Parents always want the very best for their children and their dental health. From the time the first teeth grow in, it’s essential to promote healthy oral hygiene habits to avoid the most common dental problems children face. Dental-related issues are common in children of all ages, which is why preventative and proactive care is so important.
Here are seven of the most common dental problems that children and adolescents experience:
1. Tooth Decay (Cavities)
Most young children aren’t proficient at brushing and flossing without supervision. Coupled with the fact that some kids might have a sugar-heavy diet, cavities can become a major issue. Tooth decay is caused when sticky plaque accumulates on the surface of the teeth. The acid in the plaque essentially eats away at the enamel, eventually wearing away at the tooth.
Parents should supervise and help children brush their teeth until they can firmly grasp and control a toothbrush on their own. Making sure your kids are removing plaque, bacteria, and food particles from their teeth every day will help prevent early tooth decay. If a cavity does develop, the typical treatment is a tooth filling, which involves drilling away the decay and filling the hole with a hard composite material.
2. Tooth Sensitivity
Sensitive teeth can be uncomfortable and distracting, often disrupting your child’s focus and routine. Tooth sensitivity in children is caused by several different factors, so bringing your child in for bi-annual checkups is essential for diagnosing the underlying cause. Some of the different things that can cause your child’s teeth to feel sensitive include:
- Areas of decay (cavities)
- Newly erupted permanent teeth
- Acid erosion and enamel wear
- Teeth grinding (bruxism)
- A cracked or missing filling
- Orthodontic treatment
In the case of sensitive teeth, there’s a variety of treatments that can help reduce the pain and discomfort that your child is experiencing. If the sensitivity is caused by a dental-related problem, such as a cavity, you should see your dentist right away to prevent the issue from becoming worse.
3. Dental Emergencies
Dental emergencies can happen at virtually any time. Kids playing sports, roughhousing with siblings, or falling while riding a bike are all scenarios in which a dental-related accident can happen. These accidents can result in teeth chipping, breaking, or cracking. In more severe circumstances, a permanent tooth may be knocked out completely.
If your child’s permanent tooth does fall out, immediately call the dentist for an emergency appointment and retrieve the tooth. Place the tooth in a glass of milk, saline solution, or clean water. The dentist may be able to place the permanent tooth back into the socket, allowing it to reattach with the help of a retainer. Although there’s only so much a parent can do to avoid dental emergencies, a custom mouthguard is a great option to help prevent sports-related injuries.
4. Pediatric Gingivitis and Gum Disease
You may have thought that gum disease is a dental problem only seen in adults. Unfortunately for parents, this is not the case. Gingivitis and gum disease can occur in children and are actually quite common in pediatric dental patients. Gingivitis is the precursor to gum disease, and it’s often marked by red, swollen gums, and slight bleeding when your child brushes or flosses.
Gum disease is more aggressive in children with poor oral hygiene. It often involves pain in the mouth, gum recession, and areas of swelling. In most cases, gingivitis and gum disease could have been avoided if more care was taken to brush and floss daily. In other instances, your child’s teeth may grow in so crooked and crowded that they cannot properly clean their teeth, resulting in areas of gingivitis or gum disease.
5. Orthodontic Problems
Children rarely have perfectly straight teeth without any intervention. Luckily, there are many orthodontic treatments available to help your child or teen smile with confidence. Orthodontic problems are often a result of genetics, with the size and shape of the jaw playing a role in how your child’s teeth grow and come together. Some common misalignment issues seen in children include an overbite, underbite, open bite, and spacing problems.
It’s a good idea to have your child in for their first orthodontic appointment around the age of seven or eight. Orthodontic problems can mean more than just a crooked smile. Significant overcrowding and misalignments of your child’s teeth can result in jaw problems, cracked teeth, and oral hygiene issues.
6. Excessive Thumb Sucking
Many infants, toddlers, and small children resort to thumb-sucking and pacifier use as a means to soothe anxiety. It doesn’t really become a problem until the child is older and still continues with this habit as prolonged thumb sucking can cause issues with the way a child’s teeth develop. Because of this, parents should not allow the habit to continue past the toddler stage.
Most often, chronic thumb sucking and pacifier use can cause what is known as an open bite. An open bite is when the upper front teeth don’t come together with the lower front teeth, leaving a gap even when the mouth is closed. This can make it difficult for your child to bite and chew, and can even affect their speech.
7. Dental Anxiety and Phobias
Let’s face it, many adults are nervous when it comes to visiting the dentist. So it’s no surprise that kids and teens are often fearful of the experience as well. Dental anxiety can make it challenging to get your child in for their routine dental checkups and teeth cleanings. It can also stay with them into adulthood, affecting their dental health in significant ways.
The best way to combat dental anxiety in children is to make the experience relaxed, fun, and enjoyable. Choose a pediatric dentist that has experience working with anxious kids and has a process in place to help them. In addition, teaching your children the importance of dental care and making it a part of their routine can help in reinforcing the notion that they shouldn’t be scared.
At the end of the day, being a positive role model by brushing and flossing with your child and making sure they don’t miss their dental appointments are excellent ways to promote healthy dental habits for life.
By working with your children and partnering with your pediatric dentist, your kids can avoid many of these common dental problems during childhood.