Healthy smiles - Child and oral health

  • By Sahana Rajan

Dental hygiene must start prior to the arrival of first tooth. Wipe your baby's gums with soft and damp cloth post-feeding to avoid the development of bacteria. A gentle toothbrush should be used two times a day once the teeth appear. Make sure you use fluoride toothpaste to clean your child's teeth once he reaches pre-school age group. Most of the babies bear their first tooth between the age of 4 months and 7 months. The amount of toothpaste should be equal only to the size of a pea. This is to ensure that due to swallowing of excessive fluoride toothpaste, the child does not end up with permanent stains on the teeth.

Though age of one is considered an ideal time to schedule your first dental check-up, it is recommendable that you program regular dental check-ups from the time your child bears the first tooth to get into the routine of dental care. The earlier you introduce your child to the dentist, the more comfortable she/he will be in later time of their lives. The three main areas to focus on during your first few dental meet-ups are tooth brushing, diet, use of fluoride and diet. Fluoride is significant to ensure the health of teeth. In case the tap water at your home does not contain fluoride, your physician will recommend fluoride tablets.

Cavities refer to the formation of holes on teeth. This is caused by bacteria/germs present in the mouth which utilize the sugar of food to produce acid. The acid thus produced begins eroding the tooth. Due to lack of consistent dental hygiene, cavities are common among children. The vulnerability of cavities depends upon the amount of sugary food items (like candies and cookies) and sugary liquids (like punch, fruit juices, and sweetened drinks) consumed. The greater the consumption, the higher the vulnerability of your child to cavities.

The other factors which can contribute towards growth of cavities are: premature birth or low weight at birth, pre-existent health issues, white or brown regions on teeth and lack of regular dental check-ups. In order to ensure that your child does not get cavities, make sure you keep away their dental items from those of any family members who might be suffering from cavities (to avoid transfer of bacteria). Make sure that the teeth are brushed at least two times a day and the adults should floss daily. Biyearly dental check-ups should be scheduled. In case you are in doubt regarding the method of brushing teeth, you can take a demo from your physician.

Diet is an integral factor in determining your child's dental health. The excessive consumption of the following should be avoided: in-between-meals snacks, sweets, and sticky food items. It is best to consume your meals at regular timings daily. Here are a few snacks which are favorable for your teeth: vegetables, cheese and crackers as well as fresh fruits. The bottles of baby can cause tooth decay when they are placed in contact with your child's teeth for a long time. The medical condition associated to this habit is called bottle mouth. The continuation of such a condition can result in development of cavities and pitting or discoloration of the teeth.

The baby should not be allowed to sleep with the baby bottle in her mouth. It is best to teach your child to use the drinking cup by the time she/he reaches the age of one. While it is normal for children to suck their thumbs, pacifier or fingers, such a habit might be detrimental to dental health if it is continued after age of 4. The maximum age by which such a habit should be eliminated is 6 years, when the permanent teeth begin to appear.