February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Will County CHC (Community Health Center) Dental Director Dr. Sangita Garg says a child’s oral health begins during pregnancy, and the first step is to cast aside an old wives’ tale. “A common belief used to be that a woman will lose a tooth for every pregnancy. With proper oral health, including brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice daily, flossing once daily, and semi-annual professional cleanings, there is no reason for that to happen.”
But why would it happen without proper oral health? Dr. Garg says that with all the hormonal changes that occur, pregnant women are at a higher risk for gingivitis (an inflammation of the gums due to plaque and bacteria). “The best thing to remember while pregnant is that you are brushing your teeth for two people. Proper oral health habits prevent bacteria from staying in your body, and then being passed on to your baby.”
Dr. Garg says once the child is born, proper oral health and dental visits need to be practiced at the eruption of the first tooth, which can be between six months and one year of age. “The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says 16.9% of children age five to 19 have untreated dental problems. And as much as 20 percent of children in this country have not had preventive dental care. Tooth decay is preventable.”
Will County CHC Dental Director Dr. Sangita Garg treats a patient inside the CHC Mobile Dental Van. With her are (L to R) MDV Driver and Reimbursement Specialist Tammy Cleary, and Dental Assistant Karina Rodriguez.
CHC dentist Dr. Ashu Bansal agrees. “We need to realize that dentistry is not expensive, but neglect is. Children that start early with proper dental treatment can make it a lifelong habit. On the other hand, if you start losing your baby teeth early, you have permanent teeth trying to come in when they don’t yet have adequate space. And that creates more problems and more expenses. We need to take the attitude that every tooth in the mouth is more valuable than a diamond. And all those diamonds together can make a beautiful smile, which makes everyone happy.”
Dr. Olubanwo Abejide, another dentist on the CHC staff, says that when a child is about to go to the dentist for the first time, preparation at home can make a lot of difference. “It makes sense to be anxious the first time. But the sooner you start them and get that out of the way, the more comfortable they will become. It helps if the parents show videos at home about ‘my first trip to the dentist,’ so the children know what to look for and what to expect.”
If the children are still anxious, Dr. Abejide says the CHC has a conscious sedation system ready to help. “They are given a nitrous gas, which relaxes them but keeps them awake. And before they leave the office, the gas is out of their system.”
Also on the CHC Dental Staff is Dr. Sonal Gandhi.
In addition to the CHC Dental Clinic at 1106 Neal Avenue in Joliet, there is also the Mobile Dental Van that brings dentist services to various stops around Will County. The CHC Mobile Dental van offers exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants (a thin protective coating often placed on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth), deep cleanings, restorations, and extractions. “We go to daycares, pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, homeless shelters, drug recovery programs, health fairs, and numerous other locations,” Dr. Garg explained. “We might treat a child who has never been to the dentist, and perhaps they are new to this country and never had the proper care. We sometimes find a mouthful of cavities, and then we can refer them to our clinic.”
Will County CHC Mobile Dental Van Awaits Patients during one of many stops around Will County.
During this National Children’s Dental Health Month, some fun activities at the CHC Dental Clinic are going on as well. Children 3 to 10 can participate in a coloring contest (a TOOTH coloring contest, of course!). In addition, every adult examined in February will have their name placed in a drawing for an Oral B Genius electric toothbrush.
To make an appointment with the Will County CHC Dental Clinic, call 815-774-7300. For more information on the Mobile Dental Van, call 815-258-4322.
For more information on Will County Health Department and Community Health Center programs, go to www.willcountyhealth.org.