According to the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood illness. Often we tend to overlook our children’s oral health needs – after all, those aren’t their permanent teeth anyway, right?
What a lot of us fail to realize is that pediatric dental problems can lead to much bigger issues like infections, problems eating, speech development problems, problems with mental and social development and sometimes even lead to death.
Here are 5 of the most common dental problems for children:
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Does your child always have a bottle or sippy cup in their hand? Do you let them take milk to bed? If so, then you need to STOP. When their teeth are constantly in contact with sugar from juice, formula, breast milk or cow’s milk (YES, they ALL have sugar in them!) the bacteria in their mouth will feed on the sugar and grow, causing tooth decay. Feed your baby when they are hungry, and let them have a drink when they are thirsty, but the only drink they should carry around all day long, or take to bed, is water.
Thumb Sucking. The sucking reflex is emotionally comforting and is a natural, normal reflex for all babies. It’s when thumb sucking continues into the older years, past the age of 5, that it begins to effect the growth of their teeth. Thumb sucking can cause problems with the alignment of teeth, alignment of the jaws, formation of the roof of the mouth and the development of speech. In order to deter thumb sucking you MUST use positive reinforcement rather than negative. At night you can take their fingers out of their mouth once they have fallen asleep.
Tongue Thrusting. Tongue thrusting is a natural reflex that aids nursing and bottle fed infants. When their lips touch, their tongue automatically protrudes. This reflex naturally fades as the baby gets older. If you notice this reflex hasn’t faded in your older baby you should talk to your pediatric dentist about the condition and what you can do to prevent it.
Lip Sucking. Lip sucking is placing the lower lip between the upper and lower teeth and sucking on it. Lip sucking can affect the alignment of the teeth and can cause difficulty in speaking clearly. You can try to deter your child from lip sucking with positive reinforcement and patience.
Early Tooth Loss. Children can lose teeth from decay or injury. If baby teeth are lost before permanent teeth are ready to come in it can cause teeth to shift messing up the alignment of both baby and permanent teeth. The shifting of baby teeth can also cause permanent teeth to grow in crooked or sideways. If your child prematurely loses a tooth you should consult your pediatric dentist immediately.
It’s essential to teach our kids about the importance of oral health in order to positively impact their overall health and quality of life.