This World Smiles Day, Miss Carol Mason, a Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in London gives parents and children expert advice about how to look after teeth for a beautiful smile.
“Problems with your children’s teeth can have a serious impact on general health, well-being and self-esteem” cautions Miss Mason. “The Maxillofacial and Dental Department at GOSH has been seeing more children with dental decay from the UK and Middle East every year and it is important to look after children’s teeth to prevent unnecessary pain and traumatic procedures for children.” In Kuwait, only 26.4% of 12 year olds are cavity free, with almost two thirds of 15-17 year olds in Dubai having tooth cavities and 80% of 12-15 year olds suffering from gum problems.
“Tooth decay can lead to pain, infection, difficulty eating and loss of sleep” explains Miss Mason. “Often by the time we see patients, the only treatment we can offer is the extraction of teeth, which can deeply affect children, especially if they are young.” However, there is hope. “Prevention is better than cure, and dental disease is preventable.
Children should see dentists regularly and follow a teeth cleaning regimen from infancy. Fizzy drinks and sweets, as well as food naturally high in sugar, have been linked to dental decay and tooth erosion, and so maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is also important. With a proper oral hygiene routine in place, accompanied by regular check-ups from a qualified dentist, and a sensible diet, children can avoid dental disease and have a beautiful, healthy smile for life. We advise tooth-brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste – the most important time to brush is before going to bed. Sugar containing foods and drinks should be limited to mealtimes only and not between meals or at bedtime.”
GOSH treats children from around the world with very complex and rare conditions, and the dental team at GOSH form part of the unique multidisciplinary team that treats and cares for these children. This means that many of Miss Mason’s patients are very sick children whose teeth may have been affected by their treatment or condition. Here Miss Mason explains why oral care is especially important for sick children.
“For children with medical problems, the consequences of tooth decay can be very serious.” Miss Mason says, “Dental infection can lead to endocarditis in children with congenital heart disease, or widespread life-threatening infection in children with poor immunity, either due to disease or medication. If children cannot eat due to dental pain, this can lead to weight loss and failure to thrive and have serious consequences for those with metabolic disorders. For these reasons, prevention of dental disease is particularly crucial for children with medical problems.”
Miss Carol Mason is a GDC registered specialist in Paediatric Dentistry and is a member of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry and the British Dental Association. In addition to dealing with dental disease, as a Paediatric Dentistry Consultant, Carol and her fellow consultants also see children with a wide range of dental anomalies for diagnosis and management. These include defects of enamel (amelogenesis imperfecta) and dentine (dentinogenesis imperfecta), missing teeth (hypodontia), extra teeth (supernumeraries) and teeth of abnormal shape and size. Many of these children require a multidisciplinary approach with the other consultants in the team.
The Maxillofacial and Dental Department at GOSH cares for patients from theUK and overseas with a wide variety of medical and dental problems. A multi-disciplinary approach is often required, encompassing the specialties within the Department – Maxillofacial Surgeons, Orthodontists, Paediatric Dentists and Restorative Dentists and also medical and surgical colleagues from the rest of the hospital. The ethos of the Paediatric Dentistry Service at GOSH is to not only diagnose and manage any dental disease but to also prevent further occurrence by implementing preventive strategies, tailored to the individual. It is also crucial that children have good experiences at the dentist, in order to allay anxiety and encourage them to return, rather than having bad experiences which lead to fear and avoidance.