Prevention and Interception; these two are corner stones of Pediatric Dentistry. We all know what prevention is; Interception is to stop a bad outcome from developing completely, with respect to dentistry it refers to measures your Pediatric dentist can suggest to intercept habits like thumb sucking and mouth breathing which can have a detrimental effect on how a child’s jaws grows and therefore by extension affect the child’s facial appearance.
There have been several instances in Pediatric Dentistry where a child’s general health improves after we treat dental caries. This is because the oral cavity and tooth health is necessary for the child to be able to eat nutritious food and promote good overall growth. There has proven research backing it.
Since teeth and jaws are important for general health should we not strive to prevent any diseases that can affect them? So let’s see how Pediatric Dentist together with parents and caregivers can achieve this goal.
Prevention starts much before the child is born in the form of Anticipatory guidance. By definition anticipatory guidance is a proactive developmentally based counselling technique that focuses on the needs of a child at each stage of life. Anticipatory guidance is given by the health care provider to assist parents or guardians in the understanding of the expected growth and development of their children.
- When Does Prevention with respect to oral health and dental caries start?
We as Pediatric dentists get asked very frequently, when should I start brushing for my child? How should I take care of his / her teeth? I usually ask parents to remember 3 things; Start brushing when you see the first tooth appear in the child’s mouth, visit a Pediatric dentist around the time the child completes one year of age and delay the introduction of external sugars/ added sugars to child’s food. This way prevention starts early.
Another key point is brushing/ cleaning teeth after the infant’s last feed. If not give water at the end of last feed so it clears the milk from oral cavity.
- Are Dental Caries transmissible? Are Dental caries preventable?
The good news is Dental caries are completely preventable provided all dental care measures are taken. Dental caries are caused bacteria and these bacteria are found in the plaque that is present on the teeth. Babies acquire these bacteria from mother’s mouth due to close interaction , kissing or using the same spoon. Once child acquires these bacteria they grow and proliferate on the teeth. Therefore, it is important to brush these bacteria out every day. Oral cavity has more than 1000 kinds of bacteria; Caries or cavity causing bacteria are Streptococcus mutans among others. Thus, dental caries is transmissible disease.
To prevent transmission of bacteria, use different set of utensils for child, if other sibling has dental caries get appropriate dental treatment and avoid using same items for them .
Dental caries are a multifactorial disease, that is, cavities develop due to many different factors. Here is a Venn diagram to illustrate what all is required to cause caries.
The Venn diagram emphasises that all four factors must be present and acting together for caries to occur and to progress (Oxford University Press). The Diagram also shows what can be done to reduce caries.
- Diet – How important is diet to oral health?
More the sugars in food, more the caries. Sugary and processed foods are also not beneficial to our general health. The food we eat and which sticks to our teeth is digested by microbes and an acid is produced as a by-product. This acid is responsible for damage to teeth and causes caries. So if can reduce bacteria, retained food in mouth and eat foods that are low in sugars we can avoid caries to a large extent.
Frequency of meals – every time we eat a meal pH or acid levels in mouth drop. This acidity increase leads to caries, so reduce the frequency of snacking.
- Is it possible to Prevent crooked teeth?
Yes there are ways you as parents can ensure that your child has straight teeth. Jaws grow well when we chew well and use our oral muscles well. Modern man eats a lot of processed foods which are soft and do not require much masticatory effort.
Eat raw fruits and vegetables, this promotes chewing and ensures good growth of jaws.
Avoid bottle feeding- Bottle feeding develops improper swallowing patterns in children and this can lead to crooked teeth. Use a Sippy cup or glass and spoon instead.
In conclusion, Pediatric Dentistry deals with the child’s overall growth and healthy being and not just their teeth. Visit a Pediatric Dentist for preventive care and ensure a healthy smile for your child.
Dr. Isha Angne
MDS, PGCert. Pediatric Dentistry (UCL, Eastman Dental Institute).