ORAL HEALTH FOR TODDLERS: Ways to care for your child’s teeth. Part 1

Passing on good oral habits to your child is one of the most important health lessons you can teach them. Baby teeth play an important role in helping your child bite and chew food, and also to speak clearly. Good oral hygiene is the single most important factor in keeping your teeth and gums healthy and good habits formed in childhood will last a lifetime. Children should be encouraged to take care of their teeth from an early age so that a good oral hygiene routine is instilled in them.

The mouth is the gateway to the body and just like any other part of your body, if something goes wrong in the mouth, your whole body will know about it, just ask anyone who’s ever had toothache.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a soft sticky film made up of INVISIBLE masses of BACTERIA that live in ALL mouths and sticks to all tooth surfaces. Proper brushing of our teeth is what removes this plaque from our teeth.
Plaque at the early stages is easy to remove, if it’s not removed with proper brushing and flossing it can combine with minerals in saliva and harden to form TARTAR (a.k.a CALCULUS) which is difficult to remove and can only be removed by a dental professional. This tartar picks up stains from the food we eat and is responsible for some discoloured teeth, this is another reason why we need to get rid of this harmful substance daily!
Why do we need to remove plaque form our teeth?

A build-up of plaque can cause TOOTH DECAY (caries or cavities) and GUM DISEASE (gingivitis and periodontitis). Plaque cannot be prevented from forming, but careful tooth brushing everyday will help remove it.
Tooth decay (Dental caries)

The BACTERIA in PLAQUE interacts with SUGARS and STARCHES in our diet and produces an ACID. This acid Demineralises (eats away or dissolves) the teeth causing tooth decay

Gum disease (Gingivitis & Periodontitis)

The BACTERIA found in the PLAQUE produces TOXINS (poisons) that irritates the GUMS (gingiva) resulting in INFLAMMATION of the gums which is seen as a red, puffy appearance of the gums and bleeding when brushing or flossing. Your body essentially senses something is wrong /foreign around your gums and your body sets out to get rid of the problem through the process of inflammation and this destroys the gum tissue in the process.
Healthy gums should be firm, pink or dark brown (in dark skinned individuals) and should hug the teeth tightly.
Gum disease is PREVENTABLE and easily TREATABLE if caught in the early stages.

Signs of Gum Disease                                       

Bleeding- Bleeding gums during tooth brushing, flossing or any other time
Puffiness- Swollen and bright red gums
Bad breath- Constant bad breath that does not clear up with brushing and flossing
Recession- Gums that have receded away from the teeth, sometimes exposing the roots
Please note- If you notice any bleeding while brushing yours or your child’s teeth, it is not normal, please do not ignore it. It’s a sign of gum disease.

How do I clean / care for my child’s teeth

In this section we will go through how to care for your child’s teeth, toothpaste choices, and quantity. How to prevent tooth decay and gum disease e.t.c.

When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they show up in the mouth to remove plaque. Before the first tooth emerges, you can clean your baby’s mouth daily with a soft washcloth or clean piece of gauze and water. Whitish coating on babies tongue, gums, inside the cheeks and all over the mouth can sometimes be ‘Oral thrush’ and this can be mistaken for milk patches, the only way to be sure is by regular cleaning. Milk patches will rub off easily, oral thrush will not. Oral thrush in babies will need treatment with antifungals.
When you start early you baby will be used to you cleaning their mouths so introducing a toothbrush won’t be a problem.
Please note- Glycerine is not required to clean baby’s mouth at this age.

  • Which toothpaste should I use for my child? Children ages three years and under should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1,000ppm (parts per million).
  • After three years of age, children should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of 1,350-1,500ppm. Most adult toothpaste fall within this range. The level of fluoride in every toothpaste can be found on the toothpaste pack.

Why Fluoride toothpaste?

  • Fluoride helps prevent decay by keeping tooth enamel strong and more resistant to acids formed by bacteria (prevents demineralization).
  • It also aids in repairing and reversing the early stages of decay(promotes remineralization)

This is why many professional health bodies recommend its use. Fluoride free toothpastes and herbal toothpastes do not contain this important ingredient.

Please note- Things like Bicarbonate of soda, salt, lime juice, charcoal and the likes are not suitable alternatives to fluoride toothpastes and should certainly not be used in children’s mouth. They are all abrasive can cause irreversible damage to children’s teeth. (to be continued)

Source—***Ask The Paediatricians Foundation


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