Did you know that the recently celebrated World Oral Health Day is celebrated every 20th March? The date was chosen to reflect that seniors must have a total of 20 natural teeth at the end of their life to be considered healthy. Children should possess 20 baby teeth. Healthy adults must have a total of 32 teeth and 0 cavities (holes). Expressed on a numerical basis, this can be translated as 3/20 hence March 20. Makes sense, right?
When it comes to feeding kids, a simple “No, I don’t like” or a forceful cry can deter their guardians from feeding them. Children these days refuse balanced and healthy food and are inclined towards over-processed foods and sugary snacks at very odd times of the day. One dental condition they are predisposed to be “Early childhood caries.”
By the age of 3 years, a child should have all their 20 baby teeth/primary teeth. This helps them to incise and munch on food without finding any difficulty. Once they start to complain to their guardian about feeling pain in the teeth, then it’s time to have it checked. Early childhood caries, also known as baby bottle syndrome, is a form of rampant caries found in very young children who routinely use nursing bottles when going to sleep or who have experienced prolonged at-will breastfeeding.
The risk factors for early childhood caries include the use of sugar-sweetened beverages in a nursing bottle, baby falling asleep whilst feeding, and oral hygiene not at the optimal level at the time of eruption of the first tooth. The predisposing factors are the pacifiers that are dipped or filled with a sweet agent such as honey, prolonged at-will breastfeeding, a nursing bottle that contains sweetened milk.
The teeth that are usually affected are the primary upper front teeth and the primary posterior teeth. As the baby falls asleep, pools of sweet liquid substances/sweetened milk collect around the teeth, and bacteria in their mouth feed on the sugars this leading to a resultant production of acids. These acids then weaken the outer protective layer of the teeth and develop cavities(holes) within them over a period of time. When nothing is done about it, the cavities become deeper and get into the innermost layer of the tooth and this causes pain when the children attempt to bite on food or affect their sleep at night. These holes may appear as dark brown in color and the crown of the teeth may be destroyed all the way to the gum line level and in very bad instances, the child may develop an abscess(boil) around the teeth.
Prevention is always the key to a healthy smile. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry(AAPD), a child should go to the dentist by age 1 or within 6 months after the first tooth erupts. On the first visit, the dentist is able to do a full mouth examination of the erupted tooth(teeth), the jaw, the bite, the gums, and oral tissues to check for growth and development as well as tooth decay or gum disease. Early dental visits can prevent trouble because the dentist is able to determine the child’s risk of tooth decay from history and examination. The first dental visit also gives exposure to the child which builds comfort. Thirdly, the dentist is able to reinforce good oral habits for the child.
One of the home remedies to prevent early childhood caries is an intake of balanced food. Sources of refined sugars in the child’s diet should be controlled as often as possible and replaced with balanced diets which include leafy green vegetables which are rich in minerals and vitamins. Foodstuffs such as fruits and vegetables, less fatty meat, and grains should be eaten more. Foodstuffs with fats, oils, sugar, salt should be used in very little amounts and their frequency must also be monitored. Regular toothbrushing at least twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste is important as well as regular flossing at least once daily.
AUTHOR: DR MICHAEL AWUA-MENSAH