Inside Dentistry
May 2008
Volume 4, Issue 5

From the Editor

Gerard Kugel

Dear Readers,
Consider this fact from the landmark Surgeon General’s report, Oral Health in America: dental caries is the most prevalent infectious disease among US children. Also consider that we know very well that caries in primary teeth increases the risk of the secondary teeth also developing the disease. This month, Inside Dentistry explores the world of pediatric dentistry. One thing is very clear from the experts we consulted, and that is the specialty of pediatric dentistry is not only willing but eager to partner with its colleagues in general dentistry to make sure that all children find and receive proper preventive dental care.

There’s No Place Like Home. Given all of the evidence-based research at our disposal, we know it’s an irrefutable fact that the earlier preventive dental care is sought and rendered, the better chance a patient has of obtaining and maintaining a healthy mouth. According to the recommendations of the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and now the American Academy of Pediatricians, “earlier” means no later than within 6 months of the first eruption of primary teeth. The call is for all children to find a “dental home,” a practice in which a child can have his or her oral health monitored and maintained as they grow. This is a fantastic opportunity for general practitioners to build a long-term patient base as they build long-term relationships with their youngest patients.

The Little Practice that Could. Some of us may think we’re ill-equipped to care for children in our practices. Perhaps we feel that we don’t relate well to children, or we’re not qualified in our education to care for them. The pediatric dentists on our expert panel disagree. With the proper mindset and a little bit of preparation, all general practitioners can assimilate children into their practices. The good news is that initial visits, certainly for 1-, 2-, and 3-year-olds, are really focused on prevention and parental education. And if a child does end up with more comprehensive dental needs, the opportunity presents itself for the general practitioner to partner with a pediatric dentist who has the additional training needed to complete the restorative needs of little ones. There are also many resources available to the general practitioner who treats children, which include continuing education and pediatric dentistry journals.

Meet the Parents. You don’t have to embark on an elaborate and expensive marketing plan to increase your patient base to include children. They’re usually no further away than the adult already sitting in your chair. If you know that your patient is a young father, are you caring for his children, too? If your patient is an expectant mother, have you educated her on the importance of early dental care for her soon-to-be bundle of joy? At every appointment, as you connect with your patients, you most likely ask, “How’s the family?” Now is the time to ask, “When’s your family coming to see me?”

We hope you enjoy this presentation, and will see how you can play an integral role in the future oral health of our children. As we examine why and how to integrate children into the general practice, how to educate parents on the importance of early and regular dental care, and what issues the profession needs to be aware of when it comes to treating the youngest and smallest dental patients, our intention is to give you a glimpse of the wonderful world of pediatric dentistry, and how you can actively participate in that world. As always, we welcome your feedback. Please write to us at letters@insidedentistry.net. As I emphasize each month, your thoughts, opinions, and reactions motivate us to continually improve our clinical content and coverage of the topics impacting our profession. Thank you for reading and for your continued support.

With warm regards,

Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
Associate Dean for Research
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
Boston, Massachusetts

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