The dental health of children is on a decline due to an increase in the consumption of sweets, candies, chocolates, artificially-flavored drinks and junk food starting at a very early age. The incidence of tooth-decay among children has been rising over the years.
The foundation of dental health as adults lies in good care of the teeth at a young age. As parents, it is our responsibility to take care of the child’s teeth right from the time the first tooth breaks out. Teaching the child how to brush properly and looking after the gums is the first step towards healthy and decay-free teeth.
Various Dental Problems among Children
Dental problems among children chiefly revolve around dental caries or tooth-decay, which may occur due to consumption of sweet foods- solid or liquid, and overuse of feeding bottles and soothers in infants. It can lead to severe pain, infection and discomfort. Thumb sucking in infants can cause misalignment of the teeth, which may later require the fitting of braces to correct the position and alignment of the teeth.
Caring for Your Child’s Teeth
The problem of tooth-decay though common, is still a preventable condition, with just a little extra caution on the behalf of the parents. Some simple steps can be taken to ensure a good dental health for your child.
Brushing and flossing: Start cleaning the teeth of the baby with a clean cloth even before he/she gets the first tooth and graduate to a soft toothbrush with a flouride-based toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks out. A pea-sized blob of toothpaste is adequate for the child. Be careful that the child does not ingest the toothpaste. It helps to make a rule regarding brushing twice daily and then leading by example. Guide the child to floss and rinse their mouth properly. You can also introduce a tongue-cleaner.
Give them the right food: Ensure limited access to sweets and sugary foods. The sugar in the food and drinks causes the formation of a mild acid in the mouth, which attacks the enamel and causes cavities. Juices and cold drinks are equally harmful. Be firm with the child and let him/her realize that your “no” is for their own good.
Regular visits to the dentist: According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should be taken for their first dental check up as early as at the age of one. This can help you find out whether your child is susceptible to dental caries and the dentist can give the child fluoride treatment or fissure sealants, whichever is required. Taking the child for dental check-ups at least twice a year ensures timely detection and rectification of dental problems. Moreover, early introduction of the child to this environment makes him/her comfortable with it.
Avoid bottle feeding: Putting a child to bed with a bottle of milk can cause havoc to their oral health. The sugary milk sticks to the teeth overnight and makes an acid attack on the teeth. Similarly, excessive use of pacifiers affects the growth of the teeth and the shape of the mouth.
Avoid mouth unfriendly medications: Some medications or syrups are high in sugar content, which by themselves cause as much damage to the teeth as any other sugary food. Such medicines may be some cough syrups, antibiotics or medicines for some chronic conditions like asthma. They can cause the overgrowth of candida (yeast) which leads to a fungal infection called oral thrush. Use of some medicines over a long period of time can also cause discoloration of teeth. A thorough rinsing and brushing every time the child takes the medicine can help minimize damage.
Home Remedies to Prevent Tooth Decay
Besides all the aforementioned precautions, certain simple remedies can help you ensure the teeth and gum health of your child.
- Give the child plenty of teeth-cleaning foods like apples, celery, raw carrots and unsweetened popcorn. These will serve the dual purpose of nutrition as well as dental health.
- Encourage the child to drink plenty of water which will lower the risk of cavities by flushing out bacteria. It will also reduce acid formation inside the mouth.
- Avoid giving the child food which is too hard to chew as they can cause tiny fractures in the enamel which can aggravate into major cracks over the years.
- Using dried and powdered basil (tulsi) leaves for brushing can protect the child from bleeding gums.
- Avoid sticky foods like candies, jelly, chips and cookies, instead insist that the child has fibrous and vitamin C rich foods like apples and oranges.
- Cheese is also good for dental health as it is a rich source of calcium and phosphorus. Broccoli and sweet potato are the vegetables good for teeth while onions have a capacity to kill oral bacteria.
As parents, we surely can give our children a bright and healthy future by setting examples for them. Following a healthy dental regime yourself, giving due importance to dental hygiene, regular dental check-ups and nutritious diet can be the best ways to convince your child to follow suit.