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FAQ's

Habits that affect your child's teeth

Almost all children engage in non-nutritive sucking. Most parents worry about the pacifiers which they themselves introduced to the child but now have become a cause for concern.

My son is 15 month, sucks his thumb virtually all day. Would it affect his teeth? I can already see them protruding? Hope I am dreaming?
Thumb sucking is seen very commonly in children and is often a problem of concern. Many normal children suck their thumbs for short periods during infancy and early childhood. As a general rule sucking habits during milk teeth years will have little or no long-term effect. There might be slight displacement of teeth in a 3-4 year old thumb sucker but if sucking stops at this stage the teeth are restored to original positions with normal pressure of cheeks and lips. But if the habit continues beyond the time when the permanent teeth (incisors) begin to erupt i.e. 6 – 7 years, it can have affect on your child’s teeth.

What are the effects of thumb sucking?
Effects of thumb sucking depend on the frequency and duration of thumb sucking. When a child places his thumb/finger between the teeth he is pressing the lower teeth inward and putting an outward pressure on upper teeth. The possible effects, thus, are:
  • Flaring out of upper incisors – BUCK TEETH
  • Spacing between upper incisors
  • Pushing in of lower incisors
  • Narrow upper jaw
With great difficulty my son gave up thumb sucking. What other habits can be detrimental for his teeth?
Another common problem mothers face is grinding/gnashing of teeth - BRUXISM. It usually occurs at night but if carried out for long period of time can cause wearing (abrasion) of both milk and permanent teeth. If habit continues into adulthood – severe gum problems, sensitivity of teeth and sometime joint disturbances (pain) of lower jaw.

How to tackle, if child gets into this habit?
Once again we have to seek the underlying cause, mostly seen in nervous children. If there is anything interfering when the child is chewing, this habit is triggered particularly if the child is suffering from nervous tension. Bite guards are constructed especially for such children (during night) so those teeth are not further damaged.

How does tongue thrust affect the child?
  1. Protrusion of upper incisors
  2. Open Bite
  3. Lisping
How to manage a child with this habit?
  1. Practice swallowing at least 20 times before a meal. Take glass of water, place tip of tongue behind upper incisors and then swallow.
  2. After tongue and muscle are trained reminder appliances given to position tongue correctly.

Loops or metal cribs do not let the tongue come forward during swallowing. Defined as placement of tongue between incisors during swallowing.

My daughter breathes through mouth. I am worried this may become permanent. Please guide!
Many children breathe through an open mouth, especially at night. This is mainly caused by nasal blockage. Causes:
  • Tonsils
  • Adenoid
  • Chronic allergies
  • Nasal infections
  • Deviated Nasal Septum

Open mouth breathing forces changes in position of head, jaw, and tongue.

  • Increased face height
  • open bite
  • protrusion of incisors
  • narrow upper jaw

Contact your family physician and tackle the proper cause BABY BOTTLE DECAY caused by Bottle Feeding and Breast Feeding - Prolonged and frequent bottle-feeding and at will breast-feeding are responsible for causing decay called BBD.

How does this happen?
Give it a thought. You put a feeding bottle in a baby’s mouth to put him to sleep, baby falls asleep but the milk containing sugar gets collected around his teeth upper incisors. This sweetened milk provides an excellent nutrition for the BACTERIA in the mouth, which converts the sugar into harmful acids. These harsh acids cause decay typically in upper incisors teeth called "NURSING BOTTLE DECAY" (see pic).
  1. Does breast feeding also cause this?
  2. Since mother's milk contains lactose – a form of sugar, if allowed to stagnate around teeth, then yes!!

  3. How can I avoid this?
    Right from birth, hold the infant while feeding.
  • If Infant or child falls asleep while feeding, he should be burped and then placed in bed.
  • Start brushing teeth as soon as they erupt.
  • Discontinue bottle feeding as soon as child can drink from a cup (12- 15 mths)
  • Early dental checkup.
How do I inculcate right brushing habits in my 1 yr old son? Do I have to take any special precautions while brushing his teeth?
Has it ever occurred to you that there is a right way of brushing and a wrong way of brushing. Wrong brushing habits can affect your child's teeth and more so the gums. Brushing is just not scrubbing the teeth hard. It includes choosing the right brush, the right toothpaste and finally the correct method for doing it.

The Correct Toothbrush:
Today you can choose from a variety of toothbrushes available for the infant as well as a teenager.
Brushes come in different sizes for children too:

  1. Choose a good quality, reliable brand tooth brush – do not compromise. Keep all the freebies for yourself and not use for your child
  2. Head of a brush should be small enough to adapt to child’s mouth
  3. Bristles of brush should be of soft nylon
  4. Using an angulated brush will help you reach the most posterior tooth.

The Correct Toothpaste:
Most parents ask "which is the best toothpaste for the child". This confusion arises from the numerous advertisements seen on the television.

The Correct Brushing Technique:
The objective of brushing is to remove plaque, food particles and massage the gums without causing any trauma.

Guidelines:
Children often hate brushing and tend to be lazy. Maybe they do not realize the importance or on the other hand some love the taste of toothpaste and often there is less paste on the teeth and more in the stomach.

  1. Parents should brush the child’s teeth when small and as the child grows help the child with it till he can do it on his own.

Parents have to keep a check or as we say monitor whether the child is doing it properly.

  1. All surfaces of all teeth should be brushed thoroughly
  • Select few teeth (3 – 4) at a time
  • Bristles of brush at an angle (45O) towards gums. For chewing surfaces bristles held upright to the tooth.
  • Brush moved back and forth with short strokes in gentle scrubbing motion.
  • Move on to the next 3 –4 teeth
  • Brush all surfaces inner as well as outer plus the chewing surfaces of back teeth (molars and premolars)
  • Brush for a minimum time of 3 minutes.
  1. Rinse the brush thoroughly with water and keep in an open area after use.
  • Children should brush after every meal preferably or at least twice a day.
  1. Discard a brush after bristles are frayed. (3 months) You unnecessarily exert more pressure on gums trying to clean with such a brush.

Use minimum toothpaste (pea size) till child can expectorate effectively.

Harmful effects of wrong Brushing:

  1. Very hard bristles or too much force applied
  • wearing off the enamel
  • injury to the gums
  1. Too big head
  • Injury to gums
  1. Ineffective removal of dental plaque and food particles leading to decay and gum diseases.
When should you start brushing?
It is recommended that parents begin cleaning infant's mouth by the time the 1st tooth erupts.

The Infant

  • Wrap a damp cloth or gauze around your index finger and wipe the teeth and gums once a day.
  • As more teeth erupt you can begin using a small soft toothbrush
  • At this early age toothpaste not recommended since child will not be able to rinse mouth and may swallow toothpaste.

Wrong Diet

  • Consuming too many sweets, chocolates, candies, cola, potato chips are not good for your child’s teeth. In addition to types of food you eat, when and how you eat can also effect dental health.

Some DO’S and DON’TS

  • Limit frequency of snacking
  • Beware of foods that you keep in your mouth for long time, because they give plaque more time to produce acids, eg chewing gums.
  • Limit foods that you suck – candies, mints, cough lozenges.
  • Similarly, avoid sticky food like caramel, containing chocolates (eclairs) chikki, popcorn.

  • If you eat meals rich in sugar or starch, try to eat them with your meals, rather than in between meals.

More saliva produced during meals. This saliva helps neutralize acid production. Also it clears food from mouth.

  • EAT FOODS THAT HAVE CALCIUM, VITAMINS AND MINERALS

Milk is very important for growing child. Also include more of crunchy vegetables and fruits like carrots and apples. Not only are these foods healthy, but also help in cleaning teeth. Your diet should be well balanced.Snacks should include: salads, fruits, bean sprouts rather than burgers, pizzas, chips, biscuits.Refined foods contain sugar and starch.Biting an apple is healthy for your teeth, whereas biting a burger is not. Your child MUST learn proper brushing in pre-school age only, as after entering school the war of doing everything in record time will start and even for you brushing will take a back seat to catching the school bus.