Children’s dental care is a subject of grave importance. Without a proper dental care routine, children are vulnerable to various dental issues, some of which the damage may be irreversible. Children are not often concerned with dental care. Explaining the importance of a proper dental care routine may increase your child’s chances of continuing the practice into adulthood. Here are eight typical children’s dental problems.
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Tooth decay is a common chronic childhood condition in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 20% of children ages 5-11 have at least one untreated decayed or decaying tooth. A decaying tooth happens because of certain bacteria living in the mouth. Tooth decay occurs when sticky plaque accumulates on the surface of the teeth. The acid in the plaque eats away at the enamel and wears away the tooth. The stickiness of the plaque keeps the acids in constant contact with the surface of the tooth, decaying the tooth. A hole may develop when the enamel wears away, known as a cavity. Carbohydrate-rich foods help plaque grow. Children’s common carbohydrate-rich foods include candy, cookies, soda, and fruit juice. Pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread add to plaque deposits.
Bacteria in the mouth cause halitosis. Bacteria colonies feed on leftover food, fluid, and plaque. The bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide, leading to a bad smell in the mouth. Bad breath is most common in the morning. While sleeping, bacteria can multiply in the mouth, causing bad morning breath. If bad breath continues during the day, there could be a more significant issue.
Sensitive teeth are uncomfortable and distracting. Tooth sensitivity can cause children to lose focus. Children should have bi-annual checkups to diagnose the specific underlying cause. Causes of sensitive teeth include:
- Decay (cavities)
- Newly erupted permanent teeth
- Acid erosion and enamel wear
- Teeth grinding (bruxism)
- A cracked or missing filling
- Orthodontic treatment
There are a variety of treatments that can help reduce the pain and discomfort from teeth sensitivity. If it is a dental-related issue like a cavity, see the dentist immediately to prevent more damage.
Hot or cold foods and liquids cause irritation and discomfort. Breathing cold or hot air can cause pain. Children’s enamel is thinner than adults and is vulnerable to plaque and acid. As the enamel wears away, the gums may start to recede. Cracks can develop on the surface of the tooth, exposing nerve endings. The exposed nerve endings lead to pain. Dentists can apply a sealant to teeth to strengthen the enamel and fill any cracks.
Accidents can lead to dental emergencies such as teeth chipping, breaking, cracking, or knocking out. The dentist may be able to replace the tooth. If a permanent tooth does fall out, contact a dentist immediately for an emergency appointment and retrieve the tooth. Store the tooth in milk, saline solution, or clean water. A custom mouthguard is a great option to prevent sport-related injuries.
Pediatric Gingivitis and Gum Disease
Gingivitis is a precursor to gum disease. Gingivitis is marked by red, swollen gums and slight bleeding during brushing and flossing. Gum disease is aggressive in children with poor oral hygiene. Gum disease leads to pain in the mouth, gum recession, and areas of swelling. Proper oral hygiene reduces the chance of gum disease. Children’s teeth grow crowded or crooked, making it difficult to reach some areas properly.
It is rare for children’s teeth to grow ideally with no intervention. There are many orthodontic treatments available. Orthodontic issues are typically caused by genetics. The size and shape of the jaw play a role in how teeth grow and come together. Common misalignment problems include overbite, underbite, open bite, and spacing.
Excessive Thumb Sucking
Infants, toddlers, and small children will use thumb-sucking and pacifiers to soothe anxiety. Excessive thumb sucking can cause issues with teeth development. It is not a problem unless the habit continues into older ages. The behavior should not continue past the toddler stage.
Chronic thumb sucking and pacifier use can cause an open bite, a gap between the upper front teeth and lower front teeth. This can cause difficulties biting and chewing and can affect their speech.
Dental Anxiety and Phobias
Dental anxiety makes it hard for a child to engage in routine dental checkups and teeth cleanings. Kids and teens can be fearful of dentist visits. This behavior may persist into adulthood. Dental anxiety is combatted through having relaxed, fun, and enjoyable experiences. The pediatric dentist should have experience working with anxious children and have a process to help them. Teaching children the importance of dental care and incorporating it into their daily routine reinforces that they should not be scared.
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Smiling is the universal way to express happiness. Do not let your children’s smiles deteriorate due to poor dental hygiene. Poor dental hygiene can cause children to become alienated and made fun of by other children. Poor dental hygiene can also hit where it hurts, parents’ wallets. Inform your children of the dangers of poor dental hygiene. They will thank you later.