Written by Dr. Zeenat Jakhura
Babies are born with all their teeth-you can’t see them because they are hidden under the gum. Some babies are born with a tooth visible in the mouth although baby teeth start to break through the gums around 6 months of age. By the time your child is 3 years he/she will have a full set of primary teeth (20 baby teeth).
Dental care is very important because the mouth is a door to the entire body and so the connection between dental health and overall health makes sense.
Professional dental care can be expensive. In our limited resource setting, we need to implement preventive oral care to be healthy.
Basic preventive measures that can be used include:
Wipe your babies gums with a soft washcloth after feeding. This helps remove bacteria and fungi that can cause tooth decay or thrush.
Take the bottle away after your child finishes drinking to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
Pacifiers and bottles should be weaned off by 3 years. This reduces the risk of dental malocclusions.
Brush teeth as soon as a tooth or teeth appear in the mouth. Until the age of three use a smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste that has fluoride in it.
Brush teeth twice a day-morning and evening.
Preferably do not consume any foods or sugary drinks after brushing in the evening. Drinking water is fine.
Brush all surfaces of the teeth(brush up, down and all around). Front, back and occlusal surfaces. This takes about 2 minutes. Don’t rush when you brush!
A peas size amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used for kids aged three and up.
Use a brush with soft bristles. An alternative is to dip the brush in warm water before brushing to soften the bristles.
Change your toothbrush every 3 – 4 months.
Baby teeth have natural gaps. The gaps are wider in front teeth than the back teeth. Use floss to remove foods that get stuck between teeth.
Movement of floss should be away from the gums in order to protect the gums from getting cut. So top teeth will be flossed from the top of the teeth coming downwards. And bottom teeth from the bottom of the teeth to the top parts.
Flossing regularly is advised from 13 years onwards once the permanent teeth are prevalent.
Brush the tongue. This is good for oral health and helps fight bad breath.
Eat healthy. Avoid sticky and sugary foods. A poor diet is associated with increased likelihood of oral disease… The most common being tooth decay(dental caries) and bloody swollen gums( gingivitis). Keep the mouth clean by rinsing with water after eating anything.
If you feel pain or notice a swelling in your mouth seek dental attention immediately. Early treatment can avoid complicated intervention.
In conclusion dental care does not have to be expensive or difficult… Set good oral hygiene habits from a young age, keep the mouth clean at all times and eat healthy foods. This can help you avoid tooth pain and oral infections and can help you to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Here is a downloadable handout for pediatric preventive dental care that you can use for education in the community: