,” warns Bauserman, who also instructs the nationally-accredited dental school, Assist to Succeed, at its location in Bridgewater.  “Anything other than water has sugar and acid in it which can cause something called bottle rot.”

Bottle rot, as Bauserman explains, occurs when acidic liquids cling behind a child’s developing teeth, which slowly eats them away, leading to a “nub-like” tooth appearance.

“The tooth becomes completely rotten over time,” she explains.

While some may not take the formation of bottle rot seriously due to the fact that baby teeth will eventually fall out, the development of this specific decay can lead to painful infections that may force the premature removal of certain teeth, on top of the creation of unhealthy habits at a young age which can linger into adulthood.

Importance of Fluoride

Once a child’s molars begin to erupt, parents may start cleaning his or her mouth using fluoride toothpaste, which helps calcify teeth that are still that are still in a mineralization process by strengthening enamel.

Although fluoride is useful throughout the lifespan,” explains Slashcheva, “children especially benefit from fluoride treatment because their teeth are in a dynamic calcification process for some time after eruption.”

She explains that the use of fluoride speeds up the process of mineralization, on top of the re-mineralization of those teeth that may have been damaged as a result of an acidic or sugary diet.

“For kids, it’s invaluable,” adds Bauserman, in reference to the importance of fluoride.

She says that Drs. McIntyre and Whiting use a thick, sticky fluoride called varnish during routine checkups, which is applied to the surface of the tooth in order to help combat cavities and ease tooth sensitivity.
She adds that some parents do not want fluoride applied to their child’s teeth due to “horror stories” about consequences of the digestion of this highly concentrated substance that they hear through the grapevine.

“The overwhelming opinion is fluoride helps fight cavities,” says Bauserman.  “The biggest risk when it comes to fluoride is that it can upset your stomach, but the chances of that happening are slim to none considering we paint the varnish on their teeth. There are significantly more positives [to using fluoride] than negatives and it’s great for developing teeth.”

Routine Checkups: A Worthy Investment

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to schedule their child’s first dental appointment by the time the first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday.  The purpose of the initial visit is for both the parent and child to have an opportunity to formally meet the dentist while also receiving educational and preventive care information, such as how often your child should brush or floss.

Slashcheva points out that the initial checkups may “help a child to value their health” and feel “empowered to maintain a healthy life style” throughout his or her childhood, leading into adult years.

“Financially investing in routine checkups will ensure that any oral problems will be detected and likely prevented before a child must experience pain and infection,” she adds.

Shenndy Reese, new patient/public relations coordinator for Drs. McIntyre and Whiting, stresses the importance of regular checkups, especially for children.

“During visits, we’re able to catch things early on,” said Reese. “That’s why routine checkups are so important.”

The office is rewarding all of its children patients who went cavity-free in 2013 with a free trip to Pump It Up, an indoor children’s activity center in Mt. Crawford, she added.

Ultimately, preventive care treatments can go a long way toward sustaining quality oral health and helps reduce the chances that your child would need to be treated for oral surgery.

“Preventative care is less costly than it’s going to be to have to bring your child back in for treatment,” said Bauserman.  “Or if we catch a small filling when it’s little, it is significantly less expensive than having the tooth extracted or getting a crown on it. So you’re better off making the sacrifices and [coming] in for preventative care rather than paying thousands of dollars or more to fix teeth down the road.”


Contact Matt Gonzales at 574-6265 or