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Toddlers Dental Hygiene

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A recent survey carried out by the Irish Dental Association found that nearly half of infants under five years in some parts of Ireland have decayed teeth. With this in mind, today we are looking at toddler oral hygiene. We'll be speaking about everything from when to bring your child to the dentist to how they should be brushing their teeth!

Siobhan Boyle - Dentist:

When should a child first go the dentist?
The recommendation of the various dental associations would be when the child is one year old or within six months of eruption of their 1st tooth. This is mainly to give the dentist an opportunity to advise the parent on the oral hygiene regimens and the diet which may help to avoid dental problems in the future.

In practice I would hope to see a child by the time he or she is 24-30months when all his primary dentition would be in place. I would commonly have discussed the dietary and hygiene issues with the expectant or new born parent at their appointment.

Have you tips on introducing kids to the idea of going to a dentist?
. Often parents feel they can gently introduce toddlers to the idea of dentistry by bringing them along with them for their own appointment. Children do not like watching their parents undergoing any form of dental treatment especially if any noisy equipment is employed so the main tip is don't bring them!
. Parents should discuss dental visits in a positive way. Never use negative words such as "Jab" "The nice dentist won't hurt you"  "you are so brave" etc.
. The first appointment should be short and treatment free, allowing the child time to enjoy the chair etc.
. If there are other siblings, all going together often helps as long as the visit is short.
. Leave all explanations of treatments and procedure to the dentist.

How should kids be brushing their teeth?! Are there any special types of brushes?
. Initially when the first teeth erupt a damp cotton bud is often useful in cleaning.
. Later introduce character toothbrushes. These must be small and soft and changed often both for function and to keep the child excited and interested in brushing.
. Get the morning and evening routine going early so it is second nature. Leave the tooth brushes somewhere convenient like the kitchen sink so the parent can watch or do while attending to the other chores of the day.
. Let the child see the parent doing his/her teeth. They will always try to copy what dad does.
. Toothpaste should be placed on the brush by the parent, a pea size is sufficient. Treat it like a medecine, keep it out of reach.

How many hits of sugar should our kids have each day?
Sugar causes decay. It is the frequency not the quantity that causes the problem. The ingestion of sugar causes the formation of acid around the tooth by the bacteria in the plaque. The acid causes the tooth to dissolve. If this keeps happening a hole develops and we call this a cavity. Given enough time between sugar hits, the saliva washes away the acid and allows the tooth to re-harden. With this in mind, dentists recommend sugar free snacks in between meals keeping sugary foods to meal times as much as possible. So decay will commence if there are regularly more than 4-6 sugar hits a day.

What are the dangers of giving kids more sugar than they need, what kinds of food would have hidden sugars?
. Check the label. Any 'ose' is sugar ie glucose / fructose etc.
. The stickier the food, the harder to remove/ the longer on the tooth, the longer the acid attach, the greater the likelihood of decay.
. There are a lot of foods we feel are healthy ie freshly squeezed orange juice. citric acid with natural sugars. Fine if once a day but very bad if multiple "sluggs" from the fridge.
. Tomato ketchup / beans / certain yoghurts are full of sugar. Grapes are full of sugar and cause dental decay if grazed on continuously all day.

Safe snacks
. Toast and butter (no Jam)
. Crisps-tayto /king /  hula-hoops / plain popcorn
. Cheese
. A lot of crackers
. NB check the food labels

Do soothers ruin teeth?

The pros
. They help to pacify, satisfy and often aid sucking. They nurse sore teething gums and it is easier to remove a soother than a thumb.

The cons
. They may affect the position of the teeth leading to misalignment and "open bite". This can in turn affect the formation of words and on occasion, result in lisps developing.
. It is widely held that as long as the soother is dispensed with prior to the development of the secondary dentition that these changes revert to normal.
. Soothers frequently are dipped in substances such as honey to give extra comfort. This can significantly contribute to the development of decay.

Bottles when filled with any liquid other than water and used in bed can cause what is commonly known as "nursing bottle syndrome" where all the child's baby teeth are decayed at a very early age and often result in the need for said child to have all teeth removed under general anesthetic.

Early development of decay can cause the child a lot of pain and discomfort physically and mentally. The pain of decayed teeth or their resultant early loss can lead to malnourishment as teeth are required to chew food.

Remember a treat does not always have to be a sweet!