Preventing Tooth Decay
By Dr. H. Mehta - Dentist

A child's inherited physical and mental traits govern a child's behaviour pattern in any situation. As he develops, the conditioning he receives through contact with his environment also influences his behaviour. Therefore, judicious parent counseling done primarily at home and secondarily in the dental clinic can tackle fear (one of the primary emotions of a child) towards dental treatment. 

As we all know, "an ounce of precaution is worth a pound of cure". So emphasis should be given to preventive procedures recognized as effective in reducing the crippling effects of dental neglect that are often traced to childhood. Dental treatment for the child should begin early, in the following ways:

  1. Early age dental checkups: The first dental check-up should start immediately after the first tooth has erupted in the mouth. This enables the dentist to diagnose dental problems early and treat them effectively, e.g. a) Dental cavities, b) Congenital anomalies-most common being Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate, c) Malpositions of teeth requiring orthodontic intervention.
  2. Oral hygiene methods and maintenance: An advisable brushing method is the 'Circular Scrubbing' method done with a small head, soft, angulated brush with a toothpaste containing fluoride (for children above the age of 3 yrs.). Brushing twice a day and within 10 minutes after meals effectively removes plaque and controls plaque and decay formation. For infants a soft cloth/cotton can be used instead.
  3. Periodic recall visits- It is important to visit the dentist regularly, at least once in three months.

Prevention Treatment Modalities

  1. Fluoride Treatment: A treatment procedure utilizing fluoride in the form of gels, rinses, mouthwashes, and pastes can be done in the dental clinic and at home under strict dental supervision to prevent dental decay.
  2. Pit and Fissure sealants: Restorative materials filled in the deep pits and grooves of the teeth prevent the onset of dental decay.
  3. Space Maintainers: Space maintainers in the form of bands, loops, partial dentures prevent space loss. This is an important criterion for guiding the permanent tooth to erupt in place after the loss of milk teeth. Milk teeth are very important as they maintain the space of the permanent teeth.

Diet and Nutritional Concern:

  1. Maintain a low fat, moderate carbohydrate and high fibre rich diet.
  2. Avoid snacking in between meals.
  3. Limit your teeth exposure sugar to not more than 5-7 times a day (any meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner or a glass of sweet milk are all considered to be exposure to sugar).
  1. Avoid radiographic exposures (X-rays) for the pregnant mother and child below 2 years to avoid disruption in the calcification procedures of teeth.
  2. Avoid intake of tetracycline and other drugs during pregnancy (especially in the 1st and 3rd trimester) and for the infants for the first couple of years of life to avoid staining and mottling of teeth.
  3. Avoid consumption of foods and water containing excessive levels of fluoride (especially in endemic areas where water fluoride level is in excess. e.g. Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, etc.)
  4. Avoid sweet foods before going to sleep at night. Specially don't allow the child to sleep with the milk bottle in the mouth as this leads to 'Nursing Bottle Caries' or tooth decay.
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