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Here's how to care for your baby's teeth

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/dental%20body.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Dr Aisha Mohamed, Consultant Dentist demonstrates on proper brushing of teeth for chilren.</em></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">How well do you know how to care of your baby&#39;s teeth? Truth is most parents assume things will just fall into place when it comes to children&#39;s teeth. However, there&#39;s a lot a parent can do to care for their child&#39;s oral health and Dr Aisha Mohamed, Consultant Dentist with special interest in paediatric dentistry at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi answers questions most parents have regarding dental care for their children.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Are baby teeth important?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Most parents often think that baby teeth fall out so they are less important and do not need the same level of care and attention as adult teeth, however this is far from the truth.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Baby teeth allow children to eat, help with speech development, guide the adult teeth into the correct position and of course make us smile so they are very important. Unfortunately, every day we see children suffering from dental related diseases, they are in pain and this affects their nutrition, sleep, behaviour and performance at school.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What diseases affect my baby&#39;s teeth?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Dental caries is the most common disease affecting children, worldwide it is estimated 520 million children suffer from tooth decay in their baby teeth. This poses a major burden of disease to families and health care systems.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What is dental caries?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Dental caries is a bacteria mediated breakdown of tooth structure caused by poor cleaning and high sugar diet. This results in holes on the teeth which if not treated progress to the nerve and became very painful and can get infected.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How can I prevent dental caries?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There are three main ways to prevent tooth caries:</span></p><ol style="list-style-type: decimal;"><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Brush twice daily especially before bedtime with an appropriate amount of fluoride toothpaste. Help children brush their teeth until they are 7-8 years old.</span></li><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Reduce the frequency of high sugar foods and drinks consumption during the day, limit treats like candy and chocolates to once a week and opt for healthier snack alternatives with no added sugar.</span></li><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Visit the dentist regularly so that disease can be recognized early.</span></li></ol><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">At what age can my child start seeing a dentist?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">We encourage dental examination by the age of one year or when the first tooth erupts, whichever comes first. It&#39;s important to establish a &#39;dental home&#39; for the child, a place where they are familiar. This is our opportunity to create a good foundation for long term oral health.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Is water safe to drink?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Water is the safest drink to prevent dental caries. However, parents should be aware of the fluoride content in water used for drinking and cooking. Sources like boreholes have high levels of fluoride which can adversely affect the development of teeth, resulting in a condition called fluorosis where teeth appear brown and mottled. Safe water fluoride level is below 0.7mg/litre.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What can I do if my child is teething?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Massaging the gums with a clean finger or use chilled cloth dipped in water or breastmilk or chilled teeth rings or toys. Avoid teething gels especially under the age of 2 years old. If symptoms are severe, over the counter sugar free pain relief medication can be used but if symptoms persist seek medical advice.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What should I do when I see swellings in my baby&#39;s gums?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There is a widespread traditional practice referred to as Infant Oral Mutilation (IOM) which involves extraction of developing unerupted baby teeth owing to corresponding swellings seen in the gums mistaken for worms that cause diarrhoea and fever. The non-sterile conditions involved gives rise to extremely high risk of septiceamia, tetanus and transmission of blood borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Teething, weaning and children discovering by putting objects in their mouths usually coincide. However, there is no evidence linking diarrhoae and fever to teething. So please be aware of this practice and if there are any concerns with regard to the child&#39;s wellbeing, seek medical advice. The effects of this practice can be fatal and early loss of baby teeth will have major effects on the alignment of teeth.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What if my child&#39;s teeth are not straight?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Seeing a dentist regularly also enables close monitoring of the child&#39;s dental growth and development which is very important. If teeth are malaligned this may need to be corrected with orthodontic treatment (braces) and the dentist can advise on when this should be done and how.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What can be done if my child has dental caries?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Depending on the severity of the disease we would usually recommend a restoration (filling), root canal treatment or extraction. There are many minimally invasive procedures we can do now which are less painful for children but only if the disease is recognized early, so avoid postponing care until the child is in pain.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What should I do if my child falls and injures their teeth?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Dental trauma is common in children, and effects can be long lasting so it is important to see a dentist for an assessment and treatment as soon as possible. The injury where immediate action is needed is when a child loses an adult tooth completely (avulsion). In this case, find the tooth, handle it with the crown only, briefly rinse with water if dirty, place the tooth back in its position, stabilise with a cloth and immediately see a dentist. If it cannot be re implanted put it in a container of milk or saliva and see the dentist.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What are the main points to remember?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Let&#39;s make oral health a priority, brush teeth effectively with a fluoride toothpaste, avoid sugary foods and drinks and regularly see a dentist.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>This article was first published in Business Daily Newspaper on Friday March 18, 2022</em></strong></p>

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