6 Early Childhood Dental Health Issues and How to Deal with Them

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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:

  1. 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:

  1. Give your baby a pacifier or a bottle filled with plain water instead of milk or sugary drinks.
  2. Don’t let your baby’s pacifier come into contact with any sugary liquid.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove your breast from your baby’s mouth after he/she falls asleep.
  5. Avoid adding sugar to your baby’s food.
  6. Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums with a gauze or wet cloth after feeding.
  7. Consult your dentist about your child’s fluoride requirements. You may have to fluoridate your water if necessary.
  8. 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.

 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Author Bio:

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.

 

Tips For Starting Dental Habits At A Young Age

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Guest Blogger, Dr. Sheila Harris from Natomas Crossing Dental Care

Establishing proper dental habits early in your child’s life is the key to preventing tooth decay and cavities — the No. 1 chronic infectious disease affecting children in the U.S. Routine oral hygiene should start as early as your child’s first tooth appears and continue throughout life. Here are some tips on how to help your child develop lifelong dental habits and healthy teeth:

  • Develop healthy habits at home. Parents play a significant role in helping their kids learn how to care for their teeth and gums properly. While a child is young, you should brush and floss for them. Kids love to mimic their parents, so set a good example by brushing your teeth twice a day for a full two minutes each time. Explain why it is important to keep teeth and gums healthy, and talk positively about the dentist to encourage a lifetime of good oral health habits. As children grow older and their brushing skills improve, they can begin cleaning their teeth on their own with your careful supervision.
  • Choose kid-friendly dental products. When choosing oral care products, use those that are designed specifically for children. Generally, brushes with small heads are most effective for cleaning smaller mouths. Get children excited about oral hygiene by allowing them to choose their own toothbrush. Today’s kids can select from a variety of toothbrush styles and designs, including popular TV show characters. Fluoride toothpastes are also available in kid-friendly flavors, like grape and strawberry, which promote strong, healthy teeth and encourage your child to brush regularly. Make it a habit to change your child’s toothbrush every three months or when the bristles start to fray.
  • Make brushing fun. The key to forming healthy oral health habits early is making dental care an enjoyable experience for your child, not a chore. This can be as simple as listening to a two-minute song while your child brushes, or role playing dentist with your child’s favorite stuffed animal. Today there are even smartphone apps that offer tooth brushing timers and educational games geared toward pediatric dental care to help get your kids excited about taking care of their teeth.
  • Start dental visits early. Familiarizing your child with the dentist is one of the best ways to keep your child on the right path to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. The American Dental Association recommends that a child visit a dentist by age 1 or when the first tooth erupts. Early visits to the dentist can help your child become more comfortable with the dental office and procedures, which can go a long way to reduce anxiety about dental appointments in the future. At these important checkups, the dentist can examine your child’s teeth to detect early signs of decay, provide important treatment as needed, and give parents tips on caring for their child’s teeth.
  • Praise your child for good brushing. Don’t be surprised if children offer some resistance to dental care from time to time. Continue to encourage and assist them in their oral health routine, and don’t forget to praise them when you notice they are putting forth a lot of effort. Some kids may even benefit from an incentive-based system that rewards them each time they demonstrate healthy dental habits, such as brushing without being asked or a cavity-free dental checkup.

Your child’s health and safety is top priority, and oral health is no exception. By starting early and making regular dental visits a habit, you can help your child develop healthy dental habits for life. 

Author bio: Dr. Sheila Harris is Owner of Natomas Crossing Dental Care in Sacramento, California. Dr. Harris graduated from Northwestern University School of Dentistry and has been working as a licensed dentist since 2000. She is a dedicated member of several dental organizations, and has been one of the top general dentists in Sacramento for the past five years. 

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