Why Look After the Baby Teeth?
If the first teeth are allowed to decay they may be lost and as the first teeth keep the place for the developing permanent teeth, and because the gaps may close, the permanent teeth may be crowded out and there will be crooked teeth and the need for expensive and tedious orthodontic treatment. It might even mean the loss of some perfectly good second teeth because of the lack of room for them.
It is possible for an infected baby tooth to affect the developing permanent tooth beneath. So you must look after the child’s first teeth. If your child has unavoidably to lose a first tooth it is wise to discuss the fitting of a space retainer, often just a small metal bar, which keeps the space open for the second tooth to grow into when it’s ready.
The Child’s Food
When the child is weaned, what food should be offered? Chemist’s shops and supermarkets are full of jars of baby foods of all types, chicken and vegetable, banana and custard, etc. It is horrifying to note that almost all of these are loaded with sugar, or sweeteners. They may not be enough to do any harm to the teeth (although there probably is) but what does happen is that the child, because everything is sweet, develops a craving for sweet things. The answer is to buy a mincer and grind up fresh vegetables and small amounts of meat, sieve them and serve them to baby. It is possible for a child to grow up without developing a taste for sweet things, becasue it has never had any. But mothers can spoil everything by sweetening the baby’s bottle.
Avoid : cola drinks which are sugar-loaded; black currant syrup drinks; sugary breakfast foods, i.e. sugar-coated cereals and the like.
Children can be lazy and do not like to chew. That is why they prefer junk foods, fish fingers, baked beans, cakes, even hamburgers and chips—none of which requires much chewing. If parents encourage this attitude and do not give children food that needs chewing (like salads and hard vegetables) the teeth will deteriorate.
Finally if the child must have sweets it is better to have them all at once (at a mealtime) than spaced out through the day when the teeth will come under continuous attack.
When to Start Visits to the Dentist
The ideal starting age for visiting the dentist is about two-and-a-half to three years. The advantages of an early start are:
1. Very few small children (with sensible parents) will have been exposed to anxiety arising from tales of dental ‘horror’, especially from boasting or bloodthirsty schoolmates.
2. If the parent has been sensible about sweets and feeding-bottles there should be little or no decay. Hence very few small children will associate their own teeth with pain. The density may go on from this point maintaining a ‘no-pain’ approach for many years.
3. Attendance from pre-school age enhances the value of the dentist’s preventive methods. There has been no time to acquire bad habits. Thus, the child grows up with dentistry and accepts it as the natural part of existence.At the time of the first visit at two-and-a-half to three years the primary teeth are all erupted through the gums and research has shown that this is the period when fluoride, when applied to the teeth by the dentist or hygienist, is taken up by the enamel most readily.
The dentist checks the teeth very carefully and then he or his hygienist will start to paint fluorides on the teeth. This is called topical fluoride and takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to go round the mouth in perhaps two or three-minute sections. There is no pain and the child usually enjoys the experience. The frequency of application varies but, because the intervals are convenient to remember, parents should take the children in during school holidays, i.e. every four months. This has cut down the amount of dental repair work required on the teeth. There are now thirty-year-olds who have had topical fluoride since the age of two-and-a-half and have never had a filling. The cost of topical treatments has been repaid many times over by the saving on other work. The dentist can reduce the number of topical treatments after sixteen to seventeen years.
4. If there is tooth decay starting it can be spotted early and treated with the minimum of discomfort.