As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. So, give your baby’s teeth the best possible chance and follow these tips for preventing dental problems:
- Visit the dentist
Take babies for a dental check-up during their first year. This gives your dentist a chance to spot any potential problems and advise you about how to protect your child’s teeth. Familiarising babies with their dental practice will also help to prevent any anxiety about future vists.
- Start brushing
Dentists recommend that you start cleaning babies’ teeth with an infant toothbrush twice daily as soon as their first tooth begins to emerge. Starting early gets babies accustomed to brushing, thereby avoiding problems later on. Check fluoride levels when choosing an infant toothpaste; under-threes need low-fluoride toothpaste with 1000ppm of fluoride. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to show you how best to brush your baby's teeth.
- Bedtime brushing
Take particular care when cleaning teeth at bedtime. Saliva production decreases at night so its rinsing action is reduced and harmful bacteria in the mouth can settle more easily upon teeth.
- Daytime drinks
Squashes, flavoured milk and juice drinks should never be given to babies. If your baby is bottle-fed, only give him/her formulated baby milk or water. Water is always the best option when babies need extra fluids in addition to their milk feeds.
- Night-time drinks
Never put a baby to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. The natural bacteria in your baby's mouth reacts with both the lactose within milk and the fructose within fruit juice to form acids that can damage tooth enamel. Drinking from a bottle increases the likelihood of decay since it lets the liquid ‘pool’
- Visit the dentist
It can be difficult to achieve good oral hygiene in someone with Down’s syndrome. What is it that can make cleaning so difficult and is there any way to help prevent dental disease?
Problems associated with Down’s syndrome
Children born with Down’s syndrome, DS, have an extra piece of DNA that causes various effects all over the body. However, there are some specific effects which can make cleaning teeth much more difficult.
Those with DS may have smaller mouths or larger tongues – meaning that it is physically difficult to clean teeth and to reach all areas of the mouth.
- DS can cause tooth abnormalities which may result in misshapen teeth and overcrowding. Both of these complications can make cleaning more difficult.
- Scientists are still in debate as to whether DS causes an elevated or reduced risk of cavity formation and if so why (a,b). However they do agree that people with DS have an increased risk of gum disease, periodontal disease, because of an impaired immune system (c).
- Finally, DS also causes behavioural changes so children may not be cooperative with teeth cleaning.
How can you help?
Behavioural modifications can have a profound impact on oral hygiene in those with DS:
- Twice daily cleaning is an absolute must. Skipping a clean is likely to have a worse effect on oral hygiene in people with DS than otherwise.
- See a dentist regularly. Dentists can provide a professional clean as well as treat problems before they progress.
- Have a brushing routine e.g. at the same time or in the same place so children know what to expect.
- Remember to praise children after a good clean.
- Diet modification, sugary sweets and drinks are bad for teeth full stop but are even worse considering the aforementioned problems associated