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Children’s Teeth

A healthy set of pearly white teeth is indeed a gift for life. It not only gives us a pleasing appearance and smile, it also reflects our general health. Thus, dental care habits should be taught right from childhood to protect children’s teeth from various dental problems.

How to care for your child’s teeth?

The care of children’s teeth should begin when the first teeth appear in the mouth, usually when your child is 5-6 months of age. Wipe off the teeth with a clean, soft wash cloth after you feed your baby.

Brushing can start when the child is about 1 year or when about 8-10 baby teeth have come. You should brush the child’s teeth 2 times a day, once in the morning and once before bedtime. Use a small baby toothbrush with soft bristles for your toddler. Toothpastes should not be used for infants below 1 year of age. A very small amount of toothpaste can be used up to 6 years so that they do not swallow the toothpaste. After 6 years of age, the amount of toothpaste can be increased to a pea-size amount.

Until the child is of 5 years of age, the parent should help the child brush his/her teeth, as they do not possess sufficient control on the brush movements and they cannot clean all parts of the mouth.

Why is it necessary to care for children’s teeth?

It is necessary to clean children’s teeth to remove any sugar or food debris that may remain on teeth after a feeding. If left there, the debris reacts with bacteria present in the mouth to produce acids that eat away the teeth causing cavities.

Common dental problems in children:

Tooth Cavity/Decay:

When sugar from food is left on the teeth without proper brushing, it reacts with the bacteria in the mouth and an acid is produced which can erode the tooth enamel. This causes tooth decay which is seen in the form of brownish patches or holes on the teeth. The cavity becomes painful if the infection reaches the nerve of tooth.

Gum diseases:

Bleeding from gums and mild aching pain are symptoms of gum infection. Improper brushing leads to unhealthy gums. It is important that we brush our teeth properly so that gums remain healthy.

Oral habits:

Oral habits are considered normal in infants and in early childhood. The very same habits continuing beyond 3-4 years of age become a symptom and can cause harmful effects on the appearance of the child. Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip biting, mouth breathing and bruxism are some common oral habits.  Thumb sucking habits result in flaring out of the upper front teeth.

Tongue thrusting causes open bite in front teeth- the upper and lower front teeth do not contact.  Lip biting also causes forwardly placed upper front teeth and collapsed lower front teeth.  Mouth breathing causes long narrow facial appearance and open bite in front teeth.  Bruxism causes worn out teeth and a painful jaw joint.

Teething problems:

Teething is the normal process of eruption of teeth through the gums in infants. As the teeth penetrate through the gum, that area appears red and swollen. The baby turns irritable and tries to place fingers or any other hard object into the mouth and bite on it. This condition is termed as teething problems.

Dental trauma:

Dental trauma is any injury to teeth and its supporting structures because of a fall, automobile accidents or any other blow on the face.

Tooth fractures: may involve only enamel, enamel and dentin or sometimes even pulp may be involved in the fracture.

Root fracture: is the fracture involving cementum, dentin and pulp.

Mobility: is loosening of the tooth in its socket.

Intrusion: The tooth is pushed into the bone.

Extrusion: The tooth is displaced out of its socket.

Avulsion: The tooth is knocked out of its socket.

The responsibility of taking care of children’s teeth up to 6 years of age lies on the parents entirely. You should not ignore your child’s teeth thinking they are baby teeth and will fall out eventually.  Instead you should instil good oral habits in your children right from the beginning of childhood.

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