Children`s Oral Hygiene is not an easy task

Latest articles

Children`s Oral Hygiene is not an easy task

Dr. Rafael Mejicano Diaz
Dr. Mauricio Gutiérrez Solé
Dr. Héctor David Ovando
Dr. Alba Irene Cardona


Parents must teach their children, by example, healthy habits that will allow them to have a healthy set of teeth during their whole life.
The arrival of a baby brings, aside from great happiness, responsibilities and specific care that both mom and dad, must take into account for the new member of the family. Such is the case of the first visit to the pediatric dentist. Contrary to what may seem, this first visit is not only to clinically examine the baby, but to inform the parents about the care they must have in relation to his/her oral cleaning. That is how they will foster a healthy culture of care and prevention in the future child and adolescent. According to Alba Irene Cardona, pediatric dentist at the Guatemalan Centro Dental de Especialistas, this first visit should be when the first teeth appear, which is normally at the age of six months, because if more time is allowed to go by, there is a risk that the formation of a cavity might begin at any moment. One of the first things explained to parents, says Cardona, is that everything that remains in the baby´s mouth generates tooth decay, even breast milk and the use of a baby bottle. That is why they are taught how to clean the baby´s mouth, how to open it and how to clean the gums and the first teeth.
With gauze, a soft small towel, or a wet thimble, remove the remains of the milk or food, to prevent the formation of bacterial plaque. Cotton is not advisable because it releases fuzz and may be uncomfortable or dangerous for the baby. After explaining to the parents the process of cleaning the baby, they are asked to return when the first molars erupt, and so begin a clinical treatment that if done periodically will allow the baby to enjoy a healthy set of teeth in every stage of his life.

Myths and Reality

There are important aspects that are necessary to know, even in the adult age, because it is never late to modify habits and improve dental health. As explained by David Ovando, specialist in temporomandibular dysfunction at the Guatemalan Centro Dental de Especialistas, it is not the toothpaste what cleans; water is enough to remove bacterial plaque. Nevertheless, toothpaste is recommended in a personalized manner. A boy that has had a lot of plaque should use one with fluoride, because it makes teeth stronger and mineralized. The second myth is that it is not the amount of acid, but the number of times that it is in the mouth what weakens the enamel of the teeth. Cardona explains that for mothers, the number of caramels that their children consume after a party, for example, may become a problem. If she decides to give him/her one caramel every hour to avoid having him/her eat 4 at a time, the teeth are going to be covered in acid every 60 minutes, (due to the action of bacterial plaque). In this case it is preferable that he/she eats 4 sweets together and then has a glass of water and brushes his/her teeth. Also, there is a general ignorance about dental cleaning. It must include the gums, the tongue and the cheeks because food remains there too and the longer it spends in the mouth, more possibilities exist for formation of bacterial plaque and caries.

Education and example

According to the specialists, the ailment of tooth decay (which in some occasions appears as white spots) and bacterial plaque, because it is harder to get them to brush their teeth, is more common in children than adults, reason why it is recommended to take them to the dentist every 3 or 4 months. This does not mean that few cases of caries in adults are received, specially in those treated with orthodontics. Studies indicate that bacterial plaque needs to remain 29 days in the teeth to start demineralizing the enamel, which means, that for one day of not brushing your teeth, no cavities are going to form.
One of the things that is furthest stressed to the parents is the importance of children brushing their teeth, specially at night, when less saliva is produced and the formation of bacteria increases. That is why, it is at night when it is most important to brush your teeth, says Cardona. At present, there are some products in the market that encourage teeth brushing in children different from flavored toothpaste and a never-ending list of designs. Such is the case of revealing liquid that marks exactly where the child has bacterial plaque, which helps him/her distinguish the areas he did not brush correctly.