Save your kid from tooth decay
Even babies - who cannot eat anything solid yet - can possibly suffer from tooth decay.
Sugar-rich diets and a poor lifestyle have been known to be the leading factors for a high rate of dental cavities and tooth decay in children of all ages - and this has also been the case in the UAE.
Dr Mohammad Naji, dentistry expert in the Middle East and executive director of Liberty Medical Group, said this is because of the lack of awareness and the failure to maintain good oral hygiene and a healthy diet.
Even babies - who cannot eat anything solid yet - can possibly suffer from tooth decay, Dr Naji said, referring to the condition known as the 'nursing bottle syndrome'.
"In one of the cases, parents complained that their baby's teeth were turning black and had cavities. It was found that the child was fed on bottled milk all night so he could remain quiet and sleep. This meant that his teeth were in constant contact with sugary milk, which led to the development of cavities in all his teeth. Later, his teeth had to be root-canaled and rehabilitated until new teeth came out."
Dr Naji said everyone must start good oral hygiene practices and a nutritious diet at a young age.
"Parents must brush their teeth with their children to show them how to do it and make it a habit and an enjoyable experience."
Children must also visit a dentist as soon as their first tooth comes out at the age of six to eight months, he said, quoting the standard prescribed by the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry.
"This first visit to the dentist must be done just to see if the tooth is coming out well and is healthy. Also, don't let them get scared of the dentist, make the visit sound like a fun experience," Dr Naji added.
Most dental concerns among children, however, are of "non-serious nature" and can be solved and prevented through timely intervention, according to another dentist, Dr Sylvia Magdy Mounir of Aster Clinic at Arabian Ranches.
She added that cavities and tooth decay are usually observed in kids because their tooth enamel is not yet as strong as an adult's enamel.
"The enamel of a child's tooth is 50 per cent thinner than the enamel of an adult tooth, so if decay starts, it causes more damage, more quickly. If left unchecked, it can then turn into a cavity. Regular dentist visits can help stop it from turning into a bigger problem."
Another disease that Dr Mounir said was prevalent among kids in the region was gum disease or gingivitis.
"Gums hold on to the teeth and protect them. Healthy gums ensure healthy teeth. Plaque is normally formed on a daily basis, so if it is not cleaned, it gets calcified. This calcified layer leads to gum inflammation - swelling or bleeding of gums, bone loss and, finally, tooth loss."
Dentists agreed that kids are most prone to dental issues from two years onwards, once they get most of their milk teeth and they still need the help of their parents to brush them properly.
Dr Sanoop George, specialist endodontist at RAK Hospital, said the best way to fight tooth decay is to teach kids to brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly. Their toothpaste must also contain fluoride to fully protect their teeth.
He also pointed out that most dental issues emerge from poor dietary habits.
"We need to avoid giving children food that contains a lot of sugar as much as possible. But since it's impossible to completely avoid sugary food, parents should ensure that children rinse their mouths or brush their teeth after eating anything sweet," Dr George said.
Parents play a crucial role in helping children develop an oral hygiene routine, he added. A kid must, in fact, be supervised while brushing for the first 12 years, until motor and mental functions allow the child to routinely perform the proper technique alone.
"Routine dental visits, typically every six months, are also important to catch any disease," Dr George said.