What is a healthy mouth?

By Jack N' Jill

Naturally, we all want our children to have a healthy mouth – one that is free from cavities and gum infection, has straight teeth and a beautiful smile.

Learning that your child has tooth decay or requires a filling can be a shocking experience for a parent. News like this also has implications for general well being. Science now tells us that if our children are to be healthy, their mouth needs to be healthy. Indeed all of us will enjoy better health if we have healthy mouths. An infected mouth has been linked to systemic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and low birth weight babies.

When considering your child’s oral health, it is important to understand what constitutes a healthy mouth and to identify any potential issues. Whilst it is easy for your dentist to identify a healthy mouth, it may not be so obvious for the rest of us.

Fundamental features of a healthy mouth

  • Well hydrated (wet)
  • Pink gums
  • No foul odour
  • Free of decaying teeth
  • Free of infected bleeding gums.

What is an unhealthy mouth?

Infection can occur when plaque (which harbors bacteria) proliferates on our teeth and gums as a result of ineffective cleaning. Many of us know that bacteria in plaque can result in cavities, however it is less well known that the bacteria can also erode jawbone, causing our teeth to become loose and potentially fall out. A common symptom of infection can be occasional bleeding after brushing or flossing. Bad breath may also be present. Pain is a very late symptom and means things have become serious. Visiting your dentist after identifying the earliest signs of infection is ideal – contacting the dentist only after pain occurs will mean that infection is more advanced. Unfortunately, the amount of bleeding tells us nothing about the seriousness of the disease. Only a dental examination can determine this.

Signs there may be infection

  • Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing
  • Gums red and swollen
  • Bad breath
  • Dry mouth (possibly smelly)
  • Dry lips (cracked)

So how do you know if you are cleaning your child’s teeth adequately? Honestly, it can be difficult to tell. Most of my patients think their technique is good… Most also agree that gaining access to a toddler/child’s teeth for effective cleaning can be a monumental task, and one not for the feint of heart. It is a good idea to ask your dentist to give you a refresher course in brushing and flossing their – to make sure your technique is effective. I usually have to give patients tips/hints every 6 months to keep them cleaning effectively.

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Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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