Connect with us

Alumni Speak

‘Dental health problems have a psychological impact on growing children’

Oral cavity is a mirror of our body, says Apeejay Kharghar alumna and paediatric dentist Dr Sonali Sodhi



Dr Sonali Sodhi

Dr Sonali Sodhi, practicing paediatric dentist, recalls how one of her patients, a school student, felt uncomfortable about speaking and answering questions during online classes. The student was missing his front teeth. The child’s attitude changed once his tooth was fixed, says Dr Sodhi, stressing the lasting impact of dental health issues on a growing child. In an interview, the Apeejay Kharghar alumna tells us more about how to maintain children’s oral hygiene, preventive dentistry, dental anxiety, and more. Edited excerpts:

What memories do you have of Apeejay Kharghar?

I joined Apeejay Kharghar in the seventh grade in 2006-7. I remember my father was very keen to enroll me there since he had heard good things about the school. There were just a few seats left, but I thankfully cleared the admission test. It was a great feeling. I have very happy memories of the school. Not just academics, the school gave us diverse kinds of opportunities. Even though I am a dentist, I see a little bit of an artist ands a dancer in me and that is because of those opportunities that I got in school to explore my talents. Apeejay also built self-consciousness about right and wrong, good etiquette, and so on. I am thankful to all my teachers.

In class 11, we had a choice between Biology and Computer Science. Back then I thought I wanted to pursue a career in IT. Thankfully, I ended up choosing Biology and it was because of that decision that I could finally become a dentist.

Since you opted for Biology by chance, what made you finally choose to become a doctor?

A part of me was not sure whether I wanted to take up Biology, but I guess I just trusted my gut. More than that I wanted to do something for people right from the beginning. Growing up, I also had a lot of dental appointments (laughs) and was quite fascinated by dentistry. In college, when I finally had to make a choice, I chose dentistry.

For those who want to become doctors, can you share some tips to crack NEET?

Constant revisions and solving sample question papers or those of previous years help a lot. Other than that, confining yourself to one corner of the room for 24 hours and studying is not a great practice I believe. It is very important to have a timetable to maintain a balance between studying and leisure. This helps you focus better and not feel worn out.

Do you practice the same in your personal life?

First, I love my job. Having said that, I do take out time for myself. I have joined the gym; sometimes I go for a walk in the morning. I like dancing and music and enjoy reading too.

Children tend to suffer from dental anxiety. Can you tell us what it is?

It is not just seen in children but in adults as well. People usually associate a dental clinic with a place where one has to undergo procedures that cause pain. So, they are generally hesitant to visit dentists. One of the major causes of dental anxiety is pain and a lot of people walking into the dental clinic are already experiencing that pain. Again, a lot of people consider their oral cavity as something personal and are not comfortable with the doctor intruding into that body part. With multiple instruments being inserted, people tend to get intimidated.

With adults, you can begin by explaining the procedure or calming them down. When it comes to children, the first dental appointment makes a huge difference because that is what shapes their memory. Dental anxiety is very common in children and there are several methods to cope with that—behavioural management techniques, educating, and making the child aware—which make a huge difference.

What we also focus on is preventive dentistry, which can only become a practice if the child is comfortable enough during and after dental treatment. Preventive treatment is done so that the child does not enter the loop of getting teeth spoiled and fixed again and again.

Is it also important to raise similar awareness among parents so that they take their children to the dentists more frequently?

Absolutely! I think there is some level of awareness now among parents, but we still have a long way to go. One thing we don’t understand is that dental health also has a lot of psychological impacts on a growing child. I have had patients who are missing their front teeth, decayed rotten teeth, etc. Some of these children are very shy to even open their mouths and talk. One such patient I treated actually started interacting more with his peers after getting his front teeth fixed.

I would also like to add that our oral cavity is a mirror of our body. If you cannot chew and eat well, you might be missing out on the necessary nutrition. A lot of children are underweight because their teeth are not fixed—the child may not be eating well due to some pain.

In case of any tooth alignment issue in a child, what would be the right age to treat it?

You will often find growing children with jutted teeth or discrepancies between the upper and lower teeth. Such things can be fixed with removable appliances which help not just with the alignment but with proper growth of the bone as well. Once the child is about 13-14 years old, they have to go for permanent alignment like braces; this can be done when the child has permanent teeth.

Does thumb-sucking cause dental issues?

Not just thumb sucking, other habits like tongue-thrusting or mouth-breathing can cause problems. If the child is not properly trained to get rid of these habits, there is a huge chance of malocclusion (bad bite) and alignment issues. Devices called habit-breaking appliances can be customised according to children and used to treat this problem. As soon as a parent identifies these problems in their child, they should definitely bring them to a dentist.

Can you share some tips that parents need to keep in mind regarding their child’s oral health?

*Diet counselling should be mandatory. The two root causes of cavities are diet and improper oral hygiene. Children should avoid having too many sticky toffees as they stick to the teeth and tend to cause decay.

*A lot of children do not brush properly. At least till the age of five or six, parents should supervise when they brush their teeth. Till the age of three-four, parents should take the initiative to cleanse the child’s teeth.

*Manual toothbrushes are as effective as electric brushes. Brush twice a day.

*It is important to focus on brushing techniques—it is not the amount of force you apply while brushing but the technique that makes a difference. Children have to follow a circular motion while brushing.

*The child should be frequently brought for an oral checkup and fluoride application (applying a high concentration of fluoride on the teeth to reduce the risk of cavities)

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.