Childhood happiness is diluted time and again by the TOOTHACHE that actually begins from a few overlooked unhealthy habits, progresses through years of neglect and finally torments with pain and infection
CAUSES OF TOOTH DECAY IN CHILDREN
What we’ve always known:
Sweet and Sticky Food + Bacteria = Acid
Acid + Tooth = Decay
How parents/ guardians interpret the cause of tooth decay (as observed in our dental settings)
THE SUPER CULPRIT: Chocolates and sweets.
The parents who bring their children with dental decay almost always begin with this line; “Baby, tell the doctor how did you get tooth decay? She eats too many chocolates.” And I have this urge to ask; “Is it? What were you doing, while she was eating the chocolates and getting decay?” Amazing that a child so small could get all the chocolates, eat it and get tooth decay and the parents wait all this time only to react in the presence of the doctor after symptoms have started to show. It’s sad but a true scenario in our country where we blame everyone or thing, overlooking our role in the situation. Chocolates are decay causing but are harmless if eaten carefully followed by good oral hygiene practices. Chocolates or sweets are not the only culprits, sticky food and even lots of fruit juices or colas equally harm the teeth.
THE SUPPORTING CULPRIT:
“Tell, baby how many times do you brush your teeth? Doctor only once that too for a few seconds”. Another culprit found. If a baby does not want to take a bath, do we still avoid it or ask the child to do it herself? Then why blame the child for improper brushing? Children do not have adequate skills to carry on certain activities with perfection. They need to be supervised and guided.
HOW WE INTERPRET THE SCENARIO:
So the CULPRIT AWARD goes to all
PARENTS/GUARDIANS who do not supervise the above and blame their kids.
HOW BAD IS TOOTH DECAY?
TOOTH DECAY snatches away a child’s happiness:
- Silent constant tears roll down a child’s eye from pain
- Nutrition goes out of the window and growth hampered due to improper eating and chewing
- Loss of sleep and increase irritability
- Weight loss and decrease in immunity
- School attendance shows many absent days
- Lack of confidence and psychological stress due to missing teeth
- At times complications leading to hospital stay
TREATING THE CHILD:
Few procedures that may be advised
- Tooth filling
- Root treatment ( yes even for milk teeth)
- In extreme situation – Tooth removal
WHAT PARENTS ASK OR QUESTION:
- “Can the treatment be completed in a day or two as we do not have time?”
Answer: If it took years to get here, it will take at least some time to get it done. A child needs psychological management in addition to dental treatment. So we need time to complete the treatment as you needed time to get here.
- “How will we manage the time, she’ll miss school, why don’t you open on Saturdays or at this time (time of their choice)?”
Answer: you have to manage the time; if you do not get it treated immediately there’ll be more hours of school or office missed. There are dental clinics and hospitals that open at different times even on Saturdays. So a little homework will help you find a doctor that suits your time. Time management should not be an excuse for avoiding dental treatment.
- “Is the filling or root treatment required, this tooth is going to fall off, can’t you just remove it?”
Answer: No we are not taught to remove things that can be treated or healed. If the tooth requires extraction we want to be the decision makers. Please do not force us to remove healthy teeth even if it is a milk tooth. Milk teeth have many functions like our adult teeth.
- “Can we wait for a month or two?”
Answer: Wish we could give a definite answer for that .The way the tooth reacts to tooth is different for each child. In some children it may remain silent for years while in some it may play havoc overnight.
- Some patients report back after few months with complains. “There’s swelling, tooth is still aching and tooth has broken. Why?”
Answer: A look at the record sheet carefully gives us the answer- Treatment not completed, did not come for follow up.
Any treatment needs to be completed and the cessation of pain or discomfort does not mean the treatment has been completed. If you do not come for the subsequent visits the treatment that was done on the previous visits will not show the needed result and your child will show symptoms some time or the other.
- “What toothpaste should my child use?”
Answer: Any tooth paste that contains appropriate fluoride for your child’s age group. The way the child brushes is more important- the number of times, the duration and supervision. Mouth rinsing is as important as brushing.
- “My child’s teeth were removed due to decay a few months back and the new teeth have still not erupted?”
Answer: All the teeth have different time of development and eruption. In a normal situation, when a new tooth erupts, it pushes the milk tooth whose root gets dissolved and starts shaking. Here the new teeth will erupt immediately after the loss of the milk tooth. However if a child’s tooth was removed prematurely before the actual time of tooth loss due to tooth decay then the tooth will not erupt immediately as the new replacing teeth will still not have developed adequately.
- “What is the best treatment for tooth decay?”
Answer: Prevention is the best treatment. Preventing tooth decay from occurring by supervised eating and oral hygiene habits. Preventing further complications of tooth decay by prompt visit and follow up at the dentist’s clinic or hospital.
Keep smiling and monitoring your child’s oral health for a happier childhood
Dr. Parajeeta Dikshit is an Assistant Professor, Dept of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry (Pediatric Dentistry) at Kantipur Dental College teaching hospital and research center Basundhara , Kathmandu and Consultant Pediatric Dentist at Smile Square Dental Care Center, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu.