6 Common Dental Problems Among Children
7 December 2022
When you think about someone having a dental condition, you would typically think that it affects an adult or the elderly. While tooth loss, teeth sensitivity, and gum diseases tend to be more prevalent among adults, children are also at risk of experiencing these dental problems.
It’s important that parents are kept aware of some of the risks that accompany poor dental hygiene among children.
Read on as we highlight some of the common dental problems that affect children as well as solutions and tips that can help you combat them.
#1 Baby bottle tooth decay
A well-fed baby is definitely a top priority for every parent but it’s also essential to be aware that some beverages, particularly sugary ones, can have an adverse effect on the oral health of your child. Sugary beverages are not just carbonated beverages or cordials. They include fresh fruit juices and milk (such as fresh and formula).
Baby bottle tooth decay or also known as infant caries occurs when teeth are exposed to too much sugar and therefore, causing tooth decay. Typically, the front teeth are affected. The name ‘baby bottle’ is inspired by the habit of young children and infants falling asleep with a bottle in their mouth, for extended periods of time. This causes the sugar to coat the teeth and as mentioned, causes decay.
Prevention is key: To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, it’s important to be mindful of your child’s bottle-feeding habits such as ensuring that the child does not fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth. You should also clean your child’s teeth and/or gums after feeding. When your child is ready, you should encourage your child to cultivate the habit of brushing their teeth regularly using the right techniques.
#2 Excessive thumb sucking
Thumb sucking is a relatively normal habit for babies and young children. As a matter of fact, it’s a natural gesture that helps to give a young child security and comfort. However, the risk begins when your child sucks his or her thumb excessively and some may continue the habit till a much older age.
This prolonged and excessive habit will put your child at risk of malocclusion, palate issues as well as having challenges with their speech. If you’re wondering when you should stop your child from sucking his or her thumb, it’s important to remember that every child is unique but generally, a child should not suck their thumb past the age of 5. More importantly, it’s about putting a stop to the habit gently.
Some of the steps you might want to consider include offering your child an alternative to help them feel secure and comfortable such as by offering them a stuffed toy or a lovey.
Prevention is key: Firstly, it’s important to understand why your child is sucking their thumb. In some cases, it could be due to teething and for some children, it’s a form of comfort. As parents, addressing the situation accordingly will help to eventually curb the habit but do remember that it’s also best to avoid being forceful during your attempts. You may also reinforce healthy behaviours such as rewarding your child when he or she does not suck the thumb. If you are still having trouble, consider speaking to your child’s dentist for a solution to curb the thumb-sucking habit.
#3 Paediatric gingivitis
Poor dental hygiene can cause a buildup of tartar and plaque between your child’s gums and teeth. When coupled with bacteria, this can eventually cause paediatric gingivitis, a dental condition that is defined by inflamed gums. Common symptoms of paediatric gingivitis include bleeding, swollen and tender gums as well as bad breath.
Prevention is key: Ultimately, there are 2 important steps that can help to prevent the development of gingivitis in your child. Firstly, good oral hygiene is important. Encourage your child to brush his or her teeth twice daily using a soft bristled toothbrush and an age-appropriate toothpaste. For older children, you’re also encouraged to have him or her floss daily. Secondly, regular dental check-ups are equally important to maintain your child’s oral hygiene.
#4 Baby teeth loss
Naturally, your child will start to lose his or her baby teeth at about the age of six onwards. This is a natural process as your child’s mouth makes room for permanent teeth. Typically, your child’s lower central incisors (their two bottom front teeth) will be the first to fall out.
However, in some circumstances, your child might lose his or her baby teeth at a premature stage due to tooth decay or perhaps from the impact of an accident, instead of it falling off due to emerging permanent teeth. Don’t worry, in cases as such, your child’s permanent teeth will eventually take its place but this will put your child at a higher risk of misaligned teeth.
Prevention is key: It’s a natural and healthy dental milestone for your child’s baby teeth to fall out. Good dental hygiene remains vital throughout this process. You should start cultivating the habit as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts and this healthy practice becomes even more important as your child grows as this will help your child’s permanent teeth last a lifetime. In the event of misaligned teeth, it’s best to speak to your child’s dentist to understand the available orthodontic options that will help to correct your child’s smile as well as improve his or her dental health concurrently.
#5 Tooth sensitivity
Just like adults, children are not spared from sensitive teeth too. Sensitive teeth are often described as a painful, tingling, and stinging sensation that will appear after eating hot or cold food or sometimes after brushing one’s teeth.
The reason why a child experiences sensitive teeth is the same as adults, whereby the tooth’s dentin is exposed and therefore easily triggers the sensitive nerves around your teeth.
While the causes of sensitive teeth among children are similar to adults such as tooth damage and brushing too hard, the coming in of your child’s permanent teeth could also cause tooth sensitivity.
Prevention is key: Brushing one’s teeth vigorously does not necessarily equate to cleaner and healthy teeth. Instead, it can damage your tooth and this is why it’s important to teach your child the right teeth-brushing technique. For older children, using toothpaste with fluoride will also help your child strengthen his or her pearly whites. If you’re unsure about when you should start your child on a tube of toothpaste with fluoride, it’s best to discuss your thoughts with your child’s dentist prior to purchasing a tube.
#6 Orthodontic concerns
Misaligned teeth or malocclusion among children are nothing out of the ordinary. There are various factors that can contribute to this including your child’s genes, dental health, lifestyle habits, and so on.
Learning about the reason behind your child’s misaligned teeth can be useful but what’s more important is to take a proactive action towards the situation. Thankfully there are various orthodontic options for you and your child to consider, all of which can help to effectively correct your child’s bite.
The two main options include:
- Braces – This method involves the use of metal wires and brackets, which will be adjusted regularly by your child’s dentist to help your child’s teeth shift to their ideal position. Braces is an orthodontic method that has been used for decades and while the metal brackets and wires are highly visible, this option is pocket-friendlier than its counterparts.
- Invisalign – Invisalign is a modern orthodontic treatment option that prides itself on realigning one’s teeth discreetly. Invisalign uses clear plastic aligners that are customised according to the patient’s orthodontic needs. The clear aligners help to gradually shift the patient’s teeth to their ideal position and as the process is gradual, this also minimises pain and discomfort during the treatment. Another benefit of Invisalign is that it offers treatments tailored to the needs of children, which are Invisalign First (ideally for children between the ages of 6 to 10) and Invisalign Teen.
Prevention is key: While some causes of malocclusion can be prevented such as excessive thumb sucking, in most cases, malocclusion happens beyond one’s control. If your child’s crooked teeth are a concern, a discussion with your child’s dentist will give you a better picture on how to prevent malocclusion if possible and more importantly, you’ll learn of the best available orthodontic options for your child.
5 Tips to Improve Your Child’s Oral Hygiene
As you might realise by now, good oral hygiene is key to preventing dental issues during childhood. We understand that sometimes, it can be a struggle to encourage your child to adhere to a healthy oral care routine. With that being said, here are some useful tips that you can try at home:
- Start dental care young. Ideally, you should encourage your child to brush his or her teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts.
- It’s best to have your child brush his or her teeth under supervision. This way, you will be able to assist as well as correct your child’s brushing technique if needed.
- Make it a habit to visit your child’s dentist regularly. Your child’s first visit should ideally be before he or she turns 1. Getting your child familiar with the dentist also helps to reduce the chances of dentophobia (fear of the dentist).
- If your child refuses to brush his or her teeth, turn this daily routine into a fun activity by singing a song or brushing your teeth as a family.
- For babies, don’t forget to wipe your child’s gums in the morning and right before bed to prevent the buildup of bacteria in the mouth.
Caring for your pearly whites is a habit cultivated from young. Our dentists at i.Dental can play an important role in helping you and your child maintain healthy teeth by journeying with your family. Make an appointment with one of our dentists to learn more about nurturing good oral care habits among your children.