Dental issues that affect children are usually not very different from those affecting adults. However, primary teeth in children are more prone to developing dental issues and require extra care and attention before their permanent teeth come in. Understanding the different types of dental problems that their children might face is essential for parents. It is also their responsibility to work in collaboration with their pediatric dentists to ensure the well-being of their children’s oral health.
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Frequently seen dental problems in children that parents should keep a look-out for include:
Cavities and tooth decay are some of the most common dental issues seen in children. Decayed teeth are caused by dissolution of the tooth enamel by bacteria present in plaque. Children are more likely to consume sugary and sticky foods that are also rich in carbohydrates. If the remnants of such foods are not immediately cleaned from the mouth, the bacteria present in the plaque accumulated on the teeth can lead to the development of cavities. Consumption of foods like candy, sugary drinks, potatoes, bread, etc combined with inconsistent brushing habits is the leading cause of tooth decay in children.
Children should be taught the importance of regular brushing and maintaining good overall oral hygiene. Parents should limit the consumption of foods that can increase the chances of decay in their children, especially before they go to bed. Children below the age of six should have parental assistance while brushing their teeth. Fluoride toothpastes should be part of a child’s brushing routine from the age of two years and onwards.
Gum diseases are dental problems usually associated with adults. But the same reasons that cause gum disease in adults can lead to the development of the disease in children too. Parents need to ensure the prevention of plaque accumulation in their children’s mouth, which is the primary cause of gum disease. Typically, gum disease is characterized by bleeding and swollen gums, often accompanied by bad breath. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to more severe conditions like loss of tooth and damage to the bone. If your child begins to show signs of gum disease, it is advisable to take them to the dentist.
Oral Habits like Thumb-Sucking
Thumb-sucking is seen as a usual habit in children up until the age of 2 or 3. Children take up the habit of thumb-sucking as a means of seeking comfort, with some showing signs of thumb-sucking even in the womb. If the habit continues to persist past the age of four, it can hamper overall healthy oral development. These problems can include abnormal permanent teeth eruption patterns, misalignment of teeth, etc.
Children who find it hard to let go of thumb-sucking can benefit greatly from counseling. Parents should talk to their kids about the habit, and may even take them for a visit to their pediatric dentist for an evaluation.
Tooth sensitivity is usually caused by contact with hot or cold foods that can lead to a sharp stinging sensation. The protective enamel layer on a child’s tooth is thinner than in adults, which can wear away quickly by acidic foods and plaque accumulation. Wearing down of the enamel layer due to friction by hard brushing, consumption of certain foods or even tooth decay can lead to sensitivity and pain.
Dentists can combat tooth sensitivity by applying a layer of dental sealant on your child’s teeth. Parents should brush their children’s teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush instead of a hard one, which can cause damage to the enamel layer and even lead to microscopic cracks.
Any type of tooth misalignment, overcrowding, gaps in teeth, or problems with bite is known as malocclusion. Teenagers and adolescents are more prone to developing issues with their occlusion as they lose their primary teeth to be replaced by permanent teeth. Some children might have over-retained primary teeth, which need to be extracted to ensure the correct eruption pattern of their permanent teeth.
Malocclusion should be addressed at an early stage. Orthodontic treatments like braces are usually undertaken after the age of 12; this is when all permanent teeth have erupted. Some pediatric dentists may perform interceptive orthodontics at an earlier stage to avoid the development of future malocclusions.