Dr Aarti Mishra answers readers’ questions on dental health.

Q What is the importance of oral health for my child?

A Children’s health, happiness, comfort and success depend on their dental health to a great extent. Good health, good teeth and good appearance go together.

Q How can I ensure good dental health for my two babies?

A You can ensure a healthy smile for your children by following a few simple rules.

a) Encourage proper eating: A balanced diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products is important for healthy teeth and gums. Children especially need calcium, which helps them in building strong teeth. Some good sources are milk, cheese and curd.

b) Avoid giving them eatables like chocolates, sweets, candies, jellies and peppermint sweets. Discourage excessive amounts of the following items – biscuits, pastries, jams and puddings.

Q What should be the frequency of the children’s visit to the dentists’ clinics?

A Start dental visits early. Begin with preventing cavities.

The American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry recommends that your child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday.

It is good to take your child to a dentist before all his milk teeth have come in; this is approximately at three years of age.

Q What does the dentist do first?

A On the first visit, the dentist will check the child’s teeth for decay, answer questions and explain how to care for the child’s teeth.

The dentist will tell you that if your child participates in any of the following sports, a well made and properly fitted mouthguard is essential – bicycling, hockey, basket ball, football, boxing, gymnastics, skating, martial arts, squash and wrestling.

Each of these sports has the potential to seriously harm the head, face or mouth as a result of head to head contacts, hazardous falls, tooth – clenching or blows to the mouth. Mouthguards help to cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaws.

Q How can I make tooth-brushing a pleasant exercise?

A Buy colourful and attractive toothbrushes for your children so that they enjoy brushing their teeth. Appeal to their sense of vanity. Tell them the benefits of brushing their teeth “” fresh breath and shining, bright teeth!

Q What about sealants?

A The dentist can protect your child’s permanent molars (back teeth) with special materials called sealants. For over 20 years, the American Dental Association has evaluated sealants and reached the conclusion that sealants can offer major protection against cavities. These can be applied to the chewing surfaces of molars at the ages of six and twelve years “” the usual eruption time for the first and second permanent molars respectively.

Q What should be done about the cavities?

A Through regular dental check-ups, the dental surgeon can detect and fill cavities in children’s teeth before they become deep and painful and infect the teeth.

Encourage a positive attitude towards dental visits by following these tips:

a) Take your children with you when you go in for a check-up so that they can get used to the environment and meet the staff.

b) Never use dental visits as threats for children.

c) Avoid using negative words like “shot” or “hurt”.

d) Answer questions honestly but not too specifically. Dental professionals have special ways of explaining things to children.

Finally, you can ensure a healthy smile for your children only when you yourself are convinced of the benefits of good dental health!