Good oral hygiene is very important for children and even more so for children with heart conditions. This is because these children are more prone to getting dangerous heart infections like endocarditis due to poor oral health.
What is infective endocarditis?
Infective endocarditis is a somewhat rare but dangerous disease of the endocardium or the inner lining of the heart. So how does it relate to oral health? When a child has poor oral hygiene the number of bacteria in their mouth increases.
This causes gum damage and the bacteria can then enter the blood stream through these damaged gums to reach the heart. This is why it is extremely important for children with heart defects to have excellent oral hygiene.
Dental care for children with heart conditions
- Visit your dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts.
- Ask for a pedodontist or a pediatric dentist – they are child specialist.
- Complete medical history should be given to your dentist before starting the treatment. Your dentist may have a word with your pediatrician before starting the treatment.
- If deemed necessary your dentist might start a prophylactic antibiotic course of medicines for the child.
- Get a cleaning done regularly.
- Topical fluoride application along with sealants is recommended to prevent cavities.
A few tips to protect your child’s teeth
- Instill good brushing habits. Make sure the child brushes thoroughly twice a day. Assist your child with brushing till they can brush on their own. For children below 3 years of age give a smear of fluoridated toothpaste and for those above 3 give a no more than a pea sized amount.
- For infants, parents can wipe down the gums and tongue with soft wet gauze.
- Start brushing their teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. Use a soft silicone brush to gently brush their erupting teeth.
- Avoid giving children bottle feeds at night while putting them sleep. Sweetened milk or honey dipped pacifiers are to be avoided at all costs.
- Encourage them to look in the mirror and brush well.
- Avoid giving them carcinogenic food like sticky chocolates and sweets.
- Ask doctors for sugar free version of syrups if possible.
- Prepare your child for their dental visits. Your child should begin seeing a dentist between 2-3 years of age to keep the mouth healthy. Tell your dentist about your child’s heart condition.
- For dental procedures and some surgeries, an antibiotic may be needed before and after the appointment. Check with your cardiologist if you have questions about the need for antibiotics. No dental procedures should be done for at least 6 weeks after surgery.
- Try and address their fears and reassure them.
- Do not scare the children with the dentist or injection etc. This will instill a lifelong fear of dentists and dental treatments in them.
Your mouth has a lot to say about your heart condition. Oral health is a very important part and parcel of the whole body. If ignored, it can lead to not just heart complications, but also poor nutrition, weight loss etc. So as the old saying goes, prevention is indeed better than cure for a child with heart conditions.
- Oral hygiene should not be ignored in children specially with underlying medical conditions such as heart diseases.
- Studies show link between oral hygiene and heart diseases. So take care of your oral hygiene to take care of your heart.
- Poor gum health can cause the bacterial micro-organisms to enter the blood stream and cause infections in the heart.
- Taking care of your little ones dental conditions can help reduce the sufferings.