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Oral Health and Hygiene practices for babies

Good oral hygiene plays a major role on the overall health of the child. Poor oral hygiene leads to a higher risk of dental infections, cavities which might in turn lead to difficulty in eating food and chewing certain types of foods and ultimately indigestion. This is in addition to a possible issue with the speech, lower self-esteem of the child, misalignment of the permanent teeth etc. to name a few. 

A child’s tooth is less mineralised compared to that of an adult and is hence more susceptible to dental cavitation. This combined with the ill effects of a sugary diet and poor oral habits can significantly increase the risk of dental caries in the permanent teeth. Habits such as thumb sucking, mouth breathing or tongue thrusting can further increase the risk of having misaligned permanent teeth.

Here are some dental facts and advices based on the age of your baby:

Infants-  (0-1) year: 

Facts:

  • The baby is usually born without any erupted teeth. However, tooth formation would have already commenced and these incompletely developed teeth will be present below the gums of an infant.
  • Sometimes, a baby is born with one or more erupted teeth and this is called ‘Natal Teeth’ or have teeth which erupt within the first 30days of the child’s birth – called ‘Neonatal Teeth’. These are most commonly a prematurely erupted milk tooth. The dentist will schedule an X-Ray if needed and determine if the tooth is an extra tooth (Supernumerary) or a premature milk tooth. The tooth usually is a hindrance during breast feeding and may cause injury to the baby’s tongue and is hence usually removed by the dentist, especially if it an additional tooth. Parent’s decision to remove or retain a tooth is sought after if it is a prematurely erupted milk tooth.  

Advice:

  • It is essential to wipe the baby’s gums or gum pads with a wet cloth after every feed and before and after bed time.
  • Around 6 months of age, the first milk tooth starts erupting. Before the eruption of any tooth, a child may experience ‘Teething’ associated pain and discomfort. This may be associated with fever, body pain, restlessness, loss of sleep or appetite, diarrhoea etc. Remedies include cold water massaging with your index finger, cold teethers to chew on etc. Visit your dentist if your baby more tips on dealing with teething.
  • Make sure you take your baby to the dentist between 6-12 months, as soon as the first milk tooth erupts.

Toddlers (2-5) years:

Fact:

All your child’s milk teeth will erupt by around 3 years of age.

Advice:

  • Never put your baby to sleep with his/her feeding bottle in the mouth and do not leave the bottle in the mouth post feeding. This is essential in order to avoid ‘Nursing Bottle Caries’ which is commonly seen in children between 2-5 years and is characterised by widespread cavities or discolorations on all the teeth.
  • The best brushing technique for a child beginning from 3 years of age is by moving the brush over the teeth in circular movements. The ideal brushing time is 2 minutes.
  • When a milk tooth is lost either due to an accident or dental caries, it is best to retain the original space occupied by this tooth using ‘Space Maintainers’. This allows enough space to be available for the permanent tooth to erupt and greatly avoids the potential risk of mal alignment of teeth and thereby, the need for braces in later life.
  • Children should usually give up thumb sucking by the age of 4 years. If they continue to do so even after your repeated intervention, a dentist could help with some basic intra or extra oral devices that prevent it. This is essential because, a child might develop an ‘Open bite’ or other related mis alignment of teeth that would need braces at a later stage.
  • Using toothpastes with fluoride once a week for can help not only with preventing dental caries, but also slows or reverses the progression of existing caries. Only a pea sized amount of paste is required for brushing and the child should be taught how to spit out tooth paste from the moth after brushing.

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