There is a wide range of dental issues in kids but some of the most common issues are easily prevented. From tooth decay and thumb sucking to tongue thrusting and early tooth loss, these issues all present a problem. Even though baby teeth fall out and get replaced, it is still very important to care for them and keep them strong and health. This will promote great lifelong oral health.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
This occurs when baby teeth are in constant contact with sugar found in milk, formula and fruit juice. These sugars feed the bacteria found naturally in the mouth. This causes decay. This decay can cause pain, problems with eating, and early tooth loss.
You may think that it is no big deal since these baby teeth fall out anyways. However, they serve an essential purpose by acting as space savers for the permanent teeth. If baby teeth are lost early, adult teeth may not erupt in the proper position.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Never dip pacifiers into sugar, honey, or sweet liquids
- Don’t put baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice
- If baby is nursing, always remove the breast from his mouth when baby falls to sleep
- Never add sugar to baby’s food or drinks
- Use a wet cloth to wipe baby’s teeth and gums after each feeding
- Teach your child to use a sippy cup by age 1 to reduce the teeth’s contact with sugar
While it is a completely normal and natural instinct, if it continues past age 5, thumb sucking can cause serious dental issues in kids. It can cause the teeth to be pushed out of proper alignment, making them stick out and cause an overbite. This can also cause issues with speech development, cause the jaws to be misaligned, and cause the roof of the mouth to be malformed.
[Related: Thumb Sucking vs Pacifier]
How to Stop Thumb Sucking
Thumb sucking is a security mechanism so negative reinforcement like punishments or scolding are usually not effective in breaking the habit. In fact, they can worsen it. Instead, try offering positive reinforcements such as praise or rewards for avoiding the behavior. You can also cover the thumb or fingers with a band-aid to help remind the child to avoid sucking them. You should also remove the thumb or fingers from the child’s mouth after he/she falls asleep. If your efforts are not working, you should speak to your pediatric dentist about the issue.
[Related: What is Orthodontics?]
Like thumb sucking, this is a natural reflex that babies are born with. However, normally is goes away as baby grows. If your child continues to exhibit the behavior, it can cause dental issues. Tongue thrusting puts pressure on the front teeth, pushing them forward out of alignment and causing an overbite. This creates issues with speech and proper chewing. If your child has issues with tongue thrusting, speak to your dentist so that you can determining if treatment is necessary.
This generally involves sucking the lower lip into the mouth, between the upper and lower teeth. It can occur alone or in combination with thumb sucking. Lip sucking causes the same types of problems and tongue thrusting and thumb sucking. To help break the habit, try the same steps indicated for thumb sucking.
Early Tooth Loss
Whether it is caused by decay, injury, or lack of jaw space early tooth loss can cause serious dental issues in kids. If the baby teeth are lost too soon the nearby teeth may shift and tip. When this occurs, the permanent teeth will erupt tilted, crooked, or misaligned. This causes problems with proper chewing and can lead to temporomandibular joint problems.
Preventing Dental Issues in Kids
While there are treatment options available for the issues we have discussed, it’s best to prevent them from happening. You can do this by properly caring for baby teeth and making sure that your child sees a pediatric dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups. Remember, baby teeth are important too! If it is time for your child’s check-up or their first dental visit, contact Dr. Smith today!