“ If you think your child is too young to need a dentist, you’re wrong…!!
“ Her teeth are at risk long before she has tasted her first piece of candy…”
Parents often assume that kids get cavities because they’re lax about brushing and flossing. That’s true to an extent, but what few people know is that tooth decay is a disease known as dental caries that’s caused by specific germs, spreads easily with families, and can last a lifetime. What’s more, its more common among young children than any other chronic illness, including asthma and diabetes. At least 4 million preschoolers suffer from tooth decay – an increase of more than 600,000 kids in the last decade.
“Children now have much more sugar in their diets at an early age.” And the popularity of bottled water – which usually doesn’t contain fluoride – may also contribute to the growing problem.
Tooth decay begins with a group of germs called mutans streprococcus. “ The bacteria feed on sugar and produce acid that eats away at the structure of teeth by depleting calcium,” The bacteria also create plaque – a yellowish film that builds up on teeth and contains even more enamel- eroding acid. Once an area without calcium becomes big enough, the surface of the tooth collapses, and that’s a cavity.
Babies are born without any of these harmful bacteria in their mouth, and studies have proven that moms ( rather than dads) typically infect their children before age 2. It happens when you transfer your saliva into your child’s mouth – by repeatedly eating from the same spoon as your baby, for example, or letting your toddler brush his teeth with your toothbrush. And if you’ve frequently had cavities yourself , you’re particularly likely to pass the germs along. Once a child’s mouth has become colonized with mutans , he’ll be prone to cavities in his baby and permanent teeth that can cause pain and difficulty in eating. “Its an oldwives tale that ‘soft teeth’ run in families, but what’s really passed along in families are high levels of decay – causing bacteria. “ In fact, 80 percent of all cavities occur in just 25 percent of kids. The key role that bacteria plays in decay may also explain why some kids who eat tons of candy or never floss are lucky enough to avoid dental problems. If you’ve had trouble with your teeth , you need to take responsibility for your child’s dental health – just like you’d be vigilant if you’ve had a family history high cholesterol or skin cancer.
Unfortunately, antibiotics can’t get rid of the cavity in your child’s mouth. That’s why the Indian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry( IAPD ) actually urges pediatric dentists to ask parents about their own dental history by the time their baby is 6 months old and to recommend taking extra precautions if a child is at high risk.
TIME FOR A CHECK UP
A crucial way to help limit cavities – regardless of whether they run in your family – is to diligently brush and floss, which physically pushes bacteria, plaque, and sugar off the teeth. Fluoride is an essential part of dental health because it not only restores calcium to decaying teeth, but also limits the production of corrosive acid.
Your child should see a Pediatric dentist by his first birthday, according to recommendations from the Indian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry Association (IAPD) . If you wait until your child is older, decay can be well underway.
However, most parents don’t know they should make an appointment for their baby. A recent study found that only 10 percent 1 year ods and 24 percent of 2 year olds had ever visited the dentist. “ Not all pediatricians look out for a toddler’s oral health, and some doctors don’t even look at the teeth.” But its important to treat cavities in baby teeth. These first teeth serve as space holders for permanent teeth, so losing one prematurely can cause alignment problems that will need to be corrected with braces later. Although you may worry that your little one will never sit still and open her mouth , the first visit will be quick. The dentist can easily spot the telltale plaque buildup along the top gum line that’s a sign of mutans ( you can look for it too ) and he/she can also do a culture to measure bacteria levels ( in you and your child ).
Even though some kids are at much higher risk of developing cavities, all children can get them. So its important for everyone to follow this road map for dental health.
- TAME A SWEET TOOTH
Limiting sugar – which bacteria need in order to survive – is the number one way to prevent cavities. Its actually the frequency, not the total quantity of sugar consumption, that matters most. ( Eating a chocolate bar all at once is less harmful to the teeth than eating one bite every hour.) that’s because repeatedly exposing the teeth to sugar prevents saliva, the body’s natural tooth cleanser, from doing its job. Candy isn’t the only offender : Starchy carbohydrates like crackers and cereal and sticky foods such as raisins can also promote decay.
- THINK ABOUT DRINKS
Fruit juice ( even diluted ) , as well as breastmilk and formula , bathe the teeth in sugar. In fact, dentists used to call early dental caries “baby-bottle tooth decay “ because it often occurs in children who drink milk or juice during the night – allowing sugar to sit on the teeth for 10 – 12 hours. The IAPD advises weaning your child from the bottle by 14 months to prevent decay – but you shouldn’t let your toddlerwalk around all day with a sippy cup either (unless its filled with water).
- FOCUS ON FLUORIDE
If your community’s water is not fluoridated (check with your dentist or municipal-water-supply board ) or your kids only drink unfluoridated bottled water , talk to your paediatic dentist about fluoride supplements. Too much fluoride, however , can lead to fluorosis, which causes white spots on the teeth. That’s why kids under 2 or 3 shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste- they’ll swallow it instead of spitting it out.
- TREAT TEETH EARLIER
Dentists can now apply a safe and protective fluoride varnish to children’s teeth. Ask your dentist about sealants, that prevent decay.
- TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN SMILE
If you have a history of dental problems, avoid sharing utensils or toothbrushes with your baby or toddler – or even letting him stick his fingers in your mouth. However, it’s possible to reduce levels of mutans in your mouth. Your dentist can prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash that can reduce transmission to young children. Research has also found that chewing sugarless gum containing the sweetener Xylitol ( such as Trident, Wrigley’s Orbit ) four times a day significantly lowers a mother’s bacteria levels. Good nutrition during pregnancy may also strengthen a baby’s tooth enamel. Of course, you should brush and floss well, and get any problems treated promptly. This will also set a good example for your child and show him that protecting his smile is essential.