One of the most common dental problems among children is dental caries (tooth decay). Not surprising given their love for chocolates, toffees and other sweetmeats. However, whether it’s milk teeth or permanent teeth, children need to be educated on the importance of caring for their teeth. .

Surrounded by children at an interactive programme organised by Colgate-Palmolive (India), V. Rangarajan, Prosthodontist and Implantologist, said: “Dental caries is a very common dental problem in children due to the consumption of a lot of sugary substances (the stickier the chocolate, the greater the damage). Sugar combines with bacteria in the mouth, and produces an acid that removes the enamel or de-mineralises the enamel, the strongest portion of the tooth. Once the enamel gets damaged or de-mineralised, it is prone to more attack, and the whole surface starts giving away, and decay starts.”

Ranjani Iyer, senior consultant, Apollo Hospitals, says: “Dental caries is also caused by delayed weaning from the feeding bottle, causing feeding bottle caries and improper brushing or no night brushing.”

Vital for growth

Underscoring the importance of protecting even milk teeth or primary teeth from caries, E. Manikandan, paediatric and special needs dentist, Rajan Dental Institute, says: “If a child has to grow well he / she has to eat well, for which a good set of teeth is needed. Research shows that children with severe early childhood caries have a risk of developing iron deficiency, which has a permanent effect on growth and development. Also, children with cavities in their primary teeth are most likely to have cavities in their permanent teeth.”

Says Dr. Rangarajan: “Milk teeth need to be around for a particular period of time for the permanent to erupt in the proper place. Milk teeth falling off too early (due to widespread decay, necessitating removal of teeth), affects permanent teeth erupting in the proper place. Milk teeth are also important for speech, chewing, swallowing, etc.”

Cautioning that untreated milk teeth caries may lead to tooth extraction, Dr. Ranjani points out that “premature loss of milk teeth can cause the permanent successors to erupt in an irregular manner.”

How do mothers keep children from eating too many toffees and chocolates, the culprits behind tooth decay?

Says Dr. Manikandan: “It is practically impossible to totally prevent children from eating toffees and chocolates, but you can advice them to not eat them too frequently, and have them before the meal rather than afterwards.”

Dr. Ranjani explains: “When chocolates are given just before a meal, chewing and increased salivary flow during the meal will cleanse the teeth of any sticky chocolate remnants.”

“Children mast understand that they can eat toffees and chocolates, but maintain their teeth. By age two, they should learn to brush morning and night or someone should do it for them. A little toothpaste will do to keep teeth clean, just as wiping with damp cotton or a piece of cloth will,” says Dr. Rangarajan.

KEEP CARIES AT BAY

Parents must follow good dental hygiene themselves

Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, carrots, cucumbers etc; and food rich in calcium and minerals (milk and milk products)

Rinse mouth after every meal and snack; brush twice daily

Bi-annual dental checkups are a must; change toothbrush every three months