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Brush every day: Train children to care for their teeth. Photo: Reuters
Brush every day: Train children to care for their teeth. Photo: Reuters

DR. G. DHANDAPANI

Tips on how to care for your teeth right from the beginning.

TEETH are an important aspect of a person's face. So, it is very important to take care of our teeth. This starts from the pre-birth stage i.e. from the time of pregnancy. The expectant mother should eat a nutritious and balanced diet to prevent anomalies like cleft lip and palate in the foetus. Some drugs like Tetracycline, Phenytoin and thalidomide can lead to structural malformation and staining of the teeth after birth. Congenital malformation or abnormalities in the teeth can be seen in a child if the mother is suffering from diseases like syphilis or other skin diseases.

Two types

The development of dentition takes place after birth. This is divided into two types - first the deciduous or primary or milk teeth erupt. Second the permanent teeth erupt after the milk teeth are shed.A newborn has soft tissue mass (gum pads) on its jaws. For proper dentition later, gum pads should be cared for. Clean the gum pads with a sponge, cotton swab or a clean finger after feeding. The first teeth erupt around six months but parents worry that the child will have to undergo the ordeal of fever, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections etc. But, this is a myth - teething does not cause fever or diarrhoea. The irritation of gums may cause restlessness and constant rubbing of the gums either with fingers or any object. This leads to the loss of appetite and diarrhoea.After this, the child must be trained to brush its teeth. Brushing teeth twice a day properly can prevent calculus deposits and tooth decay. A child's feeding habits play an important role in development of the proper arrangement of teeth. Prolonged use of feeding bottle can lead to misalignment of teeth as well as "Rampant caries or nursing bottle caries". Certain habits like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting can lead to serious misalignment of teeth. Others like breathing through the mouth can lead to anomalies of teeth as well as the face.During adolescence, youngsters tend to eat more junk food, which comprise sticky food and can cause severe tooth decay. So not only is brushing one's teeth regularly and properly important but it is also necessary to have them cleaned by a dentist.

Changes with age

As one grows, ageing causes degenerative changes. This leads to loosening of gums, spacing between teeth and bleeding gums. The only way of controlling these painful symptoms is to maintain the proper cleanliness and timely check-up of the teeth by a professional.The most common cause of toothache is pulpitis - inflammation of the pulp of the tooth. The short, sharp pains usually occur in response to hot, cold or sweet stimuli.If left untreated, the pulp becomes infected, leading to an abscess. The pain from an abscess tends to be in response to pressure on the tooth, and is throbbing and continuous. The best way to prevent toothache is to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Prevention

Try to avoid cavities by reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks.Brush your teeth twice daily using a toothpaste containing fluoride. To get the most benefit from the fluoride, do not rinse the toothpaste away after brushing.Clean between your teeth using dental floss, woodsticks or an inter-dental brush according to your dentist's advice. Visit your dentist regularly. This way, problems can be diagnosed early and your treatment will be more straightforward.Pulpitis is often reversible and, once the problem has been identified and treated (usually with a filling), the toothache will disappear. An abscess requires extraction of the tooth or a more complicated filling (root canal treatment) if the tooth is to be saved.The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Orthodontics, Sree Balaji College, Chennai.

Causes of toothache

  • Dental decay.
  • A fracture of the tooth.
  • A cracked tooth
  • Irritation of the pulp following
  • treatment.
  • An exposed tooth root. This can occur if the gums recede or are damaged by over-vigorous brushing.
  • Some problems can cause symptoms similar to toothache, even though the teeth themselves may be free of disease:
  • abscess in the gum
  • Ulceration of gums
  • Inflammation of the gum around a tooth which is in the process of growing/breaking through
  • Inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) can be mistaken for toothache in the upper jaw.
  • Sometimes the nerves around the teeth send a wrong message. So you may feel pain in a particular tooth, but the problem may be in a different tooth - even one in the opposite jaw.Other conditions may also cause pain in the mouth - always seek advice from your dentist if you have tootache.Helpful tips
  • Avoid hot, cold or sweet stimuli. This will help prevent pain from pulpitis.
  • If the pain is prolonged and severe, painkillers may provide some relief. Remember even if the pain goes away, without treatment it will eventually become worse.
  • If the pain is caused by exposed root surfaces, toothpaste for sensitive teeth, either used normally or rubbed onto the exposed root, may be helpful.
  • A warm saltwater mouthwash (a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water) used to thoroughly rinse the painful area may help if the problem is caused by a tooth erupting.
  • A saltwater mouthwash can also prevent infection if you have mouth ulcers.
  • Home remedy: Ice is excellent in numbing nerve endings. Try to compress the affected area with ice. But if it aggravates the pain, discontinue it.
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