Oral care for kids starts even before the child starts developing teeth. Having a proper oral care routine helps parents to prevent oral health issues, like decaying teeth, in kids. Instilling awareness about good oral hygiene also keeps children safe from terrifying dentist visits.
Here we have Dr. Garima Malhotra, aka @the_doctor_mum, to guide us on Kid's Oral Health. So, buckle up as this supermom talks about what is oral health, child dental care tips suitable for toddlers that can also double up as dental hygiene for preschoolers. This might just be the answer to the tedious task of teaching dental hygiene to preschoolers.
I am Dr. Garima Malhotra. I am an MDS Paedodontics by profession and I am here on a mission to educate moms about kids’ oral health.
I am also a Founder of Rafiki International.
So first and foremost is brushing twice daily.
Second, if a child is prone to dental caries, or he/she has dental cavities, then flossing is one thing that is very important for kids also. If kids start rinsing their mouth with water, after every meal, it will help in keeping their oral hygiene in a better place.
Yes, if kids are brushing nicely and are following other oral hygiene measures like rinsing the mouth after every meal, not taking too many frequent meals or sticky food, then brushing teeth can really help.
Encouraging them and becoming their own role model is very important. If you are brushing, make sure that your child sits with you, stands with you, and sees you brushing. Make it a daily routine, rather than making it a punishment.
Sometimes, parents make it a punishment like, ‘You have to brush’, ‘You have to do this.’ They make it very cumbersome and not a very nice experience for the children. So make it a pleasurable and enjoyable experience for children and do not force them to stick to it. I think they will learn it nicely and not take it as a burden. Then they will not become cranky or start throwing tantrums on being asked to stick to the dental care routine.
No, it doesn’t stop at brushing at all. It consists of a lot of things. The first and foremost thing I personally feel is that kids should start to rinse their mouth after every meal and stop taking frequent meals. Kids have a lot of frequent meals. After every half an hour we offer them something or the other to eat, like a biscuit or a fruit. These frequent meals are the main cause of dental caries. So I think if we try and combine all these measures together then surely it will be better for the child.
And brushing alone is not important. There are a lot of things. There are still a lot of patients that complain to me that they are brushing their teeth twice daily but still they have a lot of cavities. Just brushing is not enough. You have to stick with other measures also.
Just see that you are not bottle feeding the child. It is one of the most common things that lead to cavities in children. When you bottle-feed or breastfeed the child when they are asleep, the milk gets accumulated over the front teeth. That milk sticks to the teeth for a very long period of time. The production of saliva in our mouth is almost 0 at night. When saliva production is not happening, then the remnants of milk deposits do not get flushed out and stick to the teeth. This causes caries in children, called nursing bottle caries. This is one of the most common dental caries in kids, especially toddlers.
So brushing is not the only thing you need to follow. You need to follow a lot of other measures also to prevent cavities.
No, why use scare tactics to do it? When you can talk to them very politely, make them understand about brushing, make it a fun activity, not a punishable activity, tell them and show them that you are doing it daily. Then your child will also understand it. Involve them in the purchase of a toothbrush. That really helps in encouraging them. Let them choose which toothbrush they want to use.
Make it a pleasurable and enjoyable act. Make it a daily routine, not a punishable act.
The child’s health can be affected more in a psychological way, and in terms of their appetite. As I told you about the nursing bottle caries, I have treated many children with this problem. I have treated many children whose front teeth are gone.
To begin with, it affects the child's speech. At that time, the kids are just learning to talk. They are learning pronunciations at that time. And, if the front teeth aren’t there, they won’t be able to pronounce certain letters properly. So first, their speech gets affected. They won’t be able to pronounce words well that need the help of the tongue and teeth.
The second is the psychological, emotional effect. The front teeth are gone; the kids forget to smile because they feel shy to smile in front of others. They actually don’t feel like smiling. They absolutely feel that they will be bullied if they open their mouth. So that psychological and emotional impact is obviously there.
And the third major effect is the loss of appetite. Because the child’s front teeth are gone, sometimes caries progress such that the posterior teeth are also gone. Then the children lose their appetite. They stop eating. Sometimes it’s painful to eat and sometimes, they can’t chew properly.
So it is very important to keep all the measures in mind, not only for dental purposes but also for psychological purposes, and to keep them in a happy and healthy state.
Yes. Sticky foods are number one on my list. Sticky foods actually stick to the teeth for a long time, like gummies, éclairs toffee, etc. They keep on sticking and do not go away very easily. What happens then is when they are stuck, microorganisms come, and acid production happens. When this acid production happens, they start eroding the outer surface of our tooth called enamel, leading to cavities. So it is very important that we avoid sticky food items, the most important being the 5 stars chocolate that is full of éclairs and caramel that gets stuck to our teeth a lot. It is the same with the gummy vitamins that are trending these days.
The next is Colas. Colas are carbohydrate drinks that have bad acids. These acids erode our teeth a lot, causing dental caries.
The next thing that you should avoid is sugary and starchy items that have complex carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, etc. These foods produce a lot of sugar even afterwards, and that sugar stays in our mouth and causes dental caries.
Instead, you can shift to better options like giving your child better alternatives, like ice cream that actually does not stick to the teeth. So if you want to give something sugary to the child better give them an alternative rather than giving them all these things like gummies and caramels and all these things, as they cause more dental caries