Please read this information if your child needs a dental procedure in the theater of a day clinic or hospital, or your child has just been for this procedure.
This is also important information to know to prevent your child from needing a dental procedure in a clinic or hospital.
It is important to understand why your child needed the treatment and how you can prevent your child from developing tooth problems in the future.
The most common reason that children develop tooth decay, is because the child’s teeth are frequently exposed to sugar. The sugar can come from sugar-containing fluid, usually kept in a baby bottle, but sippy cups and drinking straws can also cause this problem.
The fluids that can cause a problem are:
- Baby formula
- Expressed breastmilk
- Cold drinks
- Tea with sugar
- Milky drinks like Milo
The sugar in these drinks stay on the teeth and the bacteria that live in the mouth use this sugar to live inside plaque on the teeth. If the plaque is not removed from the teeth, the child will have caries (decay or holes in the teeth) that can affect the structure and strength as well as functioning of the tooth.
You will know if your baby has these caries if they have black mottling (stains) on the teeth and the teeth have visible holes.
The cavities or holes are painful, and the teeth cannot function as normal because they are weak. Most of these teeth will have to be extracted if they cannot be filled. Filling a child’s teeth or extracting their teeth can be very traumatic to the child so the best option is to do the fillings and extractions while in the theater of a clinic or hospital.
Children whose teeth are extracted at a very young age, can have other problems in the future while we wait for the adult teeth to grow.
If teeth are extracted too early, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth and damaged adult teeth. The chances that your child’s adult teeth will end up being crooked are very high, so they will then need braces that are costly.
What can you do to prevent this?
General instructions once you have adjusted to your dentures:
- Do not expose their teeth to a sugary substance for too long. This includes milk, sugar water, breast milk, baby formula, tea with sugar, juice, cold drinks as well as sweets and chocolates.
- Do not let your child eat a lot of sweets or drink a lot of juice, cold drinks or tea with sugar
- If your child eats sweets or drinks something with sugar, let them first rinse with water and then brush their teeth afterwards, even if it is in the middle of the day. This also applies to normal meals for older children – whenever teeth have been exposed to starches in food, like bread or potatoes, bacteria can feed on these starches and cause tooth decay
- Your child’s teeth need to be brushed TWICE a day: in the morning when they wake up and at night just before they get into bed. Nothing else should be eaten after brushing at night.
- You need to floss your child’s teeth to clean the spaces in between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach.
- Do not let your child go to bed or fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup that contains milk, sugar, chocolate milk or Milo, sweetened tea, juice or any cold drink.
- When your child drinks juice, make sure that they drink it from a normal cup or glass without a sippy-attachment and without a straw. The sippy cup and the straw puts the sugar directly onto the child’s teeth.
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean—don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
When should you start brushing your child’s teeth?
You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears in their mouth. This can be as early as 4 months! Always brush twice a day. You can use a soft toothbrush specially for babies, a soft cloth, cotton wool or gauze with some baby toothpaste.
Some toddlers do not like to have their teeth brushed, but it is your responsibility as parent to ensure that this job is done. Just like feeding your child, it is your job to keep your child clean and to keep their teeth healthy. Sometimes it will help to hold your child tight while you brush their teeth.
You can take your child to the dentist as soon as you see the first tooth, so that they can get to know the dentist as a friendly place.
Remember: if you start early, your child can have a lifetime of good oral health.
It's never too late to break bad habits. If your child drinks sweetened liquids from a bottle or sippy cup and/or sleeps with a bottle, break the habit now by gradually diluting the bottle contents with water over two to three weeks. Once that period is over, fill the bottle with water only.
Checklist to prevent tooth decay in children:
- Brush TWICE a day
- Floss whenever necessary
- No sweetened liquids in a sippy cup or with a straw
- Never let the child go to bed without brushing their teeth
If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact Quagga Dentist on 012 327 2309/10