Good health begins with the health of the mouth. A healthy mouth is the way to a child’s long-term health.
What is dental infection?
Dental infection or tooth abscess is a common oral health issue among children. Any infection pertaining to oral and para-oral areas affecting teeth, bone, gums and soft tissues in the area is called a dental infection. It is a pimple-like swelling that forms when pus accumulates due to bacterial infection in that part of the body.
Causes of dental infection
The fast paced lifestyle of urban families and their eating patterns are the primary reasons for teeth-related issues among children. Children between the age group of 5 to 9 years are exposed to a variety of sugary drinks, junk food, tetra packed juices that can lead to widespread dental problems. It’s quite a challenge for parents to stop their children from indulging in unhealthy snacks that might lead to poor oral health. The mouth, although its own habitat, directly relates to the rest of the body. It is where digestion begins and numerous bacteria form and live. Hence, the food we eat and the care we take plays a major role in our oral health.
Knowing the cause behind a dental infection makes it easier for parents to prevent it. Tooth decay is a common cause of dental infection. If decay is left untreated, it will reach the tooth's pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp becomes infected to form an abscess in the soft tissues. This swelling can be extremely painful and can spread to various other parts of the body if not treated immediately. Some of the other causes like broken or chipped tooth due to an injury and gum diseases can also result in dental infection.
Signs and symptoms of tooth abscess
A severe toothache where the pain is sharp is a common symptom of dental infection. An abscessed tooth can cause swollen gums, difficulty in swallowing, loss of appetite, pus discharge, bitter taste in the mouth, foul smell, painful ulcerations and fever.
How to know when it is serious
A tooth abscess usually impacts only one tooth, but if left untreated, it can spread to surrounding tissues like the supporting bone, gum, and may result in severe consequences. A dental infection will not get better or go away without a professional medical care. It’s important to consult a dentist to treat the infection depending on the severity of the condition and the region it has formed. To reduce the inflammation, dentists drain out the pus and clean it with saline water. This usually works if the abscess is in the initial stages. If the infection is due to a severely decayed tooth, they may extract the infected tooth and drain the abscess to eliminate infection.
How to prevent dental infection in children
Dental infection in toddlers can be prevented by following a few simple oral care routines. Daily preventive care will help stop problems before they develop and is less painful than treating conditions that have been allowed to progress. Follow these simple oral care practices daily:
Brush and floss everyday: Ensure that your child brushes his teeth at least twice a day and flosses before sleeping.
Clean the tongue: This is as important as cleaning the teeth. The tongue can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs.
Reduce intake of sugary drinks and snacks: Chocolates, sodas, chips and other junk food can cause severe dental issues among children.
Even if you take excellent care of your child’s teeth at home, you need to take her to the dentist at least twice a year to check for problems that you may not see or feel. A child’s first visit to the dentist should be a couple of months after the first birthday. Regular visits allow your dentist to find early signs of decay and disease, and treat problems at the preventive stage.
The author is Chief Medical Officer, MobiDent.