Moms and dads may claim to have plenty of information about the oral care of their children but according to recent surveys their actual behaviour has proved otherwise. A national study conducted and released by the American academy of paediatric dentistry and oral B laboratories revealed that parents aren't following the expert's advice regarding their children's dental care. They seem to be unaware of the specific ages and stages in a child's oral care development. Some studies reveal that parents think that dental care issues aren't necessarily the ones they must be most concerned about.
The study also revealed that the children aren't getting to the dentist as early as they should. The average age of kids visiting the dentist for the first time was above four years. However the recommended age for a child to be brought to the dentist for the first time is six months to one year. This is the perfect time as it coincides with the eruption of the first baby tooth. The parents can gain much information about their child's oral health and initiate preventive health behaviour, early in the development process. The dentist can educate the parents and explain the basic guidelines for oral care of infants. This includes instructions about how to clean the baby's teeth and gum pads with a clean gauze wrapped around the mother's finger.
As the other teeth begin to erupt in the mouth, a soft baby brush should be used with no more than pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste. The amount of toothpaste dispensed is more critical than it may appear so. If the child learns to dispense more than this recommended amount, the danger of swallowing high amounts of fluoride-containing toothpaste is increased. This may lead to fluorosis, a condition characterised by presence of white flecks and spots on the developing teeth.
About 70% of parents surveyed allow their children aged 0-6 years to brush without supervision. A good rule of thumb is that if your child can completely dress himself including tying their shoes without any assistance, only then they should be allowed to brush on their own.
The technique for brushing for children varies from the ideal technique recommended for adults for the simple reason that it should be easy to follow and match the level of manual dexterity of the child. The scrub technique is most popularly followed for small kids. It involves moving the toothbrush in small circular scrubbing motion to clean all the accessible tooth surfaces. In the early stages the child may just move the brush here and there without actually cleaning the teeth.
However it should be remembered that at this stage what is more important than brushing is developing the habit and slowly making the child realise the significance of cleaning the teeth. Habits and attitudes formed at an early age in this way will help your child to adopt a healthy routine, which will last a lifetime.
The parents should teach this technique to brush the teeth at least twice daily, the best option being before going to bed and in the morning after breakfast. If the consumption of sugary and cariogenic food is high, the child needs to brush more often to wash away such foodstuff which have high potential to produce cavity in teeth. For school going children, the school authorities should make provision for the children to brush their teeth after snacks. This is also crucial because at the age of six years the permanent first molar erupts in the mouth, which is at high risk of dental caries.
Though a child has been taken to the dentist ideally when the first tooth appears, but the first dental visit in its true sense is at the age of two years. The earlier visits were focussed on advice to parents on dental care at home. This visit is very significant for the child to erase any unknown fear of dentist or a dental clinic, which may be present in the child's mind but had not surfaced during the earlier visit before he turned two years.
The main focus in this visit is on recognising the problem areas like decay in the early stages so that preventive measures can be implemented in the future. Bringing a child for the first visit, before there is an emergency will help you and the dentist to make it a pleasant experience which will build a strong foundation for the child. There is no doubt that he will appreciate this when he grows up with a cavity free dentition.
Dr. Prerana Mahot