As parents, we all want what is best for our kids and part of that means making sure they are healthy. Oral health is extremely important, but it can be difficult to know what is going on inside our children’s mouths because they don’t always have the ability to communicate it to us.
Here are 5 common dental issues that children face today and some tips for how to respond.
1. Tooth Decay
According to the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, tooth decay ranks as the number one chronic childhood illness. It can start as early as infancy if the child is consistently allowed to go to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice. This keeps the teeth in constant contact with the sugar from the drinks, sugar which then feeds bacteria that will grow and cause tooth decay. Similarly, as the child gets older, it is important to limit sugary foods and to encourage good oral hygiene in order to help prevent cavities. Once formed, cavities can cause infection, discomfort, and put a damper on speaking, chewing, and even on learning.
2. Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth might seem like an issue only the older crowd deals with, but children actually have thinner enamel than adults. When enamel wears down, the gums can recede or cracks can form on the tooth, exposing nerve endings. This leads to pain when eating or drinking anything hot or cold. Your dentist can help you strengthen the enamel and determine if any other treatment is necessary. When brushing at home, be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
3. Thumb Sucking
While a natural, and even adorable, instinct in infants, thumb sucking can cause serious dental issues for children over the age of 5. It may lead to a child’s teeth being pushed out of alignment, creating an overbite. Also, a child’s upper and lower jaws may become misaligned due to thumb sucking, which could result in speech problems. Most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four, but some require action on the part of the parents to help them break the habit. Generally speaking, positive reinforcement, as opposed to scolding, has been the most successful in helping young children eliminate their thumb sucking habits. According to the American Dental Association, pacifiers have the same dental effects as thumb sucking, though they may be an easier habit to break.
Grinding, also known as bruxism, is often an involuntary habit that is considered a common developmental stage of childhood. Many children eliminate this habit on their own, but over time grinding can wear away primary and permanent teeth, cause dental or muscular pain. If you notice that your child is grinding their teeth, talk to your dentist about whether or not a nightguard is needed.
5. Damaged Teeth /Early Tooth Loss
As they run, explore, and generally act like children, kids can crack, damage or lose teeth due to injury. If baby teeth are lost before permanent teeth are ready to come in it can cause teeth to shift messing up the alignment of both baby and permanent teeth. The shifting of baby teeth can also cause permanent teeth to grow in crooked or sideways. If your child cracks or prematurely loses a tooth, contact your dentist right away to see what steps can be taken to help prevent issues down the road.