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Dental Hygiene In Children

Good dental hygiene is the basis of strong healthy teeth. The earlier caring for the teeth starts, the healthier they will be. As a parent, you want your child to have a beautiful, confident smile. Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.

1. Regular Check-Ups: Take your child to the dentist as soon as the first tooth appears and then visit the dentist as frequently as advised by him.

2. Avoid Bottle Caries:Do not put the child to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula or juice. The bacteria in these liquids can remain on the teeth and cause the development of caries and other problems. If the child needs a bottle to get to sleep, use water.

3. Limit Sippy Cup Usage:A sippy cup is a normal way to transition a child from drinking from the bottle to drinking from a glass. While a sippy cup is helpful in the transition, do not let the child drink from it all day. Excessive use can cause the back of the front teeth to decay. This is especially true when sugary drinks are consumed.

4. Too Much Juice Is Not Healthy:Many parents make the mistake of thinking that because juice is healthy, the more the child drinks, the better. However, excessive juice consumption can cause tooth decay. Limit the child to about 120 ml of juice per day. Give the child foods and drinks that are sugar-free and use juice as a treat.

5. Pacifiers Cause Problems:A pacifier is one of the most effective ways to soothe a child and stop it from crying. However, the presence of the pacifier in the mouth for any length of time can affect the alignment of the developing or developed teeth. The shape of the mouth may also be changed due to the continued presence of the pacifier. Pacifiers are breeding grounds for germs and cause stomach infections. It is best to avoid the use of a pacifier, right from birth. If you are using one, stop its use as soon as you can.

6. Medicines Can Cause Tooth Damage:Children's medicines are often sweet to make them more palatable to the child. The problem is that this sweetness is achieved by the use of sugar, which, if it remains on the teeth, is a leading cause of cavities. Children on regular medication for chronic conditions are known to have a higher occurrence of tooth decay. Some medications can cause fungal infections to develop in the mouth. If your child is on long-term medication, talk to your dentist about modifying the dental hygiene regimen to provide protection for the teeth, gums and mouth.

7. Be Strict About Daily Hygiene:Children often do not like brushing, flossing and rinsing and make a fuss when it's time to do these things. It can be tempting, when faced with a crying child, to let things slip for a day or to do a rushed job to get it over with. This is a slippery slope - once it starts, the occasions when shortcuts are taken will keep increasing and ultimately, the dental health of the child will suffer. Here are a few things you can do to avoid the tears:

  • Be patient and do not rush the child. It doesn't matter how long it takes as long as the brushing is thorough.
  • Stay with the child through the process. Most children can start brushing, with help for a parent, by the age of 2 or 3 but they normally need to be supervised till about 6.
  • Flossing takes longer to get used to. Children typically need parental supervision for flossing till the age of 10.
  • Select a range of toothpastes suitable for children and let your child decide which one he or she wants to use.
  • Set a good example by ensuring that the child sees the parents following a dental hygiene schedule regularly.
  • Motivating the child can help. Things like playing an extra game or an extra bedtime story if brushing has been done well all week can be a motivating reward.
  • Tired children get cranky. If your child is tired at the end of a long day, do not wait until bedtime for the last brushing of the day. Do it before the child is exhausted and becomes cranky. Of course, there is no eating after that.

8. Teach The Right way To Brush:

  • Massage the gums before brushing to keep them strong
  • Use a soft-bristled child's toothbrush
  • Replace the toothbrush when it shows signs of wear or after 3 months, whichever comes first
  • Do not let anyone else use the toothbrush. Siblings tend to try and share things, including this
  • Brush the child's teeth twice in a day, in the morning and before going to bed
  • Pay special attention to the molars at the back of the mouth which is where cavities often first appear
  • Using a fluoride toothpaste will help to strengthen the teeth
  • If flavoured toothpastes which your child likes are available, and your dentist gives his approval, you can use them.

9. Mouthwash And Flossing:Once a child learns how to rinse and spit, he or she can start using floss and mouthwash. This is typically at around 6 to 7 years. These actions help to reduce the chances of dental problems and infections.

10. Do Not Delay:If the child complains about pain, numbness, itching or discomfort in the mouth or if he or she starts of avoid some types of food or has difficulty in chewing or swallowing, have a dental check-up done without delay. The earlier a problem is diagnosed, the quicker a cure can be affected.

The dental practices you inculcate in your child will help to determine his or her dental health in the future.

Remember "Two minutes brushing / Done Twice a day / Will keep the teeth healthy / All the way."

Article by Dr. Pushkala, M.S., MBBS, MD, PGDID (Australia)
Consultant Paediatrician,
Kauvery Hospital

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