Early childhood caries is a devastating form of dental decay affecting children below 5 years of age. The reason has been linked to poor oral hygiene practice, improper feeding habits, lack of parental awareness and avoiding dental visit. Poor oral health can affect the general health of the baby as it can cause problems in eating leading to low weight of your child.
Dentistry has evolved to a point where prevention of dental caries is now achievable. However, this requires an early start, as early as, when the child is in the mother’s womb. Here are few guidelines that you must follow, to ensure good oral hygiene of your child.
It has been proven scientifically that there is a relationship between oral health of mother and that of the child. Pregnant women need to be vigilant about their oral hygiene.
- Brush twice with fluoridated tooth paste
- In case of morning sickness and vomiting, rinse with water and baking soda.
- Resist sweet cravings in order to prevent tooth decay
- You are prone to gum swelling and gum bleeding. Consult your dentist and undergo a clean up/scaling procedure
- Dental procedures are safest during second trimester
Child age: 0-1 years
- Even if the child doesn’t have teeth, clean the child’s gum pads with a clean cloth
- Child should be only on breast fed milk for 6 months
- The child’s first tooth erupts at the age of 6-8 months. Teething signs may include irritability, drooling, excess salivation.
- To comfort the child during teething use a clean and chilled teether which was refrigerated, cold and thick carrot or cold and clean cloth to bite on.
- Avoid using teething gels that are available without consulting a dentist
- Once the tooth erupts, start brushing twice daily
Child age:1-3 years:
- Start the procedure of weaning the child from breast milk
- Slowly stop breast feeding at night as and when the child demands
- Use sippy cups and not bottles to feed the child
- The child should never be put to sleep with bottle in mouth
- Minimize the number of time your child is having sweets, chocolates etc. i.e. if your child wants 2 chocolates, give both together during lunch time. Do not give one at lunch and one in evening
- If using a pacifier, do not dip it in honey
- Do not share spoons with your child. Dental decay is contagious
- Brush twice daily
Child age:3-5 years
- Your child’s toothpaste should have 500-1000 ppm fluoride. Read the toothpaste composition and look for sodiumfluoride, stannousfluoride or sodiummonofluorophosphate
- Visit a pediatric dentist and start with fluoride varnish application twice a year
- Be vigilant about your child’s diet. Diet counselling with a pediatric dentist can be scheduled at this point
- Your child has now learnt to walk and run and hence,dental trauma is common at this age. In case of any fall or dental injury, report immediately to a pediatric dentist
Child age:6-9 years
- The child’s first permanent tooth erupts at the age of 6-7 years
- Consult your dentist for ‘pit and fissure sealant’. It is the most effective method to prevent caries in permanent molars
- Report to a dentist if your child has a habit of sucking thumb or breathing from mouth
- Introduce dental floss and mouth wash to your child as a part of good oral hygiene practice
- Remember that a permanent tooth can be put back into place, if it falls out due to trauma, fall, accident. In case your child’s permanent tooth has come off, keep the tooth in bowl of milk or child’s mouth and report immediately to a dentist
Child age:10-13 years
- Check for the alignment of your child’s teeth. This is the right time to meet an orthodontist. The earlier you consult the orthodontist, faster and easier will be the procedure
- Maintain a good diet plan with minimum sugar exposure
- Motivate your child for good oral hygiene
- Visit a dentist twice a year
- A good oral hygiene should be slowly made into a habit for children. This will ensure long lasting oral health for the child even during adulthood
- Do not underestimate the importance of milky teeth. They play an extremely important role to ensure healthy permanent teeth and also perfect speech of your child
- Visit a pediatrician and a pediatric dentist at least once a year to understand the dynamic changes your child will go through. This will help you to prepare yourself before hand
- Do not create fear of dentists in the child’s mind. Avoid talking about your fear or experience in front of children. While taking the child for dental appointment, do not use terms like “dentist wont hurt you”, “No injection will be given” etc. Instead use positive words like “dentist will make your teeth whiter” or “dentist is going to count your teeth”
- Introducing dentistry as mentioned above will ensure good oral health, positive dental attitude, good rapport between your child and dentist all of which will eventually enhance general health. Healthy mouth is necessary for healthy body.