Good oral health is an integral part of overall wellness, and it is important to begin quality oral health care and hygiene habits as early in life as possible. Children, like adults, can develop a variety of dental problems. In fact, they may be even more likely to have some issues because of habits like drinking sugary beverages and sucking their thumbs.
By learning about the common oral health issues experienced by children, parents can take necessary precautions to prevent them and be on the lookout for warning signs. By remaining diligent about kids’ dental wellness, you can set them up for a lifetime of healthy gums and teeth.
The following are some of the most common dental problems in children:
Tooth Decay and Cavities
Tooth decay and cavities are common dental problems for adults, and the same is true of children. Since the enamel on baby teeth is only half the thickness of the enamel on permanent teeth, they’re even more vulnerable to tooth decay quickly developing into a cavity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of children ages 6-8 have had at least one cavity in their milk teeth. If left untreated, cavities can cause children to experience pain and infections as well as problems speaking and eating.
Children often develop misaligned teeth due to sucking on their thumbs. Thumb sucking isn’t a problem until their permanent teeth come in (usually after age 5). But if the habit continues, it can push their teeth out of alignment and cause an overbite. This habit can also cause their upper and lower jaws to become misaligned.
Children also have other habits that can cause their teeth to become misaligned. Tongue thrust, which is pushing the top of the tongue forward before you swallow, can also cause an overbite. So can lip sucking, which children do by repeatedly holding their lower lip beneath their teeth. These habits can also cause speech problems for some children.
Early Tooth Loss
Although baby teeth are lost in preparation for permanent teeth, they can be lost prematurely. This loss can happen because of tooth decay, an injury, or overcrowding. You might think it doesn’t matter since the tooth would be lost anyway, but that’s often not the case.
A baby tooth that’s lost before permanent teeth erupt causes teeth that are nearby to shift or tilt. This can cause problems when permanent teeth come in since they might not have enough room to emerge properly. This can cause issues with chewing or your child’s jaw development.
If your child’s teeth develop plaque – a sticky film of bacteria that can harden into tartar, then it can cause their gums to swell and bleed when touched. This problem is the first symptom of gum disease, also called gingivitis.
Early treatment of this problem is important since gum disease gets worse if left untreated. The underlying bone that supports your child’s teeth may decay and cause their teeth to become loose.
Protecting Your Child’s Smile
Children can develop dental issues that affect their speech, ability to chew, and overall well-being. Problems in milk teeth can also create problems for permanent teeth when they emerge. Although milk teeth will eventually fall out, they require proper dental hygiene habits and care, including biannual visits to the dentist.