Good oral health in the family for both parents and kids
It all starts when a woman finds she is pregnant.
Apart from the extra attention that should be paid to nutrition and the diligent visits to your doctor for pre-natal check-ups, it is essential to make sure your mouth is healthy.
The most common oral disease is periodontal disease, more commonly called “gum disease". It often starts off with redness and puffiness of the gums, and bleeding of the gums on brushing. This group of signs shows the presence of gingivitis.
The primary cause of gingivitis, and the more advanced periodontal disease is dental plaque – a coating of living, breeding bacteria on your teeth. So both these diseases are infections. Any kind of infection during pregnancy, could affect the health of your baby.The health of your gums can affect the health of your baby.
Studies have shown a relationship between periodontal disease and pre-term, low-birth-weight babies. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.
Scientists are still attempting to understand the link between periodontal disease and premature births. The current thinking is that severe, uncontrolled periodontal disease increases the level of chemicals in the blood called prostaglandins. High levels of prostaglandins may stimulate labour thus causing premature births. A premature baby is far more likely to be a sick baby.
A recent five-year study done by the Centre for Oral and Systemic Diseases at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill has concluded that gum disease is as big a threat to pregnancy as alcohol and smoking.
It’s not just the mother, other family members matter too.
New DNA coding techniques have allowed medical researchers to trace the path of infection from one person to another. Periodontal disease was found to be transmitted by saliva contact between family members.
Studies from Brazil to Japan have shown that the bacterial flora (number and kind of bacteria) in a child’s mouth is very similar to the bacterial flora of their care-givers. In a 2004 Japanese study published in the Journal of Oral Science, it was found that if a child harboured periodontal bacteria in his mouth, at least one of his parents had exactly the same kind of bacteria.
Transmission of bacteria, and thereby disease, can occur through saliva contact in many ways e.g.
- Sharing food
- Sharing a cup, glass, straw, spoon and other utensils
- Blowing on hot food to cool it
All this could give periodontal disease to children.
Is periodontal disease serious?
It is well-recognised that periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Treatment of advanced periodontal disease and its consequences e.g. replacement of lost teeth, can be both complex and expensive.
What you can do…
The good news is that periodontal disease and also tooth decay are easy to prevent. Here are some oral care tips:
- Make sure that you practise good oral hygiene – learn the correct techniques of brushing and flossing and do it everyday. Over my 25 years of dental practice, I have observed that the parents who have good attitudes to dental care and are conscientious about hygiene almost invariably have kids with good dental health.
- Every care-giver – this includes grandparents and maids – should have regular dental check-ups to make sure their teeth are thoroughly cleaned through scaling and polishing. Any diseased teeth must be treated. This greatly reduces the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- Be alert to personal hygiene habits like sharing of towels and tooth brushing.
- Learn the appropriate techniques for cleaning your child’s teeth from as soon as the first baby teeth grow.
- And of course, take your child – and yourself – for regular check-ups at the dentist. Don’t wait for pain. Ask the dentist whether you are cleaning your teeth well and find out the best way to clean your children’s teeth too.
As parents, your attitudes to good health and oral care are bound to rub off on your child.
Article written by:
Dr. Asha Karan
Smile Makers Dental Clinic
— the clinic for all members of the Family.
For more information, check out Smilemakers.com.sg or call: 639 727 39
For more related articles on health, see:
Why preschoolers lose their teeth
Trick your kid into brushing teeth
The many ways to keep your child healthy