TOOTH DECAY IN BABIES AND TODLERS
The tooth decay is chronic infectious disease, but it is largely preventable.
Public Health England published a survey in September 2014 which found 12% of three year old have tooth decay, and those children affected have an average of 3 teeth decayed due to disease. A survey from September 2013 found over 27% of five year old children affected by tooth decay. In the United States, tooth decay affects 42% of children aged between two to eleven years of age.
Tooth decay, known also as dental caries or dental decay, is a serious disease, as it may lead to premature tooth loss in children, pain, abscesses and as a result it may affects child's ability to speak, cause problems with eating or sleeping, as well as socialising if the child is aware of premature tooth loss.
WHEN TO START CLEANING BABY'S TEETH?
The answer is ... The sooner, the better. As soon as the first teeth appear, usually between 6 and 12 months of age, start brushing your baby's teeth twice daily with an appropriate size soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Remember to use just a smear of toothpaste as the baby cannot spit out properly. For children over three years use a pea size amount of toothpaste.
Any fluoride toothpaste is good; all children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with fluoride levels of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). After three years old they should use toothpaste containing between 1350ppm to 1500ppm.
Young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth properly. Help your child with brushing their teeth up to at least 7 years of age, or until they can do either of the following: joint writing
Encourage your child to SPIT not rinse to help the fluoride and other useful ingredients from toothpaste protect their teeth.
You can prepare your baby for the feeling of the brushing by cleaning their gums before teeth erupt with either a soft small toothbrush or a cloth dipped in water.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE MY CHILD TO THE DENTIST?
Each child should see the dentist before first birthday; it will them to get acquainted with the sight and smell of the dental surgery. This helps to prevent dental anxiety, which may be developed if the child needs to be brought to the dentist when he or she is in pain, e.g. because of tooth decay or dental trauma - the dental appointment may become associated with pain afterwards.
Also the dentist will assess your child's dental health and establish a daily dental routine, provide tailored recommendations and determine the intervals between dental checkups, usually between 3 to 6 months.
KEEP AN EYE ON SNACKING
Children are not born with a 'sweet tooth', it is a habit developed through the early stages of life. Try not to add sugar to their food, milk or drinks.
Try to wean your baby from the breast milk by the age of 6 months, because breast milk is very sweet and may develop a 'sweet tooth' in your child. He or she may then refuse taking unsweetened foods to drinks.
Children are very active and need a lot of energy, therefore it is normal for them to eat more than three times a day. Try to keep regular meals, e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner / supper, and a smaller meal between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner. This will help tp develop a good eating habits instead of snacking or grazing, which may lead to tooth decay, especially if they snack on sugary foods.
If you want to give your child a snack try to avoid sweets; if they are hungry give them plain crisps, bread sticks, humous, raw vegetable, olives, cheese; try to keep sweets, like chocolate and biscuits, to mealtimes and not more than three times a day.
WHICH DRINKS ARE SAFE FOR MY BABY'S TEETH?
Water and milk are the only safe drinks, but at night give your child water only. If your baby is used to have bottle when going to sleep, use nothing but water. Bottles containing any sugary liquids or carbohydrates such as milk, formula, sweetened water, or juice, put child's teeth at risk from bacterial acid attack all night long, which may result in tooth decay, also know as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, Early Childhood Caries, or Nursing Bottle Caries. It may completely destroy upper font teeth.
Try to avoid all fruit juice as they literally bathe your child's teeth in sugar; limit fruit juice intake to one glass a day and keep it to a mealtime.
WHAT ABOUT THUMB SUCKING?
Sucking on thumb, finger, dummy or a pacifier for prolonged periods of time may cause the upper front teeth to tip outwards or not grow in properly, which will lead to crooked teeth and bite problems. Most children stop the habit on their own, if not try to discourage it by the age of 3 years, or talk to the dentist who will provide a professional evaluation.
CHILDREN WITH HEALTHY TEETH EAT EASILY AND SMILE WITH CONFIDENCE
Here are the links to useful websites:
Illustrations by Rachael Yap