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Talking Cheetos, Pediatric Dentistry, and the Dental Home

By Caitlin McFeely, Communications Associate, CHF

Dr. Manali Kanitkar, Pediatric Dentist for Children's Health Fund's New York Mobile Dental Clinic

Dr. Manali Kanitkar, Pediatric Dentist
Children's Health Fund, New York Mobile Dental Clinic



A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I enjoyed a visit with Dr. Manali Kanitkar, the new dentist for CHF’s New York Mobile Dental Clinic, which will begin providing much needed dental care to New York City kids in a few weeks. The dental clinic will work in tandem with our mobile clinics, which visit numerous homeless shelters throughout New York City to provide quality health care to a growing number of poor and underserved children.

It was so interesting and exciting to listen to Dr. Kanitkar talk about her career and her plans to help bring the ‘Dental Home’ to homeless kids in New York, who desperately need quality dental care. The Dental Home is an ongoing relationship between the dentist and the patient to provide comprehensive oral health care in a family-centered and accessible way. Dr. Kanitkar understands that the parents, physician, dentist, mental health professional, etc., all need to work together to ensure the child’s well-being.

We talked a lot about how nutrition and healthy eating impacts oral health. Many of the dental-related problems kids experience while growing up are the direct result of poor eating and oral hygiene habits. For example, one of leading causes of tooth decay (cavities) is called “Early Childhood Caries” (or commonly referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay”) and is caused by giving children sugary drinks in bottles from an early age. The sugar from the juice or soda sticks to the teeth, causing extensive tooth decay at a young age, which in turn impacts the child’s oral and general health throughout his or her life.

Another common problem is what Dr. Kanitkar has come to call “cheetos cavities,” which is when the orange “goo” from eating cheetos gets stuck inside the teeth and is very hard to get out. It’s a similar situation with sticky candies and sugary substances (GROSS! It made me want to brush my teeth; what about you?).

Parents may not realize how food choices impact their child’s oral health, maybe because they have not had the opportunity to speak to a dentist about their child’s dental development. On the clinic, Dr. Kanitkar will not only treat her patients, but will also educate parents and kids about how their dietary choices impact their general health and also their teeth.

One of the things that interested me most about Dr. Kanitkar is that she is trained as a pediatric dentist. This means that she has had special training in treating patients as young as 6 months old and knows how to create a positive experience for kids when they come to the dentist. By creating an experience that is pleasant for both the child and his/her parents, we can expect to see better recall visits among patients, which, in turn, helps keep kids on track with practicing proper dental care.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my dentist (he’s one of my Dad’s best friends’ and has been taking care of my teeth since I was a little girl) but after speaking with Dr. Kanitkar, I wanted a visit with her! Stay tuned for stories and photos from the mobile dental clinic in NYC.