Expertspeak: Sink teeth into good habits!

Apart from regular brushing and flossing, drinking water after eating sweets helps to flush out the debris stuck to the teeth.

Dental care is important for every child and dental health is key as they go to school and study. Most parents have in common, a wrong notion that baby (milk) teeth do not require proper care or treatment as they are eventually replaced by the bigger permanent (adult) teeth. As the basic step, this notion needs to be uprooted from their minds. Milk teeth are as, or even more important than permanent teeth as they are essential for proper chewing, for development of the child’s speech and for guiding permanent teeth into their correct positions in the oral cavity.

Some of the common dental issues faced by children include tooth decay, bad breath, grinding of teeth, protruded teeth, traumatic dental injuriesetc (to name a few).

Tooth decay or dental caries is the most prevalent dental problem in children. Summer vacation calls for ice creams and popsicles, but it is important to keep an eye on the young ones’ sugar intake. Carbohydrate rich foods like candies, cookies, pastries stick to the teeth and leave deposits on teeth which bond with bacteria to produce decay. So frequent sugar consumption along with poor oral hygiene measures predispose to caries. If the child needs to have something sweet, it’s always better to have it as a dessert or along with meals rather than snacking in between meals. Apart from regular brushing and flossing, drinking water after eating sweets helps to flush out the debris stuck to the teeth.

Decay in milk teeth also requires treatment. Small decays can be treated by removing the decay followed by normal filling whereas extensive decays require cleaning and filling of the root canals. Pulling out a milk tooth is considered as the last resort when other treatment measures cannot save the tooth. If a milk tooth is extracted at an early age (i.e before the age at which it normally falls off), an appliance named “space maintainer” needs to be fitted in its place to precisely guide the underlying permanent tooth into its proper position in the dental arch.

Bad breath, another common problem which often lands children in uncomfortable position in schools, is normally caused by poor oral hygiene (resulting in deposits on teeth and tongue coating), gum problems, dry mouth, digestive problems, side effects of medications, chronic sinusitis, diabetes etc. The specific cause needs to be found out and treated.

Grinding of teeth (especially during sleep) is yet another problem commonly encountered in children. In majority of cases, this may be due to irregularities in the bite, which when corrected, leads to the resolution of the problem. Other causes for grinding of teeth include intestinal parasitic infections, nutritional deficiencies (for example Magnesium deficiency), allergy etc.

Majority of parents complain of their child’s teeth being protruded or irregular either because of thumb-sucking habit or mouth breathing habit. If your child sucks his/her thumb or fingers beyond 4 years of age, then you need to consult a dentist as active intervention is required. In some cases, correction of the habit itself may straighten out the protruded teeth whereas in other cases, orthodontic treatment may be required. As far as mouth breathing habit is concerned, any nasal obstruction must be ruled out through ENT consultation before continuing with dental treatment. There are various dental appliances available for correction of mouth breathing and thumb sucking habit. Consult dentist to find out the appliance apt for child’s condition.

Tooth injuries are very common in childhood due to falls, sports-related injuries or fights. The treatment for dental injuries depends upon the type of injury and whether the injured tooth is a baby or adult tooth. The most common injury to the milk teeth is dislocation or loosening of the front teeth. The management of these injuries focuses on preventing future damage to the permanent teeth. Children with broken milk teeth should see a dentist promptly. A permanent tooth that is knocked out is a dental emergency that requires prompt treatment. The tooth should be placed back into the tooth socket as soon as possible, ideally within 15 minutes. If there is delay in seeking treatment, store the tooth in cold milk or coconut water rather than keeping it dry.

A healthy mouth is as important as having a healthy body which is essential for focusing on studies and registering stupendous successes. Good oral health and diet is pivotal to establishing a lifetime full of happy, healthy smiles. All it takes is brushing, flossing, and eating right. The key is to start those positive habits at an early age. Visit your dentist as and when required. And remember, don’t take your teeth for granted!

(The author is a pediatric dentist. Email: gayathrivipin )

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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