Dental care is critical, even from early childhood. Parents should make sure that they are doing all they can to protect their children’s teeth and gums, as it will be the foundation for their oral health when they become adults.
There are a variety of issues that can affect the oral health of children. Contrary to popular belief, the health of a child’s baby teeth can also impact the health of their permanent teeth. Thus, it’s important to watch for potential problems before they become big issues.
Here are some oral problems to watch for in your child:
- Baby bottle tooth decay — We know that sugar can cause cavities and tooth decay for adults, and it’s the same for children. Also known as childhood caries, baby bottle tooth decay results from an infant’s teeth being frequently in contact with sugar from drinks. Even breastfed babies are at risk for tooth decay if they fall asleep while nursing and have milk in their mouths.
Decaying teeth can make it difficult for your infant to eat because it is painful to chew. Additionally, damaged baby teeth can’t guide permanent teeth into position if they aren’t taken care of. This situation can also result in an abscessed tooth or crowded permanent teeth.
To prevent tooth decay, don’t give your child sugary drinks too often, especially at night right before bed. Instead, you can give the child a small amount of water to drink. If you are breastfeeding a baby, make sure you remove your breast from the baby’s mouth when he or she falls asleep. Also, transitioning your child from a bottle to a sippy cup before their first birthday can help lessen their teeth’s exposure to sugar.
- Early tooth loss — Early tooth loss can occur for a variety of reasons, including injury, tooth decay, and lack of jaw space. If your child is experiencing early tooth loss, their other teeth may shift to fill in the open space, which will result in there not being enough room when permanent teeth emerge. If you consult with a dentist, they can place a space maintainer in your child’s mouth to hold the space open until the permanent teeth eventually come in.
- Tongue thrusting — Tongue thrusting occurs when a child closes their mouth to swallow and then thrusts the tip of the tongue toward the lips to swallow. This method of swallowing puts pressure against the front teeth, which can push them out of alignment and cause an overbite. It can also cause issues with speech development. If you notice that this is a problem, contact a dentist for intervention.
- Thumb sucking — Many babies suck their thumb or a pacifier, as it provides feelings of comfort and security. However, if a child continues sucking his or her thumb after the age of 5, it can cause issues with their permanent teeth. Thumb sucking with existing or emerging permanent teeth can push teeth out of alignment, creating an overbite and can even cause the upper and lower jaw to become misaligned. The roof of the mouth could also become malformed.
If your child is reaching an age where they are gaining permanent teeth, you can help encourage them to stop by providing them with positive reinforcement or rewards for not doing so. However, your child may also be sucking their thumb due to stresses they are facing. If this is the case, you should discover what is causing the stress and find a way to eliminate it. Easing children’s stress will help them be able to give up the habit easier.
- Lip sucking — In many instances, lip sucking is done by a child in combination with thumb sucking. Lip sucking is equally problematic and involves the child holding their lower lip between the upper and lower front teeth. Like thumb sucking, lip sucking will also result in an overbite. You should go about eliminating this habit the same way you would with thumb sucking.
While it may be difficult to help your children break bad habits that are negatively affecting their teeth, it will pay off in the long run by prevent significant dental problems.