Taking the Fear out of Pediatric Dentistry while Helping the Community

Fear of dentists is estimated to affect more than one-third of adults. For many, this anxiety stems from a negative childhood dental experience.

Children’s dental care should start every six months around age one when baby teeth emerge. Tooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease among children in the United States. If left untreated, it can negatively affect a child’s physical and social development, as well as school performance.

For the health of their teeth and their emotional well-being, it is important to help children overcome dental anxiety or not develop it in the first place.

Healthcare Network dentists encourage early and routine visits and walk children through the procedures to help reduce fears. Our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile also travels to at-risk schools in Collier County to perform dental screenings and prevention, introducing children to dentistry at a young age.

Recently, with tremendous support from the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), the founding organization of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, we introduced intravenous (IV) sedation to our pediatric dental program in addition to existing nitrous oxide sedation.

These enhancements help support pediatric patients who may need several procedures to be done during a single visit, suffer from severe dental anxiety and/or have a medical, physical or emotional disability that limits their ability to understand directions and remain calm. For children who have a sensitive gag reflex, sedation dentistry can help diminish the sensation of choking or the urge to vomit.

IV sedation allows the child to remain conscious throughout the treatment, but also to remain calm and comfortable until the procedure is complete, when the child will have little to no memory of it. Children can return to school or play the next day and can drink and eat soft foods soon after the procedure.

Nina Gray was named the recipient of the 5th annual Murray Hendel Achievement Award for her tireless work in aiding the needy of Collier County.

The award was presented by the Collier Citizens Council at the Naples Hilton on February 23rd.

Established to honor Murray Hendel, the Collier Citizens Council’s cofounder and first president, the award is given annually to a county leader who has made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Being able to provide this service to our patients is part of Healthcare Network’s mission to offer affordable healthcare for all. State-of-the art pediatric dental facilities in Golden Gate at Nichols Community Health Center are available to all families, including patients with health and dental insurance.

However, as with all our services, no one is denied care based on insurance or income status. In addition to caring for Medicaid patients, we also offer a sliding fee scale that reduces costs for qualified patients.

The Health Policy Institute finds that a little over half of children ages 2 to 18 have private dental benefits, nearly 40% have dental benefits through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance program and more than one-tenth have no dental benefits at all. Additionally, access to dental care is also greatly limited by the number of dentists who accept Medicaid or provide variable fees for the uninsured.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children at most risk for tooth decay and oral disease are from lower socioeconomic families where barriers to care such as caregiver low health literacy, language proficiency, lack of dental insurance and geographic access are prevalent.

As a result, we often see children who are experiencing severe pain and infection during their first dental visit. The discomfort, coupled with possible fears about the procedure, can be overwhelming. Offering sedation helps ease the discomfort and anxiety in these situations and during preventive services.

Offering comfortable dental services doesn’t just benefit Healthcare Network patients. Making pediatric dental services available to nearly half of Collier County children we serve is essential to overall community health. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90% of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.

About the Author

Dr. Douglas B. Keck is dental director for Healthcare Network, which provides comprehensive dental care at several sites throughout Collier County. For more information on pediatric dental sedation visit www.HealthcareSWFL.org or call 239-658-3000.

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