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      Pushing dental health after Halloween

      Dr. Dan Spears of Columbia's Small Smiles Dental Center performs an examination Wednesday morning.

      Columbia, SC - Just days after the Midlands handed out candy to all the little ghosts and goblins, some dental health professionals are using the opportunity to push the importance of proper periodontal health.

      Dr. Dan Spears has been in dentistry for thirty years. The lead dentist at Columbia's Small Smiles Dental Center has spent the last seven working with children and he's never been happier. But, it can be challenging to get little ones to buy into taking care of their teeth.

      "It's absolutely important not only for the long term but also for the short term," says Spears.

      That's where parents like Shauna Mathis come in. The Newberry mother of four has been driving her son Terrion to Small Smiles since he was a baby because Mathis says she couldn't find anyone to treat such a young child in Newberry. She does the same with her three other children so they knew all about the importance of dental health early in life.

      "Kids are going to eat sweets and drinks and all that," says Mathis. "Just got to be sure his teeth stay healthy for his age."

      Keeping childens' teeth healthy is about more than just cosmetic reasons.

      "Children can have problems with self-esteem," says Dr. Spears. "(Also) poor nutrition,chronic pain if they have a less than an ideal smile and have dental problems."

      Any potential problems Dr. Spears can help head off in youngsters can help not only now but also down the road. Studies show poor periodontal health is linked to heart disease.

      "The oral cavity is certainly linked to the rest of the body," says Dr. Spears. "Tooth problems can develop into much more serious problems later on."

      And that's why Shauna Mathis got all her kids started as soon as they had all their teeth.

      "You can see if there's anything wrong with their mouth before they get any kind of decay or anything else wrong with their mouths," says Mathis.

      It's a small ounce of prevention early in life that can help build healthy habits and ensure more than just a pretty smile.

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