Oral hygiene in children: where to pay attention!

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Good oral hygiene is important for children’s health and should be started very early. The most common problem in children is caries, and experts have found what is wrong in most cases: poor eating habits and neglected oral care.

Caries is caused by germs and especially by the presence of streptococcal strains, mainly Streptococci Mutans. These microbes metabolize sugars in food to produce acids that corrode tooth enamel. The earlier the carious strain is transmitted to the child, the greater the chance of developing caries (1).

The bottom line is that from an early age, children should avoid eating foods or beverages that are high in sugar. Instead, foods that contain the necessary ingredients for tooth growth, such as calcium, should be selected. Also, children should not constantly consume food and sweets. We choose three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and two smaller ones between them.

Soft drinks may not seem destructive at first glance because they do not leave visible food residue on the teeth. However, if they contain sugar, it sticks to the teeth and feeds on bacteria. In addition, the acids in soft drinks are as bad as sugar. Particularly dangerous are citric acid and phosphoric acid, which desalinate the surface layers of tooth enamel (2). Teeth that have recently emerged in the mouth are the most vulnerable due to the immaturity of the enamel.

The second basic measure of good oral health is brushing at least twice a day (morning and evening). Of course, the best thing is every time after the three main meals. Within 6-8 hours the germs begin to stick to the teeth and without brushing the so-called “biofilm” is created, a kind of bacterial installation. Experts say that each tooth needs to be brushed at least 10 times in different directions, so it is advisable to do it with the help of the parent until the age of 6 (3). It is very important to brush the spots on the gum line because that is where most germs are found. To do this without injury, especially in children, the toothbrush should not be hard.

There has been a lot of discussion about fluoride in toothpaste and the side effects it can cause, but it is clear that fluoride is valuable for teeth. It is a metal that helps prevent tooth decay by making tooth enamel more resistant to acids. Fluoride-free toothpastes do not provide adequate protection, which is why experts recommend the use of fluoride toothpaste in both children and adults. However, we should not overuse even something that has official recommendations. It is known that fluoride, when found in excessive amounts can cause side effects not only in the body but even in the teeth e.g. discoloration and staining, a condition called fluoridation and can occur up to the age of 9 years.

The guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the use of fluoride toothpaste in all children, starting with the appearance of the first tooth, but with a minimal amount: rice grain size for children under 3 years and pea size for children 3 to 6 years old. Parents should teach the child not to swallow toothpaste, not only for fluoride but also for other chemicals it contains and may not be good for the body.

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