Preventing dental caries in children and adolescents
Tooth decay, also known as dental caries is a chronic disease faced by children. Children as young as 3 -4 years of age can suffer from dental decay if care is not taken by their parents in maintaining their oral health. Tooth decay is of particular concern in young children as it disrupts their life in several different ways. Toothache can be very painful for the child and can disrupt the child’s sleeping and eating habits. It is also distressing as the pain can prevent the child from enjoying with their friends, family and siblings as they should. Treatment of tooth decay in children is also challenging as it often requires consultation with a secondary health care specialist who can monitor the sedative or anaesthesia given to the child. Children with dental problems also have to face other issues and their dental problems may hamper the child from developing his or her self esteem.
What’s good to know is that with little care, parents can ensure that their child does not suffer from dental issues, particularly dental decay. Schools can also encourage students to take care of their oral hygiene and oral health education messages can be broadcasted on media for children as well as adolescents to help identify and control the common risk factors. Here are some important tips that will help improve oral health in children:
- Use of a flouride toothpaste twice a day should be encouraged, particularly before bed time and once during the day.
- Children under the age of 7 years should be made to use only a small pea size amount of toothpaste as they have a higher risk of ingesting it. Parents should supervise when their child is brushing their teeth and should tell the child to spit out toothpaste and rinse after brushing.
- Parents and carers should encourage healthy eating habits in children who are at a greater risk of developing dental caries. These healthy eating habits should be in line with national dietary guidelines.
- Intake of sugar-containing foods and drinks should be limited and their consumption should be confined to meal times only.
- Sugar-containing foods and drinks can be substituted with other sugar substitutes, but they should also be consumed in moderation.
- When available, sugar free medicines should be used.
- Children should be taken to the dentist regularly for their dental assessment.
- Parents with children who use a baby bottle should never put sugar, sweet drinks and other juices into the bottle, not even fruit juice.
- Children should never be allowed to sleep or take a nap with a baby bottle or feeder cup.
Childhood and adolescence is not just the only time when an individual is at an increased risk of developing dental caries. The risk status of an individual changes with time, therefore it is important to take care of oral health at all times and have a caries risk assessment done on a regular basis.
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