Ruchi Srivastava’s three-year-old son, Rakesh, loves sweets. He munches on candies and chocolates throughout the day. One day, Rakesh complains of severe toothache. Thinking it to be a simple case of tooth pain or a cavity, Ruchi takes her son to the dentist. After the initial tests are done, it is revealed that her son has a severe dental infection.
Ruchi’s son is not the only one to suffer from dental infection. Every year, a number of children have to visit the dentist for treating dental infections.
Do you know healthy teeth are essential to your child’s overall health? Not only do teeth help your little one to eat and talk but poor dental health can lead to a host of infections and diseases.
What is dental infection?
Dental infection or tooth abscess is a common oral health issue among preschoolers. 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, processed foods, etc. 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. In fact, the mouth is where digestion begins and numerous bacteria accumulate and thrive. Hence, the food we eat and the care we take of our teeth play a major role in our oral health.
Knowing the cause of 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 with a throbbing pain 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 the surrounding tissues like the supporting bone and gum. 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.
Treatment of dental infection
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 the infection.
Prevention of dental infection
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 every day: 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 detect early signs of decay and treat problems at the initial stage.
The author is Chief Medical Officer, MobiDent.
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