While discussing growth and development in Chapter 15, I had talked about eruption of temporary (milk) and permanent teeth. Let us now see how you should take care of the child’s dental health.
Do not wait that the child would grow up and then start brushing his teeth. He will, of course, do that when he is a two-year-old. But, before that, you should wipe his teeth with a lint and a soft brush. Yes, every day.
As soon as he is two years of age, teach him to brush his teeth himself after eating and before retiring to bed. Impress upon him the significance of brushing. Tell him how it helps to maintain their cleanliness and improve their appearance.
It is important to teach him the correct way of brushing the teeth. Just a small quantity of toothpaste suffices. It is wrong to brush across the teeth. Brush, on the other hand, in the direction of their growth – up in the case of lower teeth and down in the case of upper teeth. Brush should be used in rotating movements. The back of the teeth as also the cutting edges should also be properly brushed.
Many mothers wonder if the child would take to brushing the teeth easily. He will. Two years is an age at which he is inclined to imitate all that the elders do around him. Watching his parents brushing their teeth, he one day catches hold of a brush, fiddles with it and then tries it on his own teeth. Buy him a soft brush. Encourage him to master the technique of brushing which would, of course, take time.
Remember not to let the child use a worn out toothbrush. A bad brush does no good. Instead, it may damage his delicate gums.
Do not neglect nutrition
The part of the teeth that strikes the eyes is what is called a crown. The mother’s diet during pregnancy has a great bearing on the formation of the crown of the milk teeth. If you had had adequate calcium, phosphorous, fluoride, vitamin C and vitamin D, chances are that your baby’s teeth will be strong. Remember, injudicious use of such drugs as tetracyclines during pregnancy can cause staining of the infant’s teeth.
Not that the baby’s own nutrition is not important. It is. Make sure that he gets enough of calcium and phosphorus (milk is a rich source of both) as also vitamins C and D during the years the child’s teeth are being formed.
How to avoid dental decay?
Dental decay or caries is by far the commonest disease of teeth. No one knows for sure as to what actually causes it. Experts believe that heredity plays some role. Nutritional inadequacy seemingly plays a part. What, I believe, matters most in its causation is the excessive use of sugar. Add to it the bad dental hygiene – that is the child’s carelessness to brush his teeth regularly so that particles of food remain clung to the teeth or between them.
The food particles lead to caries by excessive production of lactic acid by the bacteria which feed on sugar and starch. This acid dissolves the outer covering of the teeth, producing small holes or cavities. The cavities allow further lodging of the food particles which means greater bacterial growth leading to further production of lactic acid and enlargement of cavities and further destruction of teeth. A vicious circle is set up.
The worst offender among various sugar foods are candies, chocolates, toffees, lollipops, cookies, crackers, dry fruits and the like – anything sugary that sticks to the teeth. A dummy containing a sweet stuff or dipped in it is also very damaging to the child’s teeth.
So, remember not to encourage the child to go in for sweets day in and day out. The sugar provided by fruits such as apple is dilute and is washed away easily. It may, in fact, help to cleanse the teeth. In any case, make sure that debris does not remain clung to the teeth. It may not be possible to brush the teeth after every eating session, but it is certainly not difficult to rinse the mouth properly.
Do not delay to see the dentist if the child complains of a sensation of cold after taking a cold drink or ice cream, if he has toothache or if you detect a mark of decay in a tooth. It is of advantage to get filling done in a cavity irrespective of whether it is a temporary or permanent tooth. Do not ignore a bad temporary tooth. It may have to be removed if not cared for on time. That is likely to cause eruption of the permanent tooth in an undesirable position.
A special type of caries seen in bottle-fed infants is called “nursing bottle caries” or “baby bottle tooth decay”.
Dental overcrowding can be checked
Overcrowding of teeth looks dirty. It makes the teeth more vulnerable to collection of food particles and thus eventually to dental decay.
It is advisable to have a regular dental check-up of the child after the age of three years. A visit to the dentist every six months is quite in order. Not only will he find out and fill if any cavity is formed, he will also be able to check any malocclusion of teeth. Remember, today malocculsion can even be corrected.
Tooth reimplantation In case an injury dislodges the child’s tooth, make sure to preserve the tooth in a wet cotton cloth and to look up a good dentist immediately, within an hour or two. It is quite possible he succeeds in replacing it back in its position.