Children’s Oral Health – A Guide for Parents
Children’s oral health is a very important aspect of their healthy growth.
The importance of oral hygiene is often neglected in children.
Usually, parents are clueless about measures they should take to maintain good oral hygiene in children.
This article will put some light to help understand everything one needs to know to take care of children’s teeth.
Importance of baby teeth
- Teeth help the children to eat properly and hence necessary for proper nutrition.
- They are natural space maintainers which means they help to maintain the space for upcoming permanent teeth.
- Healthy teeth provide a sense of self-confidence to children.
- Teeth help children to speak clearly.
Teeth in children(number and when do they erupt)
- There is a total of 20 teeth present in children and are known as primary teeth.
- The first tooth appears around 6 months of age.
- The first tooth to erupt is the front tooth of the lower jaw.
- All the teeth erupt completely by the age of 3.
- The first permanent tooth appears at the age of around 6 years.
- First permanent tooth appears in the back region of the lower jaw.
- The whole permanent dentition completely erupts around the age of 13.
Taking care of Children’s oral health
There are different steps undertaken to maintain children’s oral health of different ages.
- Infant- for a child below 6 months, use a wet cloth to clean the jaws gently after feeding. Always clean the mouth after feeding. Pooling of milk in the jaw should be avoided.
- 6-12 months – The first tooth appears at the age of 6 months. As soon as the first tooth comes, use a small toothbrush to clean the mouth without any toothpaste.
- 1-3 years– After the teeth start erupting in the mouth, use plain water and a small toothbrush to clean the teeth on the regular basis. You can start with fluoridated toothpaste available for the kids. Use around the size of rice grain of toothpaste for kids below 3 years.
- 3-6 years – For children from the age of 3-6 years, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to brush the teeth. Supervise brushing till the age of 6. Make sure children brush their teeth twice every day.
- 6-13 years – From the age of 6 and onwards, make sure that the children start brushing on their own. Instill the habit of regular brushing and flossing.
- Teething refers to the stage when teeth start erupting in the children’s mouth.
- A child can experience soreness in gums, loss of appetite and might get cranky.
- Gently massage the gums to relieve pain.
- Teethers can be used to soothe children.
- Make sure the teethers are made of rubber and are not liquid filled or of plastic that can break and hurt the child.
- Numbing gels below 2 years should be avoided.
- Kindly visit your dentist for the best recommendation.
Toothbrush and toothpaste for children
- The toothbrush comes in various shapes and colors made specifically for children.
- The toothbrush should have a small head, nylon bristles and should be soft.
- Let children choose their brush themselves.
- A variety of toothpastes for children are available in the market.
- Use the size of a grain of rice for children below 3 years and pea-sized amount for the children above 3 years of age.
- Brushing should be made a fun activity for children.
- They will look forward to brushing if they love their toothbrush which can be any cartoon character they are in love with.
- Sing a song, show some fun brushing videos to the kids.
- Teach your child to make small circles and clean the teeth.
- Make sure to teach them to cover all the surfaces of the teeth.
- Putting a timer can help them brush their teeth adequately.
- Explain the importance of children’s oral health.
- Reward the child for maintaining good oral hygiene.
- The reward should not be candy or sweets but some other activity like extra playtime, a favorite snack or can be storytelling of choice.
- A child should brush their teeth for a total of 2 minutes, twice a day.
- Try to inculcate the habit of flossing as well.
- Supervise the activity, make sure a child does not eat or swallow the toothpaste.
- Making it fun will make a child build a brushing routine.
Diet for children
- Maintaining a balanced diet is equally important in children.
- The diet should be full of fruits and vegetables.
- Offer whole grains instead of refined ones to children.
- Ample of protein should be included in the diet.
- Limit the sugar intake in the children.
- Children snack a bit too much on chocolates and candies nowadays, try to minimize the sweets.
- Try to inculcate the habit of drinking from a cup from the first birthday, it automatically will help to avoid cavities.
- Do not fill the bottle with a sugary liquid, juice, or soft drinks.
- Breastfeeding the child is a mother’s decision and should be done till a mother feels comfortable.
- Breastfeeding the child till 6 months ensures alignment of teeth and development of the jaws.
- Sucking action also helps positioning the tongue right and further normal development of jaws.
- Breast milk like normal milk has natural sugar and can cause cavities.
- Always wipe the jaws of a child with a soft and damp cloth after feeding.
- Pooling of milk in the mouth should be avoided at any cost.
- Try to make a routine to clean the mouth after the feed.
- Never put the child to sleep immediately after feeding.
- Always inspect the front teeth for brown spots, it can be the initiation of a cavity.
- Visit the dentist if you discover any brown spots or holes in front teeth.
- Mothers can transfer the bacteria to children, take care of oral health at the same time.
- Avoid using the same utensils for the kids as it can aid in transmitting oral bacteria from mother to children.
Sugar in Diet and its effect on childern’s Oral health
- Sugar has become a normal part of a child’s diet.
- Too much sugar is the major reason for the increasing number of cavities in children.
- Sticky foods share the equal blame for cavities.
- Sugar converts into the acid and lowers the pH that leads to the formation of cavities.
- Try to limit the number of candies and chocolates given to children.
- Make sure they eat the sugar just after the meals and brush thereafter.
- Do not let kids snack on sweets throughout the day.
- Avoid giving sugary drinks like juice or soft drinks.
- Limiting the frequency might not protect your child completely but rest assured it is way better than snacking multiple times in a day.
- The whole advertising gig is to woo children into sugary snacks but the children should be taught the right thing at the right age.
- A child can have cavities in the mouth if proper hygiene is not maintained.
- Early diagnosis and treatment can help avoid extensive procedures.
- Not cleaning the mouth after feeding can cause cavities.
- Excessive consumption of candies and chocolates is the major reason behind multiple cavities in children.
- Cavities in children are usually referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Early Childhood Caries.
- It can disrupt eating patterns if left untreated.
- First dental visit should be made after the first birthday of a baby.
- Dental visit helps monitor the status of oral hygiene in children along with educating the parents about the steps to be taken to maintain good oral hygiene.
- Various dental treatments are available specifically for children.
- A specialist handles all the problems related to the children’s oral health.
- Making regular visits to the dentist will help keep the children’s teeth healthy and white.
- Various preventive measures can also be taken for protecting teeth in children.
Various preventive and treatment modalities are:
- Sealants is a preventive procedure done for newly erupted permanent teeth in children.
- It is a kind of gel applied on the permanent molars to avoid cavities.
- The gel is available in various colors.
- It can be advised by the dentist on a regular visit.
- It is a short procedure and can be completed in a single sitting.
- Sealants stay in the place for a good time and can be checked in the recall visits.
- They act as a layer on the top of teeth that protects molars from getting affected by caries.
- Fluoride can be an extremely useful tool in avoiding cavities.
- Fluoridated toothpaste should be used for children.
- Fluoride gels and varnishes can be applied to the teeth to strengthen the teeth.
- Visit your dentist to know about the most suitable option for your child.
- The cavities can and should be treated as soon as possible.
- Take your child to the dentist if you notice any white or brown spots.
- There are specific materials used for fillings in the children.
- Neglecting the required treatment initially can lead to extensive procedures in the later stage.
- Other than normal fillings, root canals, and other pulpal treatments can be done for the children to save the primary teeth.
- Maintaining the space for permanent teeth is of utmost importance in children.
- It will help the erupting permanent teeth to come in the appropriate place and will avoid further complications.
- If the tooth is extensively damaged, it is removed under anaesthesia.
- The space created due to extraction is maintained with the help of an appliance known as space maintainers.
- There are various kinds of space maintainers delivered, depending on the tooth in question.
- Various anomalies can be corrected in early childhood and the orthodontic treatment can be avoided altogether in the future.
- It is important to visit the dentist regularly to keep a check on eruption patterns.
- The teeth that fail to shed on their own can be removed by the dentist.
- Minor crowding of the teeth can be corrected using certain appliances.
- A dentist can keep a check on the delayed eruption of teeth and can intervene when necessary.
- Thumb sucking is the most common habit seen in children.
- It is considered to be a natural reflex for children as it helps soothe the child by making them feel safe and secure.
- A child leaves the habit on his own in between 2-4 years.
- However, if a child continues with the habit it can have various side effects.
- It can lead to crowding and misalignment of the teeth and can cause changes to the jaw.
- Parents should try to counsel the child and offer a reward to break the habit.
- Visit the dentist if a child continues sucking the thumb.
- Habit breaking appliances can be used to get rid of the habit.
- Try to take your child for the first dental visit after the first birthday.
- During a dental visit, a dentist can examine if your child’s teeth are erupting on adequate time and in position.
- Normal development of jaws can be monitored.
- Make sure the visit to the dentist is a pleasant one, do not try to blackmail your child to take him to a dentist, it will only traumatize the child.
- Frequent visits to a dentist will make the child comfortable with the concept of oral hygiene and maintaning children’s oral health.
- At the initial visits, teeth can be examined and required X-Rays can be taken.
- Further, the required treatment can be provided to the child.
- Preventive procedures can be extremely helpful in avoiding treatment in the future.
Maintaining good Children’s oral health can be beneficial for children in the long run. There are multiple aspects of taking good care of oral hygiene in children.
Ingraining good habits in childhood ensure sticking to the same in the future.
Regular visits to the dentist can help make parents and children aware of good oral hygiene practices.
It further helps children build a great bond with the dentist and diminishes the fear of a dental visit.
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