Did you know that one in five children have untreated dental problems by the time they start kindergarten? That’s a lot of kids who are at risk for cavities, tooth decay, and other dental issues.
If you have young children, it’s important to be aware of the early childhood dental issues that can occur in their early years. And by doing so, you can take steps to treat or prevent them from happening in the first place.
Childhood dental issues
- Thumb Sucking
Thumb sucking is common among babies and young children and usually isn’t something to worry about. However, if the habit continues beyond the age of four or five, it could cause problems with the alignment of the teeth. Additionally, thumb sucking that is vigorous or done with force can damage the roof of the mouth.
Most children will eventually stop thumb sucking on their own, but talk to a pediatric dentist if you’re concerned about it. They may be able to recommend ways to help your child break the habit, such as wearing a thumb-sucking guard or placing a bitter-tasting solution on their thumb.
- Tongue Thrusting
Tongue thrusting is a condition in which the tongue protrudes through the teeth during swallowing. This can cause dental problems, such as an open bite (when the teeth don’t touch when the mouth is closed) or malocclusion (when the teeth are misaligned). Tongue thrusting can also make it difficult for a child to speak clearly.
Most children outgrow tongue thrusting by early adolescence, but some may need treatment to correct any dental problems that have occurred. Treatment options may include speech therapy, orthodontics, or myofunctional therapy (which helps retrain the muscles used for swallowing).
- Mouth Breathing
Mouth breathing is normal in infants, but if it continues beyond the age of two or three, it could be a sign of a respiratory problem or allergies. Additionally, mouth breathing can lead to dental problems, such as an open bite, malocclusion, and gingivitis.
If your child is a mouth breather, talk to a reputable pediatric dentist to rule out any underlying medical conditions. They may also recommend seeing an allergist or ENT specialist. In some cases, treatment with appliances or orthodontics may be necessary to correct dental problems that have occurred.
Teething is how an infant’s teeth erupt through the gums. It usually begins around six months of age and continues until all 20 primary teeth have erupted, which typically happens when the child is around three years old.
Although it’s a normal part of development, teething can be uncomfortable for infants and may cause them to drool, chew on objects, or be irritable.
To help relieve your child’s discomfort, give them something cold to chew on (such as a frozen washcloth), massage their gums with your finger, or give them teething toys specifically designed for relief. If over-the-counter pain relievers are necessary, be sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully.
Cavities are holes in the teeth that are caused by decay. They can occur at any age but are most common in children and young adults. Cavities are caused by a combination of factors, including
- poor oral hygiene
- a diet high in sugary or acidic foods,
- and not enough saliva (which helps protect the teeth from decay).
Cavities can cause pain, tooth sensitivity, and difficulty eating. If left untreated, they can lead to infection, tooth loss, and other serious health problems.
To prevent cavities, brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and eat a balanced diet. In addition, ensure to schedule regular dental checkups so that any early signs of tooth decay can be caught and treated quickly.
- Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is a type of cavity that occurs when a baby’s teeth are exposed to sugary liquids for long periods. It is most common in infants and toddlers who are still drinking from a bottle but can also occur in older children who drink from sippy cups or straws throughout the day.
Baby bottle tooth decay can cause pain, difficulty eating, and eventually tooth loss. To prevent it, don’t give your child sugary drinks (including fruit juice) in a bottle or sippy cup, brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and schedule regular dental checkups.
- lip sucking
Lip sucking is a normal habit for many infants and young children. However, if it continues beyond the age of four or five, it can cause dental problems, such as an open bite or malocclusion. Additionally, lip sucking can lead to irritation and chafing of the lips and skin around the mouth.
Talk to a pediatric dentist if you’re concerned about your child’s lip-sucking habit. They may recommend behavioral therapy to help them break the habit. In some cases, treatment with appliances or orthodontics may be necessary to correct any dental problems that have occurred.
- Bad breath in infants
Bad breath, or halitosis, is common in infants and usually nothing to worry about. It can be caused by a variety of things, including teething, infection, food sensitivities, and mouth breathing.
To help relieve bad breath, brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, clean their tongue (using a soft-bristled toothbrush), and give them plenty of water to drink. If the problem persists, talk to their dentist or doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
- Over retained baby teeth
Most children lose their baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 12. However, some children may retain one or more baby teeth for longer than is considered normal. This is known as over-retained baby teeth.
Over retained baby teeth can cause various problems, including crowding of the permanent teeth, misalignment of the teeth, and difficulty chewing or speaking. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the over-retained tooth.
If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth, talk to their dentist. They will be able to assess the situation and recommend any necessary treatment.
- Periodontal disease in children
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues and bones that support the teeth. It is a common problem in adults but can also occur in children. Periodontal disease is caused by a combination of plaque and tartar buildup, along with inflammation of the gums.
If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. Additionally, it has been linked to several other health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
To prevent periodontal disease, brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and moderate their sugar intake. Additionally, ensure to schedule regular dental checkups so that any early signs of periodontal disease can be caught and treated.
How to prevent early childhood dental issues in children
The best way to prevent early childhood dental issues is to practice good oral hygiene habits at home and to schedule regular dental checkups for your kids.
Nonetheless, some specific things you can do to help prevent dental problems in your child include:
- Brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Cleaning their tongue (using a soft-bristled toothbrush)
- Giving them plenty of water to drink
- Moderating their sugar intake
- Schedule regular dental checkups.
The best way to prevent early childhood dental issues
Early childhood dental issues are fairly common, but they are also preventable. That’s why it’s important to take your child to an experienced pediatric dentist for their first checkup by their first birthday.
Furthermore, early childhood dental issues can lead to bigger problems down the road if left untreated, so it’s best to nip them in the bud as early as possible.
A professional pediatric dentist in Midlothian, Virginia, will be able to give your child a comprehensive exam and advise you on how to keep their teeth healthy and cavity-free. So, what are you waiting for? Make an appointment today!