Looking after your grandchild's teeth

Posted on: 09 January 2019 by 50connect editorial

We may be long in the tooth but our knowledge of oral and tooth care leaves a lot to be desired. Here are some tips for helping your grandchildren.

teach grandchildren oral healthcare

Brushing alone isn't enough, it's diet that counts

Good nutrition is essential for oral and dental health in children. Good eating habits and food preferences are established early in childhood. Poor nutrition can eventually lead to poor health, obesity, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.

Dietary factors that cause tooth decay

  1. Most children crave sugary and other junk food that they see in TV commercials. For this reason parents should try to control what their children eat as much as possible.
  2. Dietary habits often contribute to the development of dental caries in children. Food which remains on the teeth provides a substrate for the bacteria which thrive in dental plaque. These cariogenic (cavity causing) bacteria produce acids which remove essential minerals from the teeth. This destructive process is called demineralization.
  3. Unfortunately, processed sugar is not a good nutrient. In fact, the only sugar which is healthy is in the form of complex carbohydrates (bread, vegetables).
  4. Sticky, sweet food is very bad for teeth because it maintains high sugar levels in the mouth, and is very likely to cause tooth decay.
  5. A young child who frequently uses a bottle or sipper cup containing juice or other sweetened liquid has an increased risk of developing early childhood caries. Children should only have water in their bottle or beaker between meals!

drinking cup

Dental caries process

  1. Dental caries is a transmissible and infectious bacterial disease. A child’s diet plays a central role in the development of dental caries. The more sugar a child consumes, and the more frequently he/she consumes it, the greater the risk of developing dental caries (cavities).
  2. Sucrose is the most cariogenic form of sugar because it can form a long molecule called glucan. This “glue” permits bacteria to adhere to tooth enamel, and keeps bacterial acid close to the surface of the tooth.
  3. Dental caries is caused by a combination of factors: cariogenic (cavity-causing) bacteria, food (especially refined sugar), susceptible teeth, and frequency of exposure to sugar (especially sucrose).
  4. The caries process is simple: Cariogenic bacteria (mutans Streptococci) attach to the teeth and thrive in dental plaque. The bacteria use sugar to produce acid. When there is enough bacterial acid coating the tooth surface, demineralization (loss of mineral) of the enamel occurs.

Mutans Streptococci bacteria are usually transferred from the mother’s mouth to the infant’s mouth during feeding – especially spoon feeding. The earlier a child’s mouth is colonized (inoculated) with a mother’s oral bacteria the greater the risk for the development of caries in the child.

By Dr Ravel, a paediatric dentist in North Carolina, USA .

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