A mum recalls her one-year-old baby’s tooth decay treatment, a painful and costly mistake that could have been prevented.
Dylan Wan was just over a year old, but he already had five decayed teeth.
His mum, Laine Loy, a director, confessed: “I didn’t take care of his teeth much because I thought he was too young for decay to set in.”
Alarm bells rang only when she noticed the rot on Dylan’s front teeth. The process of fixing them turned out to be a long, painful and costly one.
While his case is rare, dentists say more parents are taking their very young children for check-ups.
Dr Wilson Goh, managing director of Team GPA, says that most parents with kids in this age group come seeking advice on how to take care of newly erupting teeth.
“The cost of prevention and care is always lower than the cost of massive treatment,” says Dr Bien Lai, head of the Paediatric Dentistry Unit at National Dental Centre.
In Dylan’s case, each tooth cost about $150 to be filled.
The dentist could only work on one tooth per visit because Dylan was so young.
Laine had to take him back every two weeks for a filling; he would cry and struggle every time.
The dentist suggested putting him under general anaesthesia but Laine decide against it, so they swaddled him in a towel instead.
“It is very painful to see your child go through this when you know it could have been prevented,” Laine laments.
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What Dylan had was Early Childhood Caries (ECC), the most common dental disease in children six and below.
Previously known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, ECC is caused by the oral bacteria strep.mutans, which can be passed through saliva when mothers or caregivers share food, utensils or kisses with children.
According to a local study presented at the FDI World Dental Congress in 2006, 90 per cent of such cases are untreated. Four out of 10 preschoolers here suffer from it.
“Many parents think that it’s okay to let primary teeth rot. They think that the baby teeth will all fall out and be replaced anyway,” Dr Lai observes.
The truth is that permanent teeth that erupt in a mouth full of bacteria face a higher risk of decay.
But before you rush Baby to the nearest dental clinic, dentists say it’s important to ease very young children into the experience.
“For them not to have a bad experience, the first visit is usually like a rehearsal. They will then be more game for subsequent visits,” says Dr Rashid Tahir, dental specialist in paediatric dentistry at The Kids Dentist.
Dr Lai agrees: “If you take your child to the dentist early, he will get guided slowly into the environment. Start early before any invasive treatment is needed and it is less likely for him to develop a dental phobia.”
Dylan is living proof that visits to the dentist is a habit that can be cultivated.
“When he got used to it, he didn’t cry so much any more,” Laine says proudly. “Now, he can take injections without crying. He even asks for dental check-ups.”