Community Friend Spotlight: Children's Dental Health Awareness Month with Dr. Jonelle Anamelechi

Did you know that February is Children's Dental Health Awareness Month?!?

Dental health is extremely important to children's overall health. Dr. J assesses oral health, what children eat and drink, and dental hygiene at every visit beginning during infancy (newborns even get an oral evaluation of their gums, tongue, latch, and breast/bottle feeding assessment). As soon as a child gets his or her first tooth, it is time to start brushing with a pea-sized amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste. As soon as a child gets a few teeth, it is time to start flossing and removing build up using a dental pick and dental floss. At age 1, parents should call and schedule their child's first dental appointment (though some dentists don't want to see children until 2 years old if there are no risk factors).

With two locations serving the DMV, Children’s Choice Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics offers comprehensive child and parent-approved dental health services.

Pediatric Dentist, local mom, and Children’s Choice Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics Founder and Owner, Dr. Jonelle Anamelechi is Dr. J's go-to for evaluation of newborn tongue tie and feeding issues related to oral anatomy.

Today on the blog, Dr. Anamelechi shares her story:

First, please tell us about yourself:

How did you know becoming a Pediatric Dentist was the path for you?              

I am actually that kid that always wanted to be a dentist. I used to pull teeth for quarters on the playground. (I guess I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur too!). When in college I considered social work but also knew I wanted to still be a dentist. In pediatric dentistry, I get to do both. I am proud to be a resource for families inside and outside the mouth.

What was your path to becoming the Founder/ Owner of your business? 

I wanted to do pediatric dentistry differently and at my own cadence. As you know, it is not always easy to be in business for yourself but I feel like in this position, I'm able to make the best decisions for the care I give my families. We aren't taught the business side of things in dental school and therefore this is where I've had to 'go back to school'.

What does your average day look like?

The fun thing about my work life is that I never know what it brings me. I could be seeing a 2 day old born with teeth or a teenager for their last visit before college with everything else in between. Depending on which day it is, I could also be lecturing to my 8 residents at Children's Hospital System or on 'The Hill' doing advocacy work as a part of my public health background.

I don’t believe in work life balance, but what are some of the ways you find harmony in your work and life? 

I find harmony in my faith, the support from my family especially my husband, and seeing daily the impact I have. I love Bikram yoga and would LOVE one day to be invited to be a backup dancer for Beyoncé. The possibility of one day getting that dance invitation in the mail definitely keeps me going! :-)

Now, please share information about your area of expertise - children's dental health:

When should children first see a Pediatric or Family Dentist?

A first dental visit should be around age 1 (or within six months of the first tooth). Because the mouth changes dramatically throughout childhood, a check in visit should be scheduled every 6 months.

What are things you say over and over to your patients that you wish could be shared with the masses?

I wish my parents, especially those that are bringing their anxious child for the first time, understand that it gets better! I know that parents are very afraid of how their child may react at the dentist and may be afraid of the dentist themselves. A pediatric dentist understands these fears and positive and regular visits help to foster that relationship that transcends the fear that both the child and parent may have.

What are some things that parents might not know are bad but could be potentially harmful for growing teeth?

Things that are not so bad but could hurt teeth are an over consumption of acidic fruits like berries, pineapples, and oranges. The acid in the fruit can erode the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) and really cause harm. The trick: Rinsing with water after your child consumes them!

What should parents NOT let their kiddos do before coming to see you or another dentist?

My funniest tip to give parents : Please don’t let your child eat oreos or goldfish before a dental visit! Those foods are not friends with the dentist the day of their first (or any) cleaning.

What is a product that you love that parents might not know about?

My favorite products for toddler parents are toothwipes! It is like the handy dandy mouth clean up tool! Inevitably once I’ve brushed my son’s teeth, he wants to have milk during bedtime. I use a toothwipe after bed milk in order to not have to step back out of the room during bedtime but to leave the mouth clean before bed.

Many parents wonder how long to brush their children's teeth for, what do you recommend?

Singing the happy birthday song twice (I need a third time) can help to accomplish your brushing time of two minutes. Other popular favorites in my household: Old MacDonald and the Wheels on the Bus. For teens, Oral B makes a toothbrush that has an app and tells you exactly how long you’ve been brushing and where you’ve missed. It is super cool!

How do you recommend parents wrangle wiggling and resistant toddlers for teeth brushing?

The best technique for brushing and/or flossing a toddler is either laying down or in a position where you have some control (i.e. a backwards hug position). Allowing the child to face you with no head or body control sometimes leads to a more difficult technique and less visibility.

What is a question that you get all of the time?

Parents ask about this A LOT. A younger child who has a pacifier or thumb habit or uses a sippy cup has to use it upwards of 6-8 hours a day continuously to have a change in the shape of the mouth and tooth relationships. The fact that a child has used a pacifier, thumb or uses a sippy cup DOES NOT mean they should start saving for braces. But, these habits do change the shape of the mouth and as a toddler, the bones are still softer and able to ‘rebound’ in order to not have a long-lasting change. The older the child gets and the habit continues, there is a greater chance of a lasting change in the mouth and its tooth relationship. All habits should be done by the time permanent teeth are starting to come in (around age 6/7).


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