Dr Alpa Vasishat
Who doesn’t remember the gummy grin of Miley in the famous Hollywood series Hanna Montana? Or our very own star kid Ishan Awasthi from Taare Zameen Par, who left an everlasting impression on public cause of his big crooked teeth? Besides luring the hearts of many, these favourite kids of all time had another thing in common — they all suffered from oral issues. The problem of irregular teeth, or cavities is nothing new for kids. What’s alarming is the careless attitude people have towards them and the lack of awareness about how they could impact overall health of kids.
According to government estimates, more than 70% of school children in India are suffering from dental caries and more than 90% of the adult population is affected by periodontal disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked dental caries at the top of their 2015 Global Burden of Disease study with an estimated 2.3 billion people with permanent teeth and a further 560 million children with milk teeth afflicted.
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. Parents tend to avoid the painful episodes caused to their young children as a result of dental caries, and neither find it important to develop a habit of regular dental check-ups among them in a very early age. This eventually starts affecting their oral health at a very young age.
In the wake of this startling situation, India’s leading dental chain, Clove Dental studied over 67,000 children (1-14 years) across 23 cities in India from Jan 2017 to May 2019. During the research, it was observed that a staggering 61% of these children were suffering from cavities in one or more teeth which clearly indicates that nearly two out of three children were troubled by tooth decay.
Such ignorance of oral health among young children has put a global burden of dental cavities. The grave scenario desperately needs attention, and a serious watch on oral health, especially among children right from the day their milk teeth start erupting. Besides the lack of preventive care and proper awareness, the improper dietary behaviour as a result of ‘fast food lifestyle’ is the prime reason of dental carries among kids. The fondness of excessively sugar rich food items and processed food among children which is sticky in nature has put a serious threat to their oral health.
While brushing teeth is the only ‘oral care’ tip followed, parents fail to teach their children about importance of ‘rinsing mouth with water’ after having food, getting them ‘flossed’ and other dental care routines. No need to say that regular dental check-up is still a topic not frequently discussed in a majority of Indian families.
Despite the appalling effects of poor oral health, the good news is that dental cavities and caries are largely preventable with great oral hygiene regimen and proper care. From instilling good oral hygiene in children right from the day their first tooth erupts to brushing and flossing child’s teeth twice a day and taking kids to dentists regularly, one can prevent their kids’ teeth from getting decayed. Using a fluoride toothpaste to brush varying the amount used (grain of rice size for a child under three years to pea-size if over three years of age) is must to remove bacteria from the mouth.
Apart from oral hygiene, healthy and balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, supported with a plenty of liquid intake, is a naturally sufficient way of protecting teeth. Nevertheless, visiting dentist regularly should be ensured from a very young age among kids.
With proper awareness, preventive measures and good oral habits, we can keep our children ‘cavity free’, and ensure them healthy childhood.
The writer is a pedodontist at Clove Dental