We, pediatric dentists, continue to emphasize/ overemphasize the importance of early prevention strategies to avoid cavities in toddlers and children. Dental caries or cavities are primarily a result of a breakdown of the tooth enamel. This breakdown is the result of bacteria on teeth that dissolve foods and produce acid that destroys tooth enamel and leads to tooth decay.
Although dental caries is largely preventable, they remain the most common chronic disease of children. Tooth decay is bacterial infection and infants are not born with the bacteria that cause decay. Most children acquire these bacteria from their mothers and other caregivers before their third birthday. Parents and caregivers can potentially spread the bacteria as they share food, utensils and kiss their babies.
If you are an expectant mother with gum disease, recent studies suggest that your baby is seven times more likely to be underweight. It’s the inflammation from the gum disease coupled with the hormones from pregnancy that puts mothers at more risk.
While, gum disease can be difficult during pregnancy, tooth decay is not easy to cope with for newborns and infants. It is also the most unmet health need among children and is mainly owed to lack to oral hygiene maintenance awareness for the little ones.
Remember, a tooth plus sugar in any form equals decay. It actually takes around just 20 mins after you eat for a decay to start. We can co-relate when child is nursing on mothers’ milk and doses with some milk residue on teeth. Lactic acid, which is produced when bacteria in plaque eats the sugar is the actual culprit. The acid lowers the pH level in the oral cavity and dissolves minerals from enamel. Frequent snacking is like adding fuel on a fire. Children naturally cannot inculcate oral hygiene habits on their own and thus parents need to be the ones making sure healthy habits start at home. Stick to as basic as water rinsing and rinse after eating to keep children’s teeth clean.
Also, to remember, an unhealthy mouth affects other parts of the body and cavities causing germs can be passed to our children, so we should all begin by taking care of our own mouths first and passing on good oral hygiene habits, and not germs to our children. Its high time and schools being presently shut, now is a good time to make this resolution for better oral health practices all year long.