Traditionally, the number of parents bringing their children for a regular dental check up is nix, naught and nothing, at least in our developing world. The bell rings only when the teeth are rotten, ugly and unsalvageable or when the child complains of pain or a big swelling appears on their cheeks or neck. As far as common belief goes, dental check up should not be necessary until a child is a few years old and more cooperative. But in reality, a child, few years old is a bit too late for the first dental visit. At this age, the dental problems like dental decay and other conditions may have already set in. So, professional dental care should be started when the patient is an infant. We will come to the preventive part soon.
Firstly, let us delve into the importance of the milk/deciduous/temporary/primary teeth. Not only does a nice smile help build a child’s self-esteem and social connectivity, but a child’s teeth and mouth are important for many other reasons. Healthy baby teeth are important for chewing and eating, so a child can get the nutrition that he or she needs to grow. Teeth are also important for learning to speak properly. In addition, baby teeth guide the development of the jaws, and the craniofacial complex or the whole facial skeleton as a whole. They also help the permanent teeth come into their proper position. That means that early extraction of any milk teeth might lead to malocclusion or misaligned teeth in the future incurring a lot of money to fix them.
After the importance of the milk teeth let us move into the harsh reality that these teeth are prone to decay. And in a child’s mouth the chances are even more with their inability to properly maintain oral hygiene. And that is where we come in, i.e. the parents with our knowledge, dexterity and unparalleled love. It is not the child’s fault that they have decay but the parents’, who lack the proper knowledge and preventive measures that leads to this problem. So, it is advisable that the parents take some time out to acquire this knowledge which is rife across the internet or at a local service provider. This blog will try to introduce the general concepts of decay and its prevention.
Any tooth decay in children under the age of 6 is called Early Childhood Caries (ECC for short). In the past, tooth decay in infants and toddlers was referred to as baby bottle tooth decay, nursing decay, bottle mouth, etc. This was because it is usually seen in children who continuously suck on a bottle, especially at night. Infants and toddlers who develop ECC often experience pain and discomfort that results in disturbed eating and sleeping patterns, which in turn will lead to impaired nutrition. Not only does this result in impaired growth and development but also low self esteem in the child. Tooth decay in children can cause extreme pain, swelling, and fever that can develop with little or no warning. Sometimes dental infections may spread to areas such as the eye or the throat where they can be life-threatening.
This simple negligence will bring forth a lot of distress not only to the sufferer, your child, but also to you in the form of time, money and the agonizing truth of your child being in pain. So, if you take my advice please go through the basics of oral health care for your child. It might take you an hour but it will definitely save you a lot of hours.
(Dr. Poojan Shrestha is a dentist at Patan Hospital)