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Watch out for that tooth cavity

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With changing food habits, toothaches and cavities among kids are on a rise. Experts tell you how to protect your child’s teeth

Is your six-year-old complaining of a toothache even after monitoring his sweet intake? Well, it could be because of the other junk food that he/she must have been having. Tooth cavity among kids is more common than you think. According to a recent Indian survey conducted across five cities — with 220 mothers and 101 dentists as respondents — 88 per cent dentists agree that incidences of cavities are higher than before. Most of the respondents believe that children need higher level of oral care to cope with changing food habits.

Says consultant pediatric orthodontist Dr Reshma Shah, “Tooth decay is largely preventable, even though it remains one of the most common diseases of childhood — five times as common as asthma. As per research, 42 per cent of children between two and 11 years have had cavities in baby teeth while 21 per cent of those between six to 11 years have had cavities in permanent teeth.”

Common causes of cavities
Sugar candies and chocolates have long been blamed for causing cavities among kids, but according to the recent survey, 94 per cent dentists put the blame on modern foods like burgers, noodles, pizza, etc. Dental surgeon Dr Suresh Trasi says that poor oral hygiene and bad eating habits are the most common causes of tooth cavities.

Adds Dr Shah, “Whenever we eat or drink something that contains sugar or starch, the bacteria uses them to produce acids. These acids begin to eat away at the tooth’s hard outer surface (enamel). When a tooth is exposed to such acid frequently, the repeated cycles of acid attacks cause the enamel to lose minerals. A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay.”

Cavities can be hereditary
Well, it is not only food that can cause toothache to your kid. Says Dr Trasi, “Cavities can also be caused by hereditary factors.”

Studies prove that moms (rather than dads) typically infect their children before age. “It happens when you transfer your saliva into your child’s mouth. For instance, repeatedly eating from the same spoon as your baby or letting your toddler brush his teeth with your toothbrush. And if you’ve frequently had cavities yourself, you’re particularly likely to pass the germs along. It’s an old wives’ tale that ‘soft teeth’ run in families, but what’s really passed along in families are high levels of decay-causing bacteria,” says Dr Shah.

Oral hygiene is a must
All of us remember the golden rule, ‘Brush your teeth twice a day’. However, the way you brush your teeth is also important, something that most people go wrong with, believe experts. Says Dr Trasi, “You should place the toothbrush at 45 degree angle towards the gumline and use gentle, short strokes moving the brush back and forth against the teeth and gums. After eating or even drinking milk, one must gargle. Brush your teeth after every meal, though you may not necessarily use the toothpaste. Take your kid for a dentist visit at least once in six months.”

Moreover, only brushing and flossing isn’t enough. Adds Dr Shah, “Limit your child’s between-meal snacks and if need be, provide healthier options. This reduces the number of acid attacks on teeth and gives teeth a chance to repair themselves. Make sure your child doesn’t eat or drink anything with sugar in it after bedtime tooth brushing. Saliva flow decreases during sleep. Without enough saliva, teeth’s ability to repair themselves reduces. Adequate dietary calcium, phosphorous, vitamins A, D, and C help in healthy and strong enamel formation.”

– Sugary candies and sweets. “Whenever you eat sweets — in any meal or snack — brush your teeth well with fluoride toothpaste afterward,” says Dr Shah.
– Limit consumption of foods made up of starch and refined carbohydrates such as chips, bread, pasta or crackers.
– Aerated soft drinks not only contain a high amount of sugar, but also phosphorous and carbonation, which wear away the enamel on your teeth.

Things to Remember
– Inculcate a habit of brushing in your kid even when he/she is teething.
– Ensure you give your child a toothbrush with soft bristles.
– Limit acidic food and carbonated drinks.
– Inter dental cleaning with floss helps clear plaque and food particles in spaces between the teeth which are difficult to clean with regular brush.
– Never use a toothpick for your child.
– Replace your child’s toothbrush every three months.

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