Our teeth are important. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to eat or talk. Children are prone to all the same dental problems that adults are, plus a few additional concerns. It is important to keep a close watch on your child’s teeth and see a dentist right away if you have any concerns.
Tooth decay, also known as dental cavities, is extremely common in children, in fact, it is the number one chronic health problem children have. Tooth decay can even happen to babies, especially if they are given juice or other sugary drinks in a bottle. Cavities are also one-hundred percent preventable with regular brushing and flossing.
In very young children or babies, take a wet cloth and wipe the teeth and gums. If your child complains about tooth pain or sensitivity to hot and cold, it is probably time to make an appointment. Treating tooth decay early prevents further damage to the teeth and the spread of the infection.
Gum disease, or gingivitis, is also common in both children and adults. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria getting under the gums. The gums get red and swollen. Eventually, the gums will start to pull back or away from the teeth. If left untreated gingivitis can lead to tooth loss. Call your dentist if you notice red, swollen or bleeding gums in your child.
While bad breath is usually just a sign of poor brushing, it can be related to other medical conditions. First, make sure to brush and floss daily. If that doesn’t help, have a dentist check your child for tooth decay or gum disease. If your child’s bad breath still doesn’t improve, talk to your pediatrician about other possible causes.
Children and adults alike can grind their teeth. Grinding usually happens during sleep, when concentrating, or when feeling stress. Grinding the teeth together repeatedly is very damaging to teeth and the enamel. If you notice your child grinding his teeth during the day, talk to him about it. If the grinding is happening at night, ask your dentist about a custom guard to protect the teeth while your child sleeps.
Thumb sucking is usually just a normal childhood behavior, but if your child continues to suck his thumb once his permanent teeth have come in it can cause problems. Depending on how often your child sucks and how strong the pressure is, thumb sucking can cause:
- An overbite
- The top front teeth to stick out
- The roof of the mouth to become misshapen
These changes can cause your child to have problems eating or speaking. If you have a child that likes to sucks their thumb, you will want to work on decreasing the frequency of sucking before their permanent teeth come in.
Remember, children suck their thumbs to calm themselves and for comfort, so punishments and scolding will often make them want to suck their thumb more. Try more positive reinforcements, like praise and rewards when they go certain amounts of time without sucking. If your child is displaying some of the side effects of prolonged thumb sucking, talk to your dentist about treatment options available to you.
Although tongue thrusting is similar to thumb-sucking in that is it a sucking motion and used to self soothe, tongue thrusting has a few extra problems. When children tongue thrust, they seal their mouth closed and swallow by pushing the tongue against the teeth or lips.
This pushing can cause an overbite and cause the teeth to stick out, just like thumb sucking. However, if you notice that your child is tongue thrusting, you should contact a speech pathologist. Your child will need to strengthen their chewing muscles and learn a new way to swallow.
Early Tooth Loss
Losing a baby tooth early may not seem like a big deal, but it does cause extra problems. Baby teeth serve as placeholders and guides for when the permanent teeth come in. If the baby tooth is gone, the other teeth may crowd into the space and not leave room for the permanent tooth. This can lead to the permanent tooth coming in crooked or in the wrong spot. In cases of early tooth loss, a dentist may recommend a spacer to maintain the space for the permanent tooth.
Over-Retained Baby Tooth
Sometimes, a baby tooth fails to fall out when the permanent tooth underneath is trying to come in. This can be a sign of other problems, like impaction. At the very least it will displace the permanent tooth. The earlier an over-retained tooth is detected, the easier it is to take care of. With regular dental checks, the problems from over-retained teeth can easily be prevented.
Finding a kid’s dentist in your area can make dental visits for your children less stressful and more enjoyable. With daily brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups with your dentist, most childhood dental problems can be prevented or minimized.