Parents are often concerned about the dental health of their children. Tooth decay causes much agony, both for the parent as well as the kids.
The foundation of healthy and strong teeth is laid in the early years of life. A healthy diet, good oral hygiene habits, and regular visits to the dentist ensure your teeth remain beautiful and healthy for long. A good personal hygiene routine developed in childhood and early adolescence can stand you in good stead for years.
Permanent teeth are partly formed in kids by the age of three. They erupt much later by the age of six and upwards. Permanent dentition is built to last us for life. Fossilized remains of teeth have been excavated dating back by around 2,500 years.
It is important we build the foundation of dental health in our kids with love and care. Here are a few points for parents to keep in mind to ensure the best dental hygiene for children.
It is important to start early when dental care for kids is concerned. American Dental Association recommends children should start visiting dentists after they have turned a year old. Children who access professional dental care early in their life are found to have better oral health and hygiene, and incur less expense for dental treatment. Primary teeth or baby teeth may be lost early but they play an important role in determining the development and placement of permanent teeth.
Baby teeth maintain spaces where permanent teeth will erupt and also help in developing proper speech patterns. Maintenance of these spaces is essential to prevent crowding and misalignment of permanent teeth. Primary teeth act as primers and help you teach your child the importance of oral hygiene. The enamel of primary teeth is less mineralized than that of permanent teeth and hence is more susceptible to decay. This makes taking care of your child’s primary dentition all the more important. Cavities and decay in primary teeth can be quite painful and require expensive treatment.
Inculcate Proper Habits
Oral hygiene needs to be maintained at all times, even before the first baby tooth makes its appearance. You can wipe your baby’s gums with a soft, wet washcloth. When there is only one tooth you can use gauze to wipe it clean. Once the teeth appear you need to start brushing regularly using an infant toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.
Fluoride has several beneficial effects on your teeth. It occurs naturally in several foods. It is an important mineral essential for oral health. The enamel of our teeth loses minerals when corroded by acids. These acids are formed by the bacteria in the plaque reacting with food sugars. Fluoridated toothpaste helps remineralize the enamel and increase its resistance to decay. It also disrupts the corrosive activity of acids formed in the mouth. In addition to toothpastes and fluoridated water, fluoride can also be taken in the form of a supplement following your dentist’s advice.
In children below the age of six, ingested fluoride is incorporated into the structure of developing permanent teeth. This makes them more resistant to demineralization and decay. Fluoride present in toothpastes deposited on the surface of teeth makes them stronger by reducing the demineralization activity of the acids. Fluoride does not repair cavities but it can reverse early and low levels of tooth decay by remineralization, thus preventing deeper cavities from forming.
You need to make sure your child brushes twice a day, early in the morning and before going to bed.
Tips for Brushing
A small-headed toothbrush should be chosen for your child’s use. Toothpaste should be used in moderation. For kids under the age of three a thin smear or film of toothpaste would be sufficient. A pea-sized blob of toothpaste is recommended for children aged between three and six years.
Children should be supervised or helped with their brushing until they are at least seven years old. Flossing is advised as soon as your kid has two teeth touching each other. Children have a habit of licking off toothpaste from their brushes and you need to prevent that.
Discard Unhealthy Practices
Many infants and young kids have the habit of going to bed with a bottle of juice, formula milk or sometimes, plain water. Plain water is harmless, but sugary liquids definitely contribute to tooth decay. When the sugars remain on the teeth for long the outer enamel gets corroded resulting in ‘bottle mouth’. Discolored and disfigured teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Slowly wean out the ‘bottle’ habit for better dental hygiene.
Sippy-cups also contribute towards tooth decay. Prolonged use of these cups to drink sugary liquids hastens decay and cavity formation.
A pacifier if used for long and extended periods of time adversely affects the alignment and formation of teeth. They also affect the shape the mouth and lead to complications.
Restrict the Sugar Intake
Sugar present in food is one of the major causes of cavities in kids. Sugars increase the stickiness of plaque, making it hard to remove while brushing. The bacteria in plaque and sugars produce acids that eat away the outer enamel of teeth causing cavities.
Children absolutely love unhealthy, sugar-loaded and colorful candies, sweets and juices. Fruit juices though advertised healthy are loaded with added sugars. They not only adversely affect oral health but also lead to other complications like obesity. Store-bought juices can be an occasional treat but never a regular part of diet. Go for homemade fruit juices, milkshakes and desserts. They are far more nutritious and healthy. Crunchy fruits and veggies like apples and carrots help dislodge plaque from the teeth and freshen the mouth. Encourage your children to have fresh fruits and salads.
Children’s medicines are also loaded with sugar to make them palatable. Sugary syrups and medication accumulate sugars in the oral cavity causing tooth decay. Some antibiotics and asthma medicines cause oral thrush. This is mainly due to the buildup of candida (yeast) and manifests as creamy, curd-like patches on the tongue or inside of the mouth. You might be required to brush your child’s teeth more often if he’s on long-term medication or treatment.
Be Regular with Dentist Visits
Children need to be regular with their visits to the dentist. A pediatric dentist can help you with your child’s early dental care. These professionals are experienced and trained in handling the issues related to kids’ oral health. If required they can refer and guide you for further specialized treatment. Smile Design Dentistry caters to all your advanced dental health requirements.
Pediatric dentists specialize in preventive care and maintenance. They help ward off potential dental health problems, correct and repair decay in early stages, and detect any developmental or structural defects.
A healthy mouth and teeth indicate overall well-being and good health. A combination of good hygiene habits and awareness will help your children steer clear of potential dental problems like decay and cavities, and grow into healthy adulthood.