The functions of the mouth, such as speaking, chewing, and eating, can be affected by dental problems in children. The appearance can also be affected, leading to self-esteem issues and feelings of insecurity.
This is why early dental and oral health care is critical, even at a young age. It’s up to the parents to ensure that their children’s teeth and jaws are developing correctly, as well as their mucous membranes without bruising or decay.
Adults also have a responsibility to help children develop good habits at a young age. Preventing dental problems is better than dealing with them later on with more invasive treatments.
The most common dental issues in children are discussed in this article.
Cavities can appear soon after your child’s baby teeth appear, although it may take a few months before the problem becomes visible. Sugary and acidic foods and drinks are the main contributors to cavities, which often start as a small white spot on the tooth. This white spot is the demineralization of the enamel which is the beginning of its decay.
Babies can suffer from tooth decay because of the sugar in milk (including breast milk and formula) or fruit juices that remain in their mouths for long periods of time, day and night. For this reason, the baby’s bottle at bedtime, or a cup during the day, should contain water if possible.
Parents can help their child by following these tips:
- Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums with a damp washcloth. When the molars come in, start using a toothbrush.
- Use a soft toothbrush for children. Remember to change the toothbrush every 3 months.
- Use fluoride toothpaste regularly once your child has learned to spit out the toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and helps prevent cavities. Put a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a pea) on the toothbrush and brush your child’s teeth after every meal and before bedtime. If your child swallows the toothpaste, this small amount shouldn’t hurt.
- When all the baby teeth are out, start flossing. Floss before brushing. Floss gradually and make sure it’s a game and not a burden to your child. By age 7, your child should be able to brush on his own. By age 8, children should be able to floss.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. It is often caused by plaque build-up due to ineffective brushing. People who breathe through their mouths tend to accumulate more plaque because their mouths are drier and saliva is less effective. Diabetics are also at greater risk for an inflammatory reaction to plaque.
Warning signs include red gums and bleeding gums when brushing or flossing. Gingivitis can lead to periodontal problems, so good hygiene is very important.
3. Little space between the teeth
Crowding usually becomes a problem when adult teeth begin to grow in. Crowding can cause teeth to become impacted. Most of the time, the crowding involves the canines that appear at the age of 12. If baby teeth are not spaced far apart, it can get worse and cause crowding when the larger adult teeth start to come in.
A panoramic x-ray will help to see the positioning of the adult teeth in the jaw before the teeth appear. Expanding the dental arch, using fixed or removable devices, can help create more space to avoid crowding problems.
If your child breathes through the mouth, it can lead to dental problems such as increased plaque buildup and bad breath. It can also lead to bone problems that require orthodontic correction. Respiratory problems can be caused by airway obstruction due to large tonsils, adenoids or polyps, or by a deviated septum or being overweight. Allergies can also cause rhinitis which has a similar effect. Respiratory problems are usually also associated with poor sleep, so it is best to treat the underlying causes when possible.
5. Sensitive teeth
Although more common in adults, tooth sensitivity can also be a problem for children. Sensitivity is usually caused by exposed dentin, which is usually caused by decay, wear, erosion and gum recession (loosening of the teeth). Children have larger nerves in their teeth, so it may take less exposure for them to experience discomfort or pain. It’s important to ask your dentist to check for any sensitivity in your child’s teeth, as this could be a warning sign of a bigger problem.
Don’t forget to schedule an annual dental cleaning and checkup appointment for your child to ensure that your dentist can catch any problems early
Finally, it should be noted that dentists recommend that parents begin taking their children to the dentist when the first baby teeth appear (around six months of age) and before the child’s first birthday. The dentist can provide a thorough examination and helpful advice.
Be cool, positive, reassuring, and try to arrange a meeting with your child before each visit to the doctor when he or she is more likely to be relaxed and cooperative.
Make sure your children’s mouths don’t fill up with food after they eat or drink something!