Caring For Your Child’s Teeth
World Health Organization statistics show that worldwide over 530 million children suffer from dental caries. “So,” says Tanya Prentzler Cape Town-based dental hygienist, “it’s important to encourage good dental behaviour. And the best way is to set a good example by maintaining a routine yourself.
“Children need routine and consistency in dental care,” she says. “Pick a time that suits them to brush for two minutes twice a day. It doesn’t have to be after supper, though they should rinse with water before bed.”
Prentzler says a diet high in acidic foods or drinks such as lemons and fruit juices will result in tooth decay. “Rinsing with water after sugary or acidic foods helps.” She advises limiting sweets to mealtimes, diluting juices and resisting adding refined sugar to the bottles of toddlers.
No place for plaque
“Plaque consists of bacteria that produce acid as a byproduct of metabolising the carbohydrates and sugars in your mouth. The acid will ‘dissolve’ the enamel of teeth by taking minerals from that enamel.” Plaque can also cause gingivitis – inflammation of the gums – where they become red, swollen, and bleed easily. “This can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dental professional,” Prentzler says. “Flossing should begin as soon as the teeth start to have close contact with each other. When kids can tie their shoelaces, they can usually brush and floss their teeth on their own.”
Strengthen enamel with fluoride toothpaste, advises Prentzler, but use only a “pea-sized” amount. “Supervise younger children so they swallow as little as possible.”
Kids need to take ownership of their oral health, so let them choose their toothbrush and pick their toothpaste, she says. And be positive about their visits to the dentist. “Don’t pre-empt fears.
“And, use a small toothbrush. ‛Elephant-sized’ brushes are not useful,” Prentzler says. “You can’t clean your teeth with a broom!”
She adds that parents should not underestimate the importance of cleaning baby teeth. “These are important for speech development, space maintenance and jaw development.”
Holistic dentistry making headway
There’s a saying, “you don’t have to brush all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep”. Holistic dentistry takes this a step further. By Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor
Dr Reggie Reddy is a holistic dentist with a string of postgrad courses in oral medicine and periodontics behind him. When consulted, he’ll take a detailed medical history, look out for an “acidic” state (“alkaline is the healthy state,” says Reddy) and “identify mouthbreathers” (this, he says, can dry out the mouth, eventually causing gum disease and tooth decay).
A basic tenet of holistic dentistry, says Reddy, is that there is a relationship between posture and the muscles used during swallowing, chewing and speaking, which has lasting effects on facial growth and the position of the teeth.
“There’s also a very intricate inter-relationship between the teeth, the mouth and the body, which needs to be respected. Dental markers like compromised bone and gum tissue can indicate an immune-compromised system and may even bear some relation to the cardiovascular system. The texture of inter-oral tissue – if it’s not uniform or is yellowish – could be a sign that cholesterol levels are high.”
Holistic dentistry involves metal-free dentistry, says Reddy. “We use nontoxic restorative materials. Our practice is 100 per cent amalgam-free.”
Root canal treatments are a last resort: “We use biodentine, a material that the allows for regeneration of the tooth’s natural dentine layer, thereby preventing invasive root canal treatments if possible.”
Remedies tend to be natural unless there is a specific need for an allopathic antibiotic. “I use Septogard as a natural antibiotic, olive leaf extract for an active infection, arnica for inflammation and tea tree oil, which reduces bacterial count for biomechanical irrigation or a mouthwash.” Fluoride is a no-no in his books.
Sophisticated, cutting-edge dental laser treatment, piezoelectric scalers, myobrace braces (no metal braces), and even Botox to reduce a “gummy smile” is available.
“Oral health plays a vital role in your overall wellbeing. We try to be as noninvasive as possible and create a climate for the body to heal itself.”