Oral health is a basic part of overall health. Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping your mouth clean and healthy with brushing and flossing to prevent tooth disease and gum illness.
Poor oral hygiene leads to dental pain that has devastating effects, which include loss of sleep, retarded growth, behavioural problems and compromised learning. Self-esteem is also affected by poor dental health. Particularly in children, it can affect the functional, psychological and social dimensions of a child’s development. Dental decay in children is an important health issue.
Like other parts of the body, mouth inhabits bacteria, which is mostly harmless. Mouth is the entrance to your digestive and respiratory systems, and some of the bacteria can cause disease. Normally the body's defence system and good oral hygiene keep the bacteria in control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria lead to oral infections, such as caries, periodontitis and gingivitis.
Importance of good oral health
The goal of oral hygiene is to prevent formation of plaque and calculus, to prevent caries and to decrease the halitosis and maintain dental health. Good oral hygiene is important for preventing early decay of teeth in children. Maintaining good oral hygiene is the first line of defence against dental problems such as plaque, tooth decay (caries), gum disease (gingivitis), and halitosis.
Plaque is a whitish substance that develops and sticks to the teeth when food is mixed with bacteria and saliva. Good oral hygiene helps to wash and remove plaque from tooth surfaces.
The most common chronic disease in children is
Dental Caries is a disease that damages the structure of the teeth and this damage often results in tooth decay or cavities. It occurs when small holes form in the tooth. Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay, especially when sugar comes in contact with the bacteria in the mouth. Keeping teeth clean from plaque prevents tooth decay.
Gum Disease is an inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth. Unhealthy gums exposed to plaque can result in inflammation called gingivitis. It can cause bleeding of gums as well. Plaque free teeth can help maintain the health of gums.
Halitosis is a term for bad breath. It is caused by the build-up of plaque, calculus and inflammation of the gums. Keeping the gums and teeth clean helps in decreasing this problem.
Teaching Good Dental Habits
The best way to protect your child from oral and dental diseases is to teach them good dental habits for maintaining oral health. With proper guidance children can quickly learn good oral hygiene as a part of their daily routine. Supervision can help a child brush properly and remove all the food remains and to avoid tooth decay.
Importance of primary teeth (Milk Teeth)
The structure of milk teeth is less densely mineralized than the permanent teeth, making them highly susceptible to caries (cavities). Primary teeth are important for chewing and learning to talk. A healthy and normal set of teeth is a prerequisite in speech. Primary teeth are a ladder in developing proper alignment and spacing of permanent teeth, therefore, it is very important to take care of these teeth and preserve them till they exfoliate normally. Many parents assume that cavities in milk teeth do not matter, because they will be lost eventually but it is not true. Dental decay in milk teeth can negatively affect permanent teeth and lead to future dental problems.
Brushing teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste on a child-sized toothbrush that has soft bristles is necessary. There are special brushes for children of all ages, so you can select a toothbrush that is appropriate for your child.
Amount of toothpaste
You can start using a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste, which helps prevent cavities. There are different flavours of toothpastes available, which can be selected as per your child’s choice. Toothpaste must not be swallowed. Swallowing fluoride toothpaste can result in white or brown spots on the teeth later in life.
There are many schools of thought on brushing methods, e.g., brushing up and down, back and forth, or in circles. The direction really does not matter. The important thing is to clean the teeth thoroughly, top and bottom, inside and out. A child cannot brush his teeth without help until he's about six to eight years old. So one should supervise or even do the actual brushing if necessary.
A child’s diet plays a vital role in his dental health. Refined sugar is the main culprit. The longer and more frequently teeth are exposed to sugar, the greater the risk of cavities. Sticky sugary foods, e.g., sticky chocolates, toffees, gum, carbonated drinks, that stay in the mouth and bathe the teeth in sugar for hours — could do serious damage. Cleaning teeth is necessary after the intake of any sugary item. Do not allow a child to have any sugar-containing liquid for a prolonged period and especially at bedtime.
Regular dental check-ups are very necessary for all ages. The paediatrician can refer a child to a dentist (Pedodontist) or a general dentist if he observes any disease or cavities. As part of the dental check-up the dentist will make sure all teeth are developing normally and there are no dental problems and give you further advice on proper hygiene.
Normal dental development of a child is necessary, or it can lead to diseases and malalignment of the teeth. This can affect the social wellbeing of a child. As a parent, you have the responsibility to understand the basics and using the guidelines to make a difference. Keep in mind that promoting healthy practices and good oral hygiene is not only a way to keep your child healthy, but also a great way to show you are involved in your child’s life. HH
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