Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle, Toddler

Toddler Teeth

  • Dr Gerald B Kaplan
  • Category Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle, Toddler

Teething is a painful experience not only for the young child but certainly for the parents who have to endure watching the agony and helping to provide relief. One feel so helpless trying to relieve their pain and having to endure those awful sleepless nights.

They are many housewives remedies to see one through the “agony”. Some mothers suggest rubbing brandy or whiskey over the sore gums (just enough to not make the young child into an alcoholic!).

Another alternative teething ring or a hard rusk to bite on. The good thing is that the stage passes by in due course.

Like everything in child-rearing, everything depends on the parent from feeding, bathing, changing diapers, breaking wind and so on. And so it is with teeth as well. They are precious and need looking after. Baby teeth are not to be taken casually. They fulfil a vital function in growth and development of the child. Besides being used for eating and chewing and learning how to speak, they also are fundamentally important in maintaining space for the permanent teeth to erupt.

Baby teeth are also prone to decay. It is very important to avoid having the child go to sleep with a milk bottle. This causes rampant decay known as “baby bottle syndrome”.

Prevention is better than cure. It is the parents’ responsibility to look after these baby teeth from the moment they appear in the mouth. In the early stages of tooth eruption, they can be effectively cleaned by wiping them with a gauze swab. As more teeth come into the mouth with the growth of the child, they can then be introduced to a toothbrush. Monkey see monkey do.  If the child watches the parents enjoy brushing their teeth, they will want to do the same. Toothbrushing can really be fun. Make it a game and sing some songs. Cultivate an appreciation for the preciousness of beautiful teeth from an early age.

The are many children’s toothbrushes on the market and children’s toothpaste which are pleasantly flavoured. There is no particular preference in their choice. Rather it is the conscientiousness and motivation of the parent to ensure that the teeth are properly looked after from the very beginning.

Dummy and thumb sucking may well affect the milk teeth by creating a widened space between the front teeth. I recall one of my teachers saying that it is inadvisable to stop a child from dummy or thumb sucking prematurely or forcibly. They are doing so because of an emotional need and will stop in due course. It is much easier to straighten teeth than to straighten the psyche.

All too often one hears from adult patients how they were traumatised in the younger years by the dental treatment that they receive then. They remember a painful injection; a very difficult extraction; being forced into the dental chair against their will; unsympathetic dentist and parent. All of these scenarios are part of crisis management which could have been avoided had the child been taken to dentist timelessly before any problem had occurred.

Dental caries is easily detectable and should be treated promptly. More importantly though, it can be prevented and avoided with a good home care by a responsible parent. It is believed that dental decay is an infection passed from parent to child. Therefore it is inadvisable to have the parent suck on the dummy before passing it on to the child.

The first visit to the dentist should be at roundabout age 2 to 3 at which time all that is needed is the experience of the fun to ride up and down on the dental chair. It is disastrous for the parents to show fear of the dentist because that fear is contagious. The whole experience should be one of fun and excitement. Regular dental visits should become routine and hopefully the child will be able to bounce out of the chair and exclaim  “look, no cavities”.

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