By Alicia Doyle
Signal Staff Writer
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, an observance that brings people together by promoting good oral health.
“Just like we have other months devoted to breast cancer and other awareness, it’s nice to have a children’s dental month because dental needs for children are so important,” said Dr. Harleen Grewal of Skyline Smiles in Santa Clarita.
At Skyline Smiles, “we focus on prevention and children feeling comfortable coming to a dental office, where they are seen every six months,” Dr. Grewal continued. “We teach children how to clean their teeth and teach parents what to look out for, because it’s very important to focus on prevention.”
Prevention coincides with the 2022 National Children’s Dental Health Month theme: “Sealants Make Sense.” Dental sealants are clear coatings applied to the surfaces of a child’s molars to prevent the development of tooth decay.
They work by preventing food and plaque from resting in the grooves and crevices of molars — an area especially susceptible to cavities.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. children ages 6 to 12 currently have sealants on their teeth. Sealants can last as long as 5 to 10 years in pediatric dental patients.
“Depending on a child’s oral development and risk factors for tooth decay, sealants may be applied to the teeth as young as age 6,” said Dr. Grewal, adding that it is during this time that the first molars typically appear. Additional molars erupt at approximately age 12.
“If possible, sealants should be applied to a child’s teeth immediately after any molar has appeared to reduce the risk of early decay.”
While sealants are extremely effective for preventing tooth decay in children, they do not replace other forms of preventative oral health care, she emphasized.
Skyline Dental focuses on children feeling comfortable at the dentist’s office, says Dr. Harleen Grewal of Skyline Smiles in Santa Clarita.
“Children should still brush and floss each day using a fluoridated toothpaste,” Dr. Grewal advised. “Regular dental exams and a balanced diet low in sugar are also essential for good long-term oral health.”
Part of instilling good oral health habits with children involves their comfort level of visiting the dentist.
“Most dental offices are geared toward adults, and a lot of times these adults have had a bad experience in childhood,” she said. “So it’s very important that we focus on children to make sure we don’t give them that anxiety.”
From the moment children walk in the door to the time they leave, “that child is our focus — they’re the most important person in the room. Our staff is well-trained to welcome them. We treat them like adults because we want to make sure they feel important and feel heard.”
At Skyline Smiles, the waiting room is equipped with iPads and toys “so children don’t feel anxiety while they’re waiting to be seen,” and “patients don’t have to wait longer than 5 to 10 minutes — that’s what we strive for.”
Once kids leave the waiting room, “we have brushing stations with an iPhone connected to the lights behind the mirror, so they can pick their favorite song and they brush their teeth to the song.”
Children are then taken to the x-ray room, where “we have a really good digital x-ray system that doesn’t cause pain in their mouth and we put the pictures right in from of them so it makes it interesting for them to view.”
Once a child is in the dental chair, they can watch a television on the ceiling while wearing wireless headphones. “Each T.V. is individually controlled so the child can watch whatever they want to watch — the child feels in control … we also added halo lights around the TVs so the kids can pick their favorite color.”
Above all, “we want to see children as young as 6 months old or when their first tooth comes out,” Dr. Grewal added. “We want parents to make it habit of taking them to the dentist, just like they’d go to a pediatrician.”