Pediatric Dentistry Is Unique
Pediatric dentists had to go through specialized training for a reason, there are issues just for kids dentistry; certain dental problems that children face that adults do not. Some are more common than others, so we have compiled a list of four issues that a child may face through the various stages of teeth development.
Thumb sucking is common in most children, and if the habit ends early enough, there is no dental damage. On the other hand, if a child continues to suck their thumb after the age of five, it could result in improper teeth development. Luckily, if a child breaks the habit before permanent teeth settle in, their teeth will most often not be impacted.
While thumb sucking may appear to be an innocent habit, it can cause your children to suffer from dental problems in the future. Thumb sucking places pressure on the baby teeth and cause them to push forward. This can lead to tooth removal or braces.
Unsurprisingly, a child’s teeth are not as strong as an adult and normally have 50% less enamel protecting their teeth. This means that cavities can form easier and can cause damage faster. So make sure to practice good brushing and flossing habits with your child and bring them in for regular visits to check for tooth decay!
Worrying about tooth decay in your children probably isn’t at the top of your concerns, however, this is a problem that affects 42% of children ages 2 to 11. In fact, nearly 28% of children ages 2 to 5 develop at least one cavity.
We want all our patients to have happy, healthy smiles so we put together this handy guide for parents on how they can prevent tooth decay in children and what they can expect if their little one develops a cavity.
What Causes Tooth Decay in Children?
Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in the mouth begin to eat away at the primary teeth. This can happen due to:
- Inadequate dental care
- Not brushing your teeth
- Going to bed with a bottle (baby bottle tooth decay)
- Too many sugary treats
You Can Prevent Cavities Before They Happen
Although this a somewhat common problem in children, there are a few things you can do to prevent tooth decay in the first place.
- Limit sweets. Sweets every once in a while is just fine as let’s be honest, no one can resist them always! But it’s best to limit these sweet treats as they help bacteria to grow and can lead to tooth decay.
- Proper brushing technique. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and use only a pea-sized amount. Learn more about proper brushing techniques.
- Visit the dentist regularly. It’s best to visit the dentist twice a year to make sure your child doesn’t have cavities or tooth decay. Once the back molars grow in, Dr. Payam will probably recommend applying dental sealants to help even more in cavity prevention.
The fact that your child’s teeth will fall out doesn’t mean that you can ignore problems like tooth decay. If the decay is severe enough, it can damage the permanent teeth underneath. This is also the prime time to lay down the groundwork for good dental hygiene that your child will carry with them for the rest of their life.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Cavities in toddlers and infants are known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. These cavities can prevent children from having strong teeth to chew their food with, and can also cause tooth pain or sensitivity.
What Causes Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is most common in a child’s upper teeth, particularly in the front. However, it is possible in other places as well. These cavities can be caused by a number of things, most common of which is overexposure to sugary drinks. If a baby is usually put down for bed with a bottle in its mouth, or a bottle is commonly used to quiet a fussy baby, they are likely to get cavities in those front upper teeth, hence the name. Cavity-causing bacteria can also be passed from the mother to the baby through bacteria in the mother’s saliva. The bacteria slowly wear away at a baby’s teeth, causing decay in the long run.
Thankfully, there are several ways to prevent your baby from having Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. First and foremost, it is vital to avoid passing bacteria to the baby. Do not lick your child’s spoons or put anything in your mouth that will later go into your baby’s mouth. You can also use a washcloth to wipe any baby food or milk from your baby’s gums after feeding. Once their baby teeth start to come in, use a baby toothbrush to gently brush your baby’s teeth, using a dab of fluoride toothpaste. After the age of 3, you can start using slightly more toothpaste, about the size of a pea. Use bottles for milk or formula only. If you put your child to bed with a bottle, it is especially important to avoid filling it with juice, soda, or any other sugary drink.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay can be painful and prevent children from having strong, healthy teeth. These cavities can be caused by many things, such as sugary drinks and shared saliva. Thankfully, it is completely preventable by brushing your child’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste often, and teaching your child healthy dental habits once they are old enough to brush their teeth by themselves.
Grinding teeth is another habit that children form that is usually broken at an early age. Like thumb sucking, if it continues into later years, some damages can occur. A couple of results of teeth grinding are chipped teeth or worn down enamel which could be problematic. Most often though your child will stop grinding their teeth before problems present themselves.
Though some children may grind or clench their teeth while awake, bruxism is often an issue when children sleep.
Bruxism—gnashing, grinding, or clenching of teeth—is common among children. In fact, twenty to thirty percent of all children experience it. Bruxism is a big part of what pediatric dentists help children with. Though some children may grind or clench their teeth while awake, bruxism is often an issue when children sleep. Children may not be aware of it unless someone hears them doing it.
If your child experiences bruxism, especially while sleeping, it may be the result of anxiety, stress, hyperactivity, or how the upper and lower teeth contact each other.
What to Look For
Check your child occasionally while they sleep to listen and watch for indications of grinding, gnashing, or clenching. Ask your child if he or she is having headaches, earaches or a sore jaw. Ask if your child is experiencing pain when chewing. They may also be tired from a lack of sufficient sleep.
What You Should Do
Often, bruxism is minor, and children eventually outgrow it without it having long-term effects on their health. Over a long period, however, bruxism can lead to other issues including teeth enamel loss or sleep disorders such as apnea.
If your child experiences bruxism, and you suspect it is stress-related, talk to him or her about what may be causing the stress. Then plan how to relieve that stress or hyperactivity before bedtime. Consider, for example, playing soothing music, reading a book, or having your child take a warm shower.
If that doesn’t help, consult your pediatric dentist for an accurate diagnosis. There may be a simple reason, such as poorly-aligned teeth. It is not unusual for children to require a custom-fitted mouthguard which can prevent cracking, breaking, or premature teeth wear.
Cleft Lip & Palate
Both cleft lip and palate are orofacial birth defects in which a baby is born with an opening in the roof of the mouth and/or the lip.
A cleft lip can occur between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy and is caused when the normal joining of the lip and facial tissue does not completely close. The result can be a small unclosed slit or a large opening traveling from the lip to the nose – and is most common in boys.
A cleft palate occurs when the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth does not completely join, leaving an opening in the front and/or back mouth palate. This defect usually occurs between the sixth and ninth weeks of pregnancy and is more common in girls. Both cleft lip and cleft palate can be successfully treated by skilled pediatric dental professionals or plastic surgeons. Follow-up treatment to improve the child’s speaking and eating abilities and to treat any other ear, nose and throat conditions are common.
The direct cause of these birth defects are still unknown – even though each year over 2500 babies are born with a cleft palate and over 4,400 with a cleft lip (with or without cleft palate). Both of these oral and/or facial defects could be caused by various reasons, including a mother who smokes during pregnancy, women who take certain medications, or those diagnosed with diabetes prior to pregnancy.
Cleft lip and palate repair will vary depending on the child’s specific needs, but are geared towards closing and rebuilding the mouth separation along with additional surgeries to improve appearance. Like many birth defects, the risk factors and methods to prevent and treat these childhood issues are continually researched to shed light on increasing the national rates for a healthy pregnancy.
When a child has sensitive teeth, they can experience pain with extreme temperature changes. Tooth sensitivity can occur as a result of a new tooth coming in, a cavity forming, or improper brushing techniques. Regular visits to the pediatric dentist are key in helping prevent tooth sensitivity.
For these reasons and many others, your child should be visiting a pediatric dentist on a regular basis. Unlike a regular dentist, we specialize in just for kids dentistry. Dr. Payam has the best skills to take care of your child’s teeth. Schedule an appointment today!