Guest Blogger, Shen Chao
There are a lot of problems that affect your child’s dental health such as early loss of teeth, lip sucking, tongue thrusting, thumb sucking and tooth decay. Maintaining your child’s baby teeth in good health and proper alignment is important to your child’s overall health in the long term.
Here are 6 early dental health issues that children face and how to prevent them:
- Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
What and How: Baby tooth decay is also known as early childhood caries which occurs due to your baby’s teeth staying in prolonged contact with sugary drinks like sugary water, formula, milk and fruit juices.
The sugar is broken down in your mouth which produces a byproduct of acid which wears down the minerals found in your tooth enamel which further leads to tooth decay.
Solution: You can prevent tooth decay by:
- Give your baby a pacifier or a bottle filled with plain water instead of milk or sugary drinks.
- Don’t let your baby’s pacifier come into contact with any sugary liquid.
- Don’t ever let your baby sleep with a bottle full of any sugary liquid. Only give them a small amount of water or a pacifier instead.
- Remove your breast from your baby’s mouth after he/she falls asleep.
- Avoid adding sugar to your baby’s food.
- Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums with a gauze or wet cloth after feeding.
- Consult your dentist about your child’s fluoride requirements. You may have to fluoridate your water if necessary.
- Teach your baby to start drinking from a cup by their first birthday at the earliest. Moving on to a sippy cup reduces your child’s teeth’s exposure to sugars.
- Thumb Sucking
What and How: It’s very difficult to find an infant that doesn’t suck on something, whether it be their pacifier, their fingers or their toys. Sucking on an object just when your baby’s teeth are erupting can throw your baby’s teeth out of alignment, causing them to have protruding or crooked teeth as well as leading to overbites. It can also teach your children to eat incorrectly and cause speech problems.
Solution: Thumb sucking isn’t such a big problem until your child’s permanent teeth begin erupting. Once your child’s adult teeth start erupting, you should encourage your child to stop sucking his thumb. This can be a bit difficult as sucking your thumb is generally a coping and safety mechanism that can have the opposite of its intended effect, pushing your child to suck his thumb even more.
Try and praise your child for refraining from sucking his thumb and follow it up with a reward. You can then slowly begin to increase the time that your child has to avoid sucking his/her thumb to get the reward.
- Lip Sucking and Tongue Thrusting
What and How: Tongue thrusting is the habit of sealing the mouth for swallowing by pushing the top of the tongue forward against the lips. Tongue thrusting puts extra pressure against the front teeth, which can push them out of alignment, this leads to interference with proper speech as well as creating an overbite.
Lip sucking also involves repeatedly holding your lower lip beneath the upper front teeth. Sucking the lower lip can occur on its own or in combination with thumb sucking. This practice leads to an overbite and the same types of tongue thrusting and thumb sucking.
Solution: You can stop the habit with the same technique that is required for stopping thumb sucking – positive reinforcement.
- Over Retained Baby Teeth
What and How: A baby tooth that is still in place with a permanent tooth trying to erupt underneath is usually termed as an “over-retained” tooth, which requires its removal. The presence of still having primary teeth in adults and teenagers can be a potential problem such as impacted permanent teeth or congenitally missing teeth.
Solution: The earlier you get diagnosed the better the chances of healing. Regular dental appointments allow your dentist to actively monitor your child’s oral growth and development.
- Orthodontic Problems and Teeth Grinding
What and How: A bite that does not meet properly is known as a malocclusion. It can either be acquired or inherited. Certain causes of malocclusion are misaligned jaws, crowded teeth, extra or even missing teeth. Accidents or developmental issues such as thumb or finger sucking for extended periods can cause malocclusions.
Solution: TMJ treatment such as occlusal splint therapy and night guards can be worn to prevent your child from grinding his teeth.
- Early Tooth Loss
What and How: If your child loses their baby teeth before their permanent teeth erupt, it is usually caused by lack of jaw space, injury or tooth decay. If the baby teeth are left untreated, the rest of the teeth can crowd into the space that is intended for the permanent tooth.
Solution: To improve your child’s dental health, you need to first prevent your child from suffering from tooth decay for which you need to set an oral hygiene routine from a young age if you want your child to avoid tooth loss. Nutrition plays a large role in our oral health so try to feed your children sugar-free foods as much as possible. If your child’s tooth happens to fall out early, then your dentist will suggest the use of a space maintainer, a metal or plastic application that is designed to hold the space left by the missing teeth till the permanent tooth erupts.
Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Dental Clinic in Goodyear, AZ. While working for the dental clinic, he’s gained first hand experiences into the questions and concerns that dental patients have. He has been writing to inform people about various dental topics to help his readers improve their oral health. When he’s not working, you can find him on a hiking trail with his dog or having a Sunday cook-out with friends.