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Ask An Expert – Children’s Oral Health

Children’s health is a primary concern for parents all over the world. Good oral health, including healthy teeth and gums, is an important part of your child’s general well-being. The importance of baby teeth has been underrated for years. Parents cannot be faulted for thinking that adult teeth are going to replace baby teeth. However, because of this, cavities in children are often ignored, sometimes leading to tooth loss and problems later on.

Keep reading to find out more about your child’s oral health.

Why are baby teeth important?

Baby teeth are needed for chewing, speaking and appearance. They also preserve space in the jaw for adult teeth. If baby teeth are removed ahead of their natural time, the space for the eruption of adult teeth will be lost, leading to problems (crowding in particular) later in life. Therefore, baby teeth need to be well looked after.

At what age should children make their first visit to the dentist?

Early exams help to reduce preventable tooth decay (commonly known as ‘nursing bottle decay’) in children. Ideally, pediatric dentists like to see the child when the first tooth comes through (around the first birthday). An early visit gives the dentist the opportunity to provide advice on prevention and cleanliness. It also provides the parents/caregivers the opportunity to discuss feeding practices, teething problems and oral habits.

Why is fluoride important?

The use of fluoride for the prevention of cavities has been well recognized. The fluoride that is used in tap water in most developed countries has been shown to reduce children’s cavities by up to 50 percent. In China, the use of purified, distilled water devoid of fluoride is common. After a thorough evaluation of fluoride content in a child’s diet, a dentist can recommend professional fluoride application.

What are sealants?

Sealants are a protective material that is placed on the tooth to prevent it from getting cavities. The most common teeth that are sealed are first adult molars that arrive at 6-7years of age. These teeth have grooves on them that cannot be easily cleaned with the toothbrush. The sealant covers these grooves so that food does not get caught in them.

What are space maintainers?

Space maintainers are used to preserve the space if a baby tooth has been removed. There are two kinds of space maintainers: the first is fixed (cemented to teeth and can only be taken out by the dentist) and the second is removable (taken out daily and cleaned). The type of space maintainer depends upon the age of the child and the tooth that has been removed or lost.

How can you prepare your child for his/her first dental visit?

For a dentist there is little point in saving the tooth and losing the child forever! There are helpful websites and children’s books that explain dental visits and procedures. Treat the visit as a routine part of healthcare. If you are anxious, then the less you say the better. You cannot hide your anxiety from a child (they have special radars for these things!).

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