There are many problems that can arise during the early development of your child’s teeth and jaw, from infancy to maturity. While many of these problems are the same as those which affect adults, they can be more significant and harmful because they may have a permanent impact. Children’s teeth problems that go untreated may lead to misaligned teeth, chronic oral disease, or bad oral health habits.
It is important for parents to be familiar with common children’s dental problems, including why they occur and how to treat them, to avoid long-term consequences. Let’s take a look at six of the most common dental issues experienced by children and how to prevent them.
Almost every parent, at one point or another, must deal with thumb-sucking. This common habit among young children is an instinctive one, providing comfort to children from when they are babies and when they become toddlers. However, thumb-sucking which persists beyond the age of two or three –– when their permanent teeth begin to erupt –– can become a more serious issue to the development and alignment of their teeth as adults.
The frequency and intensity of thumb-sucking often dictate how serious the subsequent damage to the teeth and the roof of the mouth. In extreme instances, persistent thumb-sucking may result in severe orthodontic issues and even speech problems.
To help control thumb-sucking and prevent long-lasting children’s teeth problems, consider these steps:
- Positive Reinforcement. Consider giving out small rewards and offering praise when you notice your child is not sucking his or her thumb.
- Set Goals. Give your child simple goals to achieve, such as no thumb-sucking after dinner.
- Replace the Ritual. If you notice that your child tends to suck his or her thumb during times of stress, replace the thumb with a stuffed animal to squeeze or a blanket to wrap themselves in.
- Talk to Your Dentist. Your pediatric dentist may be able to provide additional advice on how to stop thumb-sucking or have educational materials that help inform your child and help them break the habit.
Pediatric Tooth Decay
Pediatric tooth decay is one of the most common children’s teeth problems across the United States, affecting up to an estimated 20 percent of children under the age of 12. The cause of tooth decay is certain types of bacteria that grow in the mouth and contribute to the accumulation of plaque on the surface of your child’s teeth.
When that plaque interacts with certain foods –– often sugary foods rich in carbohydrates, like candy and soda –– it generates an acid that destroys the protective layer of enamel which coats the teeth. Over time, the acids released by this plaque leads to tooth decay and may cause irreversible damage.
Fortunately, tooth decay is also one of the most preventable oral health issues. Typically, implementing proper tooth brushing techniques and brushing consistently –– in the morning and before bed –– are enough to prevent tooth decay. Limiting the consumption of those sugary snack foods and scheduling regular checkups with your pediatric dentist are also critical steps in avoiding tooth decay.
Grinding, or Bruxism
Grinding of the teeth, also known as bruxism, is another common children’s teeth problem. Bruxism in children can have several causes. It may be a response to elevated stress levels or a reaction to a toothache or teething.
If your child grinds his or her teeth, this can eventually lead to chipped teeth, the wearing down of primary teeth, pain in the face and jaw muscles, and headaches during the day.
A common solution is a night guard fitted to your child’s mouth to prevent the teeth from grinding during sleep. If you suspect your child is experiencing bruxism, consult your pediatric dentist and inquire about obtaining a simple device to help alleviate the issue.
Poor oral hygiene can often lead to gum disease, also known as gingivitis. This is usually due to the buildup of tartar, plaque, and bacteria in the mouth from a lack of proper brushing. Signs of gum disease in children include red, inflamed, and receding gums that bleed easily when flossed. If your child frequently complains of having a bad taste in his or her mouth, this could be another sign of gingivitis.
Like many children’s teeth problems, your child can help avoid gum disease through daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits. During dental visits, your dentist can assess whether your child has gum disease and whether or not the infection is advancing, in which case, antibiotics may be required.
Over-Retained Primary Teeth
Around the age of six, your child’s primary teeth, or baby teeth, should begin to fall out and be replaced with permanent teeth. On some occasions, one of your child’s primary teeth may fail to loosen on its own. When this happens, the permanent tooth underneath may be non-existent, there may be an obstruction or misalignment with the permanent tooth, or some previously undiagnosed oral trauma may be the culprit.
In these cases, your pediatric dentist can remove the over-retained primary tooth to allow space for the permanent tooth to develop.
Fear of the Dentist
Dental anxiety, or fear of the dentist, is a common concern for parents who are trying to provide their children with the oral care they need. Fear of the dentist in children can make a standard checkup a stressful experience, and if their anxiety persists, it can actually lead to serious, lifelong oral health problems. If your children fail to overcome dental anxiety when they’re young, they may avoid the dentist as adults, leading to serious issues and requiring more extreme procedures.
At Children’s Dentistry, our pediatric dentists have received special training to work with nervous and anxious children. We go above and beyond to create a fun, welcoming atmosphere for kids so they enjoy the experience as much as possible. While this makes their individual check-ups easier, it also helps establish a healthy, positive relationship between your child and the dentist to ensure they can have more comfortable dentist visits well into adulthood.
Contact Children’s Dentistry Today
While proper brushing and flossing can help prevent some of these common children’s teeth problems, annual visits to the dentist are important even if you do not see obvious signs of these issues. At Children’s Dentistry, we have 10 convenient locations in Las Vegas and across Nevada where we can prevent, detect, or address any serious teeth problems.