Care for caries: Looking after your child’s dental health
If you have more cavities than you have teeth, then you’ve led a ‘sweet’ life,” said Stanley Victor Paskavich, a Gulf War veteran, and dental experts couldn’t agree more.
Dental caries also known as tooth decay or dental cavities are usually the result of children’s penchant for sweet treats. Hence, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene from an early age.
Dr Gyanendra Kumar, associate professor, Department of Pediatric and Preventive Dentistry, Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, New Delhi, explains, “Dental caries is a form of tooth disease caused mostly due to poor oral health and leads to cavitation in the tooth. It is commonly called a cavity in the tooth and is detected when there are changes in the tooth colour. It leads to food lodgment and might lead to pain while chewing followed by tooth loss, if left untreated.”
Children begin to get their baby teeth during the first six months of life. By age of six or seven years, they start to lose their first set of teeth, which eventually are replaced by secondary, permanent teeth. Without proper dental care, children face possible oral decay and disease. Early childhood dental caries — an infectious disease — is common in children and can take a lifelong complication if not treated in the initial stages.
“It is an infectious microbiologic disease of the teeth that results in localised dissolution and destruction of the calcified tissues (enamel and dentin),” shares Dr Vikram Gandhi, orthodontist, Delhi Dental Center.
It doesn’t take long for a toothache to become annoying. The dull, aching pain in your tooth quickly moves to your jaw and then radiates to your head. Before too long, it feels as if your entire body has been held hostage by your toothache.
Elaborating on such symptoms, Dr Kumar, who was awarded the TC White observership award by Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, for fellowship in prevention and management of early childhood caries at National Seoul University and Dental Hospital, South Korea, says, “Patients with tooth infection often experience tooth pain while chewing. They’d have pus draining from the infected tooth, resulting in swelling in that area. Sensitivity to cold and sweet food items is experienced. The pain can be spontaneous or intermittent and may radiate to the head, resulting in a headache.”
Dental caries in children occur most often as a result of poor dental hygiene. Dental caries are usually painless at first, but they may become painful if they spread to the nerve or root of a tooth. “Dental caries is the most common tooth problem but it is the most common chronic disease in children in the age group of 8-18 years,” opines Dr Gunita Singh, Director Dentem and Associate Consultant, Sir GangaRam Hospital.
Dental caries usually begin as small, shallow holes but if left untreated, they can become larger and deeper. Caries occur when the bacterial count in the oral cavity increases due to lack of oral hygiene and increased sugar intake. “Starchy sugary foods are the main cause of tooth caries. Sticky candies and sweets get stuck to your tooth surface and lead to the growth of bacteria. Starchy foods like soft breads and potato chips can get stuck to your teeth and cause caries. Carbonated soft drinks also affect the tooth surface leading to caries,” says Dr Singh. “Among children, night time bottle feeding and prolonged breast feeding can lead to dental caries,” adds Dr Kumar.
Advanced stages of caries may lead to pain, infection, abscesses or even loss of teeth. “Even though prevention is better than cure, the treatment depends on the risk status of an individual. In a high-risk person, restoration (dental fillings) with preventive measures such as good brushing and flossing habits with controlled sugar intake is advised,” says Dr Gandhi.
The silver lining is that dental caries are largely preventable. But unfortunately, the awareness regarding proper oral hygiene is seemingly less.
“In rural areas, patients with weak financial background emphasise less on oral health and visit less frequently for dental treatment. Also, lack of infrastructure and resources in nearby areas can lead to increased financial burden for such people. Moreover, lack of education about oral health in schools can also be considered as a major factor for lack of awareness,” says Dr Kumar.
Dr Gyanendra Kumar has been awarded with TC White observership award by Royal College of physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow for fellowship in prevention and management of early childhood caries at National Seoul University and Dental Hospital, South Korea.
Research and finding
After a research in Early Childhood Caries among two to six year-old children, he found the parents are highly neglectful for their child’s teeth and 70-80% children are affected with early childhood caries.