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Beautiful Young Smiles

October, 2005
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Child dental care can begin even when the mother is still pregnant, which was this year’s theme for Chinese National Dental Health Day on September 20.

  Women often change their daily habits during pregnancy by eating more, snacking between meals, and loading up on sweets. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can exacerbate these dietary shifts and cause gingivitis. Dental care is therefore important for expectant mothers.

  Women who already had gingivitis before pregnancy can develop more serious problems when they carry their child. Pregnant smokers even run the risk of losing teeth.

 IMG_9874 David Lee, a dentist at the Beijing United Family Hospital, says that women should go for treatment between the third and sixth month of pregnancy. He adds that future mothers need to brush their teeth more often and go for regular dental checkups.

  “Pregnant women need a lot of calcium from foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Expectant mothers should also have their teeth cleaned at a clinic to prevent gingivitis.”

  Zhang Zhensheng, a dentist at King’s Dental, says teeth brushing should start when the baby is six months old, when the teeth have just begun to grow. Parents can use gauze and special fingertip-style toothpaste, which is available at specialized children’s stores.

  Parents should help children under two years old brush their teeth, and help children between two and nine use dental floss, or until they can do it themselves. Children should brush at least twice a day, after breakfast and before bed.

  “Dental caries is the most common problem among children,” says Zhang.

  “Deformity of the teeth is another major issue.”

  90 per cent of children have caries of the teeth. The most important way to prevent it is to brush, which should take care of all the teeth, if done correctly. The brush should move at right angles, because brushing horizontally can damage the surface of the teeth. Both sides of the teeth should be brushed thoroughly.

  Toothbrushes for children should feature small heads and be as soft as possible, which is why Zhang suggests that kids should not use electric toothbrushes. He says that they are not effective enough because most children just stick them in their mouths without further brushing.

  Good eating habits are also important for babies. Zhang suggests either using gauze to clean your child’s teeth after feeding, or giving them plain boiled water after meals. Diet is also crucial. Zhang suggests cutting down on candies and chocolate, and to make sure that kids brush afterwards. He adds that a balanced diet should include cereals, and foods containing calcium and phosphates such as corn powder, as well as celery, spinach, cabbage and apples.IMG_9859

  It is also important to correct bad habits such as nail biting, lip licking, and chewing with only one side of the mouth. Stopping these habits can help prevent dental deformity. Breathing through the mouth while sleeping can also cause the teeth to grow outward.

  He suggests regular checkups, at least once every six months after the first birthday.

  Many babies are afraid of visiting the dentist, so parents should try to choose hospitals or clinics that have a happy environment. Parents should also participate in the treatment. A child can become even more upset if Mom or Dad look worried or anxious. Both parents and dentists should be calm and encouraging.

  Some parents think it is not important to provide young children with dental care, because their baby teeth eventually fall out.

  IMG_9845“The chewing function influences pronunciation, jaw and facial growth, and even intelligence,” says Zhang.

  Proper dental care habits in early childhood can make a child’s transition to permanent teeth easier.

   David Lee had the tap water in urban Beijing tested, and found that it contains less fluoride than in the United States. In suburban areas, there might be too much fluoride in the water, which can lead to yellow fluoride spots on the teeth.

  Lee advises parents to use fluoride toothpaste if levels are low in the local water supply. Some dentists even recommend that children under six years take fluoride tablets.

  Another option is to apply tooth sealant to protect your children’s teeth, especially for 6-year molars, which are most likely to decay later in life.


By Ye Jun

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