“Our goal has to be prevention first, treatment second; Dr. Garg explained. “So we collaborate with our pediatrics department upstairs, to work with parents, and get their children down here for an exam as soon as possible. We want to educate the parents about dental care and help them understand it.”
Dr. Garg says the longer dental care is delayed, the more problems a child may have. This can lead to an extreme fear of dentists that lasts a long time. “Some children all of a sudden show up in our office at age five with a mouthful of cavities or an abscess. We have children who are very scared, and we also have adults who are very afraid. But dentistry has changed over the years, and so many people do not realize that.”
During this Dental Health Month, it will be business as usual for the busy Community Health Center Dental Department, including their Mobile Dental Unit continuing its visits to area schools and nursing homes. At a recent mobile unit stop at Cherry Hill Pre-School in New Lenox, Dr. Francis Tan saw numerous three to five-year-old students.
“For some of these children, this is where they have their very first dental exam,” Cherry Hill School Nurse Eileen Moss explained. “It is such a great opportunity to have them during the school day. Sometimes our staff can help with their anxiety.”
Cherry Hill Principal Emily Schissler agreed. “When it’s their first chance to experience going to the dentist it’s so great they can do it here, with familiar faces around them.”
Dr. Tan says in all his years of seeing young children in the Mobile Dental Unit, he continues to discover familiar things that are wrong with children’s dental health. “You never want to assume neglect,” he explained. “But instead you want to reach out to the parents and educate them.”
For example, Dr. Tan says that some parents still do the old routine of putting a child to bed with a baby bottle, and the bottle has milk in it. “This leaves their child’s teeth with milk on them all through the night without proper cleaning.”
Also, when children have their first one or two teeth, there’s a way to clean their teeth after they drink their milk. “All you need,” Dr. Tan said, “is a wet towel. And then you gently clean their teeth and their gums after eating.”
And so the education about dental care continues. During February’s Dental Care Month, the Community Health Center’s Dental Department will have hygienists visiting the pediatric care area, and dental education videos will be played while children await their dental appointments.
As Dr. Sangita Gang summarized: It is still best to use the 2-2-2 rule: Visit your dentist TWO times per year, brush and floss two times per day for TWO whole minutes.