Caring for teeth rightly begins as soon as the first teeth erupt. But to ensure good dental health, care should be taken even before teeth erupt. Gums also need to be taken care of properly; this helps to make sure the teeth have the right foundation to develop.
Proper care and attention need to go into taking care of baby teeth. Teeth are considered essential to good speech development, providing good nutrition through proper chewing, aiding in the development of self-confidence by having a healthy smile.
Oral hygiene for toddlers
Similar to adults, toddlers also have dental problems. Some of the most common dental issues that parents can be on alert would be broadly on feeding habit and oral hygiene.
Toddlers generally consume food that is sugary – Be it drinks or formula food or milk. Tooth decay can set in quite early if proper care is not given. This sugary food will stick on to baby teeth if they are not properly cleaned. Bacteria will act on this food and release acids that can act on baby teeth and create childhood caries.
Some might think that it is not much of a problem if baby teeth are damaged as permanent teeth will erupt soon. That is not the case, as if teeth decay goes unchecked, it can affect the gums. There would be no proper space available for the permanent teeth to come out and this can bring difficulties in speech and affect chewing as well.
Another issue that constantly worries parents is thumb sucking habit in toddlers. Almost all toddlers suck their thumbs as it gives them a sense of comfort. Some of them also use pacifiers. Both these habits become a problem when teeth start coming out. This will affect the normal development of teeth. Teeth will be pushed out of their position causing them to misalign. Speech can also be affected due to this problem. A variation of this habit can be seen in some children – they have habits like lip sucking or tongue thrusting.
Teeth grinding is also seen in some children. Some kids will outgrow this problem after their teeth erupt. But if it is severe then this habit can wear out the teeth enamel. If this happens then children can feel teeth sensitivity. Discomfort or pain when consuming food or drinks which are either hot or cold is called sensitivity. Bacterial action can also bring about teeth sensitivity.
Trauma to the mouth leading to chipped or broken teeth can also pose as a dental problem among toddlers. Toddlers would be learning to walk, some would be running around and playing. Falling and injuring themselves is quite common among toddlers. Teeth would get broken, swelling and bleeding might also happen.
Dental consultation for toddlers
In order to have good dental health for toddlers, parents need to be mindful of certain things. All dental issues need to be checked by an experienced dentist. It is important to know if the dentist is experienced in paediatric dentistry before going for consultations. This is needed as adult dentistry is different from paediatric dentistry.
Dental consultations should be given extra importance, preferably scheduling the first appointment before the first tooth erupts. Going for preventive care always saves health and not to mention money spend on dental treatments. Guidance can be sought from dentists to take care of the dental health of toddlers. Teaching good hygiene practices for children is also important. Good brushing and flossing habits need to be taught- this is crucial as it lays the foundation for the oral health of the child. Teaching the importance of brushing, helping them understand how it needs to be done, setting a routine for personal dental hygiene is important. Flossing can be done for toddlers also- for knowing proper technique it is recommended to have guidance from dentists.
One of the most important issues that affect the oral dental health of toddlers is ‘baby bottle decay’. This results from sugary food that is consumed by children. One way to fight against this and retain oral health is to make sure that sugary juice or milk is reduced right before they go to bed. Giving them water instead will help to wash out any food from the mouth and also prevents sugary food debris from clinging to baby teeth.
Misaligned teeth can result from using pacifiers or sippy cups or thumb sucking habits. The shape of the mouth and position of teeth can change due to these habits. Trying to wean kids away from these habits is important. Parents can try different methods that are suited for their toddler and can get rid of that habit.
There are a lot of medicines in the market that is for children that are very sweet. These added sugars in them. Some kids need to consume medicines regularly if they have chronic diseases. It is advisable that good cleaning practices are understood and parents follow it. Extra guidance can be sought from dentists to ensure good oral health.
Teething also can bring in other health problems. Children can be cranky due to discomfort and pain when teeth erupt. Some would have dysentery, stomach upsets due to this. Seeking advice and trying different ways to soothe the gums will help to remove the discomfort to a certain level.
Teeth fall out quite naturally for most children. But some would need help from dentists if there is a difficulty. Some kids will have permanent teeth growing out even before the milk teeth falls. This can affect the position of the teeth. Help from paediatric dentists can be sought in such cases.
Generally children are scared of dentists, they associate it pain and medicines. Parents need to teach children that dental consultations are nothing to be afraid of. Going through the procedures in a dental consultation, telling them what will be done etc. will help the children be prepared ahead of the visit and they would be less anxious.