Caring for baby teeth is something that needs an extra amount of care and attention. Paediatric dentistry is quite different from adult dentistry in this sense that it lays the foundation of oral health and hygiene for a lifetime. Making sure that children have regular visits to the dentists will help in making sure they have healthy teeth throughout their life.
Caring for baby teeth
Taking care of baby teeth should ideally commence even before they start teething. It is important that proper care is given to maintain the health of gums. If the gums are healthy, they will form a good support to the emerging milk teeth. Baby teeth or milk teeth actually are ‘place holders’ for the adult teeth that emerge later.
Wiping the gums with a soft cloth will help remove any leftover food. This will make sure that food debris is not present for the bacteria to act upon. Most baby food available in the market are sweet and is definitely a good environment for the bacteria to act upon. Cleaning them this way will make sure that the gums remain healthy and are ready to accept the new teeth when they erupt.
Taking care of milk teeth is important – they help in developing a proper chewing habit for the child. Teeth are used not just in chewing, but they also form a very important part in the child’s speech development.
Along with taking care of oral health, food habits of the baby should also be given due importance. Give the child a drink of water rather than juices all the time. This helps maintain oral health. Replacing fruit drinks/milk with water especially during nap time or when the child is sleeping is extremely important as this is the time when bacteria will act upon sugary food and release acids which can harm the gum tissues.
Irritated gums while teething – Dental problems can start for a child even before they start teething. Children will feel discomfort when the teeth begin to erupt. Soothing them with special toys or devices that the baby can chew on can be considered. If the discomfort begins to turn to be severe- then you can check with the dentist – as there are medicines that can be helped to soothe irritated gums and can provide relief. Some would also notice symptoms such as sleeplessness and loss of appetite coupled with teething.
Tooth decay – Baby’s diet is one of the main reasons for them to have tooth decay. As mentioned earlier, the food is predominantly sweet. Milk, fruit juices, formula etc. are all primarily sweet. If these are not cleaned, then decay can set in fast. Same in the case of babies who drink breast milk and their mouth is not cleaned properly. The baby teeth can decay due to this and the damage can also extend to gums. If gums are decayed then it will affect the future permanent teeth also.
Thumb sucking and deformation of teeth – Thumb sucking has a calming effect on children. But prolonged thumb sucking can cause deformities on how the teeth are shaped and positioned. This has also known to affect the structure of the jaw bone. Some babies also have experienced deformation of their thumbs due to this problem. Speech and improper pronunciation have been noted due to thumb sucking habit in babies.
Similar problems are also known to happen in children who are in the habit of lip sucking or tongue thrusting. These habits need to be checked as they can harm a child’s proper development.
Infection – Thrush is an infection seen in the oral area of children, this is caused by the growth of a fungus. This is seen quite commonly among children and will go away on its own. But if it affects a child’s eating habits then you need to consult a dentist.
Treatment – The first consultation with the dentist should commence around the time the child is a year old. Dentists will help guide parents on proper techniques to be used when the child starts teething.
The importance of changing habits to ensure good oral health and hygiene is also covered during these consultations.
Besides the common tips and directions, some dental problems need proper treatment to set them right. Losing teeth prematurely can cause a problem, dentists would then suggest placing space maintainers. These devices will help make sure that the teeth do not move from their original position and there is space available when permanent teeth appear.
Tooth decay is also one of the major concerns, dentists suggest placing sealants over the teeth to ward off decay. They help in covering the chewing groves in the teeth. This will act as a barrier between the food debris and the food surface from coming in contact. Bacteria won’t be able to cause tooth decay as they are not in direct contact with the tooth surface.
If baby teeth are loose or chipped, it is important to give it proper care and attention as soon as possible. Keep the teeth in its original position and avoid touching it often. Immediate dental care is needed as proper care needs to be given as permanent teeth developing under the gums can get affected due to this.
Gum diseases can also occur in children – gums can become red and swollen due to infection. This may be due to tartar building up on the gums. Proper cleaning techniques need to be taught to children and they should be encouraged to practise good oral hygiene.
Developing a clean and healthy lifestyle will only be complete if proper dental care is also considered. Helping children in understanding the need for proper dental health, how to care for teeth, the importance of good food diet and reducing junk food – all these need to be shared with children to help them learn.