Understanding the importance of dental health in children
Dental care and hygiene is an important health concern for parents. Child dental care affects physical as well as mental health of the child. Dental problems in children also affect their nutrition as the child is unable to chew his/her food well, when there is pain due to caries or infection in the teeth.
It is essential to take your child for timely dental checkups to avoid dental issues that can be prevented with adequate dental care.
At what age should be the child’s first dental visit?
To begin with, baby gum care should start at home before the eruption of the first tooth, which takes place around 6 months of age. Plan your baby’s first dental visit after the eruption of her/his first tooth. Research says that there are decreased chances of dental problems in cases of kids, including caries in teenage and adulthood, who visit a dentist at an early age.
Your child should have 20 primary or milk teeth by the time he/she is 3 years old. Between 6 to 11 years of age, primary teeth get replaced by permanent teeth.
Recommendation for oral health of babies and toddlers
A 6 monthly dental visit is ideal for infants and toddlers for preventing oral health problems.
Tooth decay in children: causes and symptoms
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early childhood dental caries are the most common form of chronic childhood disease seen in children between 2 to 5 years of age. Dental caries in toddlers are the most common reason for visits to a dentist. When left untreated they, give rise to infection and pain in the decayed teeth.
Tooth decay or dental caries in children result from destruction of tooth enamel or coating due to the acids produced by the bacteria that collect on the surface of unclean teeth. Dental problems are also commonly seen in children in the age group of 5 to 19 years, mostly among those from the low socio-economic background due to lack of sufficient oral care. Conditions like diabetes, preterm birth, etc. also play role in the occurrence of dental caries in children.
Other commonly seen dental problems in children include fluorosis (spotted enamel) which occurs due to hypomineralisation or defect in the enamel resulting from excessive intake of fluorine during teeth eruption. The hardness of the enamel decreases and easily gets fractured.
Prevention of dental problems in children
Dental caries they can be prevented with appropriate measures taken at the right time.
Use of dental sealant is an effective and economical way to prevent caries in children. Dental sealant is a plastic coating applied on the surface of teeth at the backside in the mouth (molars and pre-molars). It is applied in a liquid form due to which it spreads easily in the pits and cracks of the teeth. Fluoride varnish is an alternate method similar to dental sealant.
Addition of elemental fluorine in water or fluorine gargle solutions make the teeth enamel strong, preventing infection.
Child dental care tips
Before tooth eruption, baby’s gums should be cleaned with a clean, soft and moist cloth at least once a day.
1. A soft brush should be used for cleaning after eruption of the first tooth. This is the first preventive step against dental caries in the child. To begin with, start with a grain-sized, followed by a small pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to brush your 3-year-old toddler’s teeth at least twice a day. Avoid using fluoride tooth paste in children younger than 3 years, unless advised by the dentist.
2. Do not leave your baby suckling his/her milk bottle after falling asleep, as this leads to bottle feeding teeth problems. Excess of sugar in milk leads to infant tooth decay and gum problems. Bottle feeding should be gradually replaced with a cup or sipper.
3. Although breast feeding is safe, night feeding should be gradually reduced by introducing solid food items by 4 to 6 months of age.
4. Start flossing when your toddler has two teeth erupted next to each other.
5. Proper dental care begins with adequate nourishment of your child. A balanced diet of fresh vegetables and fruits, milk, meat, cheese, etc. makes your child’s teeth strong.
6. Limit the intake of foods items with high sugar content like biscuits, pastries and pasta.
7. Avoid using spoons and plates used by adults for serving food to kids, as this increases the chances of infection in children. Restrict kissing the child as infection can spread from the saliva of an adult with teeth problems.
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Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
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