Our children’s teeth are a concern for us all. Are they brushing enough? Is thumb-sucking really the end of the world? And what about braces? Georgina Blaskey finds out
Tooth decay is a major health concern worldwide and still a big problem in the UK – it’s one of the most common causes of hospital admission in children, with sports drinks and sweets being the big culprits. To help prevent tooth decay, fissure sealant is recommended. “On permanent molars (from about age seven or eight), we can paint on a small amount of fluoride inside the fissure which seals the tooth and protects it from food and bacteria,” says Marie Baldo, dental associate at Glow Dental in Battersea. This must be done early, on healthy teeth only – there are more cases of tooth decay starting inside teeth so an X-ray may be advisable to check for cavities first.
Chipping or breaking a tooth is quite common amongst young children who are so active playing sport and love to whizz around on scooters. If your child fractures or breaks their tooth, Dr Neil Counihan, one of the UK’s leading orthodontists and founder of Metamorphosis Orthodontics in Fulham, has this advice: “If the tooth is chipped, find the fragment and get to the dentist – it may be the fragment is embedded in the lower lip. If the tooth has moved, gently manipulate to move it back if you can, then visit the dentist, orthodontist or A&E. If it has been knocked out, put the tooth back in their mouth or in your own mouth until you get to the dentist. If you get there within a couple of hours, there’s a good chance the tooth will survive.”
Once your child is over six, this habit needs to stop as it can have a significant detrimental affect to the face. “It turns the U-shaped jaw into a V-shape,” explains Dr Counihan. This can lead to a permanent bite issue. “I suggest a habit breaker (a fixed appliance) to help them stop once and for all.”
This is a frequent problem between the central incisors in the upper jaw, and often the gap will close by itself as canines come down. But there are common causes, such as:
• Smaller teeth can cause a gappy smile – this could be hereditary.
• A fleshy frenulum (the ‘fleshy’ tissue flap above the front teeth).
• Missing teeth.
While in very rare circumstances the frenulum can be removed, generally gaps close by themselves or a permanent wire (a lateral retainer) may be used.
These can be caused by illness, by enamel being formed irregularly or trauma on a baby tooth which has left a scar on a permanent tooth. Grey-looking teeth might occur after very long-term antibiotic use. Glow Dental offers a microinvasive treatment called iCon. “We use a solution to make micro holes on
the white spots, then we spread on a gel, which fills the holes and disguises the spot,” Marie explains. “It all depends on how deep the lesion is, but it is most effective on superficial spots.”
Often seeking advice early can improve results, shorten treatment time and reduce costs. “There’s an old-fashioned belief that you need to wait until all adult teeth are present before you can start treatment,” says Dr Counihan. “Inceptive treatments can stop trauma and fractures by bringing incisors inside the lower lip, resolve cross bites more easily and set everything up to grow properly.”
There are different types of braces for different ages and issues, says Amina Abdel-Karim, orthodontist at Glow Dental.
Functional: “An example is the twin block, removable brace used to encourage growth of the lower jaw and close a gap
down, usually suitable for boys age 11 to 12 and girls age 10 to 11.”
Interceptive orthodontics: “This removable brace is used from an early age, eight to 10, for issues such as a top incisor that needs straightening or a cross bite.”
Fixed: “With this brace you can move teeth individually in all directions on all four planes,” explains Amina. “It’s the only method that achieves perfect teeth and is best for permanent teeth, for crowding or for complex problems, from 12 years and up.”
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