Children’s teeth part one:
Why is it important to look after children’s teeth?
Parents will always want the best for their children and will naturally want their children to avoid some of the pitfalls they experienced when growing up. Even our most anxious patients encourage their children to keep up with regular visits and follow preventative advice. It is important to establish a good attitude to dental health from a young age so that your children continue to reap the associated benefits throughout the whole of their lives.
This blog is the first part of a series of three blogs that focus specifically on children’s teeth. We kick off the series by exploring why it is so important to look after teeth from an early age.
Establishing good habits
Studies show that the habits instilled into children at a young age are likely to be present in later adult life. So, if your children are in the habit of neglecting their teeth or they do not understand the importance of their teeth, then they are likely to carry on with this attitude later in life and hence experience more problems.
Baby teeth have less protection than adult teeth
Baby teeth are similar to adult teeth in that they have two main layers – enamel and dentine. The enamel is the really tough substance that protects the tooth, then you get the inside softer layer which is called dentine. The dentine is nowhere near as strong and as soon as decay reaches that layer, it spreads quickly. Enamel can be up to 2mm thick in an adult tooth, however due to the size difference between adult and baby teeth, the enamel is only about 0.5 – 1mm thick in baby teeth. Not only that, but as the dentine later is thinner too, the distance to the nerve (pulp) is a lot shorter as well. This means the bacteria advance to the nerve much quicker (as it is a shorter path) and as soon as they reach the nerve it has the ability to cause severe pain and infection. Therefore, baby teeth are more susceptible to decay and infection.
You might be surprised to hear that one of the most common reasons for a child to have an operation is because they have dental decay. This is bad news as we always worry about putting someone under general anaesthetic due to the inherent risks. This is especially significant as dental decay is almost wholly preventable. What is even more worrying is that due to a shift in diary habits and underfunded NHS dental services, the amount of operations has increased from 36,833 in 2012-13 to 42,911 in 2016-17. This is not an anomaly either, statistics from the NHS has shown this is increasing year on year since 2012.
Problems with eating
A child’s diet will change subconsciously, and they will struggle to tell you it is because of dental pain. This may lead to poorer growth and possible malnutrition. It also goes without saying that if a child is not eating well, this can have wider implications on sleep, schooling, and health.
A localised dental infection of a baby tooth can directly impact the succeeding permanent adult tooth. This can lead to weaker, discoloured, and cosmetic alterations in permanent teeth.
Early removal of teeth can also lead to imbalances in the mouth which leads to a shift in eruption positions of permanent teeth. This can lead to mal-aligned permanent teeth which will leave teeth looking unattractive along with other complications. This can affect a child’s confidence and wellbeing.
The wider impact on your life
Statistics from Public Heath England also show some worrying data. Research in North West hospitals show 26% of children had missed days from school because of dental issues. The average child took 3 days taken off school due to dental problems, 67% of parents reported their child had been in pain, 38% had sleepless nights due to dental pain and many parents has taken days off work in relation to their child needed dental care. Poor dental health not only affects children’s health, it also affects parent’s life too.
As we have seen, there are lots of hidden complications to poor dental health in children. The team at Gentle Dental Care have treated a lot of junior patients with preventable dental problems and there seems to be a common conception that baby teeth do not need as much care and attention as adult teeth – as they will eventually fall out and be replaced with adult teeth. However, as we have outlined in this blog, that could not be further from the truth. Many problems in baby teeth have a knock-on effect on adult teeth so it is best to develop good habits from the moment that magical first tooth appears!