Numerous rites of passage mark childhood years; the first birthday, the first wobbly steps, first mumbled words and the first day of school. Parents usually remember when the first tooth appeared and kids get hugely excited when the first milk tooth comes out because, as per the folklore, it is supposed to bring a visit from the 'tooth fairy'. Unless it comes out at the hands of a dental surgeon!
As parents, we ensure that our kids receive all vaccinations and are taken to the doctor - and that too to the best - at the first hint of illness. However, making time for professional dental visit, which is so critical, is often forgotten or neglected. We only take our child to the dentist when the tooth aches; otherwise we feel if the child is brushing twice, he/she is immune to all dental diseases.
However, you'll be surprised to know that a child's visit to the dentist must start at the age of 12 months. The milk teeth are critical for chewing and speaking. And they also play the very important role of holding space in the jaws for the permanent teeth. When a milk tooth is lost prematurely, the teeth next to the empty space shift into the space creating problems that will result in the need for braces later on. A space maintainer - a custom-made product that is placed in the empty space to hold the space until the permanent tooth is ready to come in, can easily prevent the shifting of the adjacent teeth into the empty space. But, wouldn't it be better to prevent the premature loss of the milk tooth in the first place?
Clean your child's teeth until he or she is ready to do this independently - usually around the age of eight years. Children should brush for two minutes, preferably after every meal. Brushing after dinner is an absolute must. Visits to the dentist should occur every six months. The dentist will address childhood habits that can be harmful, such as thumb sucking, which can eventually cause teeth to jut out.
A dentist can administer fluoride treatment as an added measure of protection or apply a sealant to teeth that are more vulnerable to decay. In short, these measures - the regular cleaning of the teeth by a dentist, fluoride treatments and sealants - are less expensive and far easier for your child to tolerate than cavity fillings, root canal treatment and extractions.
It is important to note that between the ages of 7 and 11 years, children may have flared teeth with midline spacing, which is the 'ugly duckling' stage, which is transitional and passes with the eruption of permanent canine. However, if your child has protruding or irregular teeth, it's time to consider braces at an early stage. Braces are known as the dental solution that straightens crooked or poorly aligned teeth.
Crooked teeth can affect your child's speech and can make him/her acutely self-conscious. Severely misaligned teeth can make chewing difficult, which can lead to malnutrition. And crooked teeth also affect your child's appearance at a time when appearances are very important. The resulting blow to a child's confidence can affect his academic performance and social life.
Braces have changed dramatically over past few years. Coloured braces are available today (coloured latex elastic rings that hold the orthodontic wire in place), as are braces with barely noticeable ceramic modules. Invisible braces that are transparent are the latest option. If perfectly aligned teeth and new-found confidence can be acheived by correcting your kid's protruding teeth, then it is worth an effort to get the treatment started early and it is our duty as a parent to give the best to our child by starting treatment early.
- Brush at least twice daily and after meals.
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums and brush in a back-and-forth motion, making sure to reach every surface of each tooth. Brush the tongue as well!
- Brush longer, not harder! Brush for at least two minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace your toothbrush every three months.
- Choose the right toothpaste; your dentist can help identify the right one for you.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash to remove the bacteria that cause dental plaque.
- Visit your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning.
- Take your child to the dentist regularly from the age of 12 months.