Grahame Dutton of Duxton Dental explains the factors that increase the risk of dental trauma for kids, and offers some advice about looking after their vulnerable teeth.
Unlike sharks who can grow up to 50,000 teeth in a lifetime, humans only get two sets: their baby or milk teeth, followed by their adult teeth – which arrive in childhood and need to last a lifetime. In addition to good home dental care practices and a healthy diet, regular professional care by a dentist, hygienist or school dental nurse is important when it comes to looking after our teeth – especially those of our children.
What about the risk of dental injury?
At this time of increased activity, minimising the risk of dental injury is important. Two factors influence dental trauma risk for our children:
- The position of the teeth and lips
2. Lifestyle and choice of activities
How does the position of teeth affect the risk of trauma?
It all comes down to the OJ. That’s not orange juice; it’s the overjet – how far, in millimetres, the top teeth sit ahead of the lower teeth. The bigger the OJ, the greater the risk of dental injury. Ideally we want to get the teeth in a favourable position, and make sure the protective lips cover the front teeth at rest.
Do I treat now, or wait until they are teenagers?
Where a child has an increased OJ, the question is whether it is preferable to treat this now, or hold off until they are older. My view is that: if the teeth are in unfavourable positions during childhood, a time where children are most active – in high-risk areas like playgrounds and pools, for example – their teeth are at a high risk of injury. Earlier treatment may also have the effect of improving a child’s self-esteem.
A dental assessment can measure your child’s overjet; and orthodontic treatment, involving braces or a plate, may be recommended to move the teeth into a more favourable position.
How can we protect children’s teeth during activities?
A third of all dental injuries are sports related. Ensure your child/ren wear mouth guards during activities where there is a risk of collision or body contact. In addition to protecting the teeth, this will reduce cuts to the lips, mouth and tongue, and help to prevent jaw injuries and possibly concussion. The effectiveness of a mouth guard relates to the fit: so, for optimal protection, it is advisable to get one custom-made.
Grahame Dutton and wife Christine Duxbury established Duxton Dental in 1996. The couple have four children, and understand the challenges and importance of looking after youngsters’ teeth.