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Finding a ‘home’ for them

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It is essential that the child is familiar with the dental environment to prevent any dental anxiety-provoking events. Photo by Mufid Majnun - Unsplash

By: Dr. Nurul Zeety Azizi, Dr. Noorhidayah Zainal Aalam

A ‘home’ is a place of emotional connection and security and can also be a central hub for various activities conducted in a balanced environment. In this context, the home can play a crucial role in emphasizing the importance of oral health and preventing oral diseases.

Dr. Nurul Zeety Azizi, Dr. Noorhidayah Zainal Aalam

The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry (AAPD) defines a ‘dental home’ as a place where qualified specialists provide comprehensive oral care, addressing various aspects of a child’s oral health. It serves as a secure space that delivers care in a more family-centred manner, and many professional dental bodies recommend establishing this dental home no later than the child’s first birthday.

The Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey 2016 reported that only 4 out of 10 mothers know they should bring their child for a dental check-up before age two. This finding is alarming, considering Malaysia’s high prevalence of early childhood caries. While the term ‘dental home’ is relatively unknown in the country, it is easy to become familiar with the concept that will benefit children from having a dental home.

Get to know a trusted practice

The establishment of a dental home can start as early as during pregnancy. It’s a good idea to look into a kid-friendly dental clinic or specialist centre before your baby is born. Establishing a connection with a trusted dental clinic means you will know whom to connect with should there be a dental emergency in the family. It is also essential that the child is familiar with the dental environment to prevent any dental anxiety-provoking events.

Prevention of oral disease

While it’s true that we can’t anticipate and prevent every challenging situation or dental issue, early treatment by a professional significantly enhances your children’s likelihood of preserving as much natural tooth structure as possible. This approach also helps in avoiding prolonged and uncomfortable treatments.

Ensuring your children have a dental home and scheduling regular check-ups for professional teeth cleanings, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, and other preventive measures is vital for maintaining their dental health and preventing diseases.

Educational and motivation

Setting up your children’s dental home early allows us to provide you with information on preventing oral diseases in infants, young children, and school-age children. It can also create a healthy environment for the child to learn about the importance of oral health in an environment they are familiar with as they grow.

Furthermore, the dentist can also provide prenatal guidance on oral health care for expecting mothers, aiming to decrease the likelihood of tooth decay in children in the future.

With a dental home, children have a higher chance of preserving their natural teeth and avoiding uncomfortable treatments in the future. Therefore, parents must prioritize establishing a dental home for their children, starting as early as possible. It is never too late if your child has no dental home yet.

Why not use the opportunity during the upcoming school holidays to book an appointment with a child-friendly dental practice for them?

By the way, the Paediatric Dental Clinic at the Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya is one of the designated dental homes for the young and special needs children in the Klang Valley region.

……

The authors are Paediatric Dental Specialists at the Department of Paediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya. They may be reached at zeety_azizi@um.edu.my

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