Early Childhood Dental Problems

Some parents may be surprised to learn that, according to The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child is ready for her first pediatric dentist  visit when she’s a year old, or when she has her first baby tooth. Lack of proper hygiene or dental care for your child can result in a variety of dental problems. Here are some of the most common childhood dental problems seen by a pediatric dentist, along with symptoms and treatments to resolve the issues.

Common Early Childhood Dental Issues
Early Childhood Caries (ECC)
Commonly referred to as baby bottle tooth decay, early childhood caries is caused by prolonged exposure of the teeth with sugary drinks including milk, fruit juices and formula. If left untreated, carious lesions can cause disruption of the development and growth of your child, as well as pain and serious life-threatening infections.

Symptoms include:
• Brown spots on teeth
• Bad breath
• Swollen or bleeding gums
• Irritability or fever (could indicate infection)

Keep your baby’s bottle and pacifier clean and only give her sugar-free drinks. Be sure to limit sugar intake, wipe your baby’s gums with a wet cloth to clean them even before the first tooth appears, and never put your child to bed or nap with a bottle. If necessary, fill it only with water.
Treatments for ECC include fluoride treatment for minor cases and surgical removal or restoration of carious teeth for more severe cases.

Thumb Sucking
All infants tend to suck on something – fingers, pacifiers, thumbs. This is completely normal and typically not anything to be concerned about, unless this habit is continued at a later age. Children normally stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four years, which is around the time permanent front teeth are developing.

Damage Caused by Thumb Sucking
Once a baby’s permanent teeth begin to develop, constantly sucking things can push teeth out of alignment, which will cause an overbite as they protrude. In addition, thumb sucking can cause children to eat incorrectly or have speech problems.

How to End Thumb Sucking
Once you see your child’s first tooth, it is time to encourage your child to stop sucking her thumb. Here are some helpful tips:
• Reward or praise your child for not sucking her thumb
• Children usually suck their thumbs when they need comfort or feel insecure. Focus on the cause of the anxiety and comfort your child to ease this.
• Involve older children and include them in selecting a method of stopping
In addition, ask your pediatric dentist to offer encouragement to your child and let them explain how thumb sucking will affect teeth.

Cavities
Cavities are common and are seen frequently in children and even babies. A cavity forms in a tooth when food and mouth bacteria are not properly brushed away. Many children have cavities in the back of the mouth because this area is hard to reach properly when brushing.
To help prevent tooth decay, children should start a proper oral hygiene routine as soon as they are born. Remember that nutrition is a huge factor in dental health, so make sure to provide healthy, sugar-free foods.

Symptoms of Cavities
Tooth decay, which causes cavities, begins as a white, chalky spot on the teeth that will eventually become yellow, then brown, and continues to grow until it becomes a hole or cavity.

Treatment of Cavities
Once a cavity forms, it is necessary to take your child to the pediatric dentist for treatment. The dentist will remove the decay from the tooth and replace it with a filling.

Having a pediatric dentist is key. Not only does it teach your child proper tooth care and hygiene, it can also save you money with costly dental visits in the future.

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