Oral Care And Hygiene
Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth clean and healthy by brushing and flossing to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. The purpose of oral hygiene is to prevent the buildup of plaque, the sticky film of bacteria and food that forms on the teeth.
Oral care and hygiene are as important for the new borne and the small child (with no or few teeth) as it is for the adults (with 32 teeth). The primary risk that arise from the lack of proper oral hygiene practices include the major oral health problems like plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth decay. It is reported that dental caries are perhaps the most prevalent of oral or tooth diseases in children. More than 40 percent of all children have cavities by the time they reach kindergarten (3-5 years). It is, therefore, urgent and important that all parents learn the importance of early oral care and that they teach their children proper oral hygiene.
Good oral hygiene should start at the very beginning of a child's life. Even before his or her first teeth emerge, certain factors can affect their future appearance and oral health. Pregnant and nursing mothers should be careful about using medications, as some, like the antibiotic tetracycline, can cause tooth discoloration for their babies.
Even before infants have teeth, they have special oral hygiene needs about which all parents should be aware. These include making certain the child receives adequate fluoride and guarding against baby bottle decay.
A little fluoride is beneficial for the teeth health. This mineral helps prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel and increasing its resistance to acids and harmful bacteria. Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride and bottled water suppliers can also tell the fluoride content of their water.
Fluoride is beneficial for babies even before their teeth erupt. This makes the tooth enamel stronger as the teeth are developing. If the water supply does not contain enough fluoride or if bottled water is used for drinking and cooking, the doctor or dentist should be informed who may prescribe fluoride supplements for the baby.
• Baby Bottle Decay
Baby bottle decay is caused by recurring exposure over time to sugary liquids which include milk, formula food and fruit juices. This exposure can lead to the formation of cavities, especially in the upper and lower front teeth. For this reason, the following preventive measures should be given to the baby.
• Make sure that the baby doesn’t go off to sleep with a bottle of milk, juice or any sugary liquids, as this will lead to baby bottle decay. An alternative is to give the child a bottle filled with water or a pacifier recommended by the dentist.
• Even breast-feeding children are at risk. They should have their gums and teeth wiped with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad following each feeding. This helps remove the plaque.
• The babies should not be allowed to breast feed for a long time.
• After 6 months of the appearance of the first tooth, visit the baby to the dentist who will examine the teeth and detect any improper development.
• Do not use too much toothpaste on your baby’s teeth, while brushing them.
• For cleaning your baby’s teeth, select a time when he/she is in a happy and cooperative mood. Baby’s cooperation will ensure good results.
Baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, are just as important as permanent teeth. They help the child to bite and chew food, help them speak correctly, save space for the child's permanent teeth, and help guide the permanent teeth into place. That is why it is so important to initiate a program of good oral hygiene for children early on.
Once a baby has developed 4 teeth in a row, either on top or on the bottom, parents should begin using toothbrush two times a day. The toothbrush should have the bristles which are soft, polished, and made of nylon. Only a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste should be administered that is made especially for children. If the child does not like the flavor of the toothpaste, water can be used instead. Parents should also continue to wipe the toothless gum areas with a washcloth or gauze.
As the child gets older, parents should demonstrate proper brushing techniques to their children. These include brushing the inside surface of each tooth first, where plaque tends to accumulate most. Then they should clean the outer surfaces of each tooth, angling the brush along the outer gum line. Next, they should brush the chewing surface of each tooth, then using the tip of the brush, clean behind each front tooth. They should use a gentle, back and forth motion when brushing and finish by brushing the tongue.
Children should be encouraged to try brushing their teeth themselves. However, parents should remain in charge of keeping children's teeth clean until they are between six to eight years old as children do not have the coordination to perform brushing well until this time. Parents should pay attention to the molars as these have tiny grooves crevices where the food particles can hide in.
Flossing once a day helps to prevent gum disease by removing food particles and plaque at and below the gum line, as well as between teeth. Parents do not need to initiate flossing until the child has teeth that touch each other, which normally occurs in the molar areas first. Parents should continue to floss their child's teeth until they are six or seven years old. They should continue to monitor the child's techniques and consistency thereafter. Proper flossing technique is essential in removing as much plaque as possible in a safe manner.
The following precautions should be taken when providing the young ones with an oral and dental care:
1. Young children should use only a small amount of fluoridated toothpastes since using too much fluoride can be toxic to the young life.
2. Brushing and flossing should never be performed too vigorously as this may irritate and damage the oral tissues.
3. Parents should change their child’s toothbrush 3 to 4 times in a year.
4. They should also change the toothbrush after every illness to avoid bacteria and germs.