Some common dental problems in children and how to prevent them
Dental issues are common while growing up. But serious problems can be prevented by taking appropriate care of the teeth and mouth.
Some of the common dental problems that a child may encounter include tooth decay, cavities, and dental carries, crooked or protruding teeth, early tooth loss and other medical issues related to dental health.
Teething is a natural process of growing up. The tooth has to cut through the gum tissue to erupt. While the tooth is trying to come out, the gums get swollen and can cause discomfort to the child making him cranky and irritable. Chewing relieves this irritation. When a child is teething, he may stick all sorts of things into his mouth to chew on, to relieve the pain of swollen gums. Give the child a teether to chew on to prevent infections and diarrhea from contaminated objects.
Cavities are caused when sugar and starch leftover from the food sticks to the teeth and destroy the enamel.
Juices, milk and formula are usually fed in bottles. If the baby sleeps with the bottle in his mouth throughout the night and the sugars in the bottle may stick to the teeth and cause cavities. Initially white spots appear on the teeth which slowly turn brown. Cavities can destroy the entire tooth, if not taken care of immediately.
To prevent nursing carries, the bottle should not be allowed throughout the night. If the bottle cannot be avoided, fill it with plain water to avoid cavities caused by bacteria that feeds on sugar.
Sometimes even breast milk can cause cavities if the child is allowed to feed on the breast many times during the night.
As the child gets older, starch and sugar from regular food may attract bacteria and cause cavities. Avoiding starchy and sugary snacks helps prevent tooth decay. Regular brushing of teeth especially before going to bed is important.
When the child is growing up, sucking is his only way of getting nourishment to survive. But if thumb sucking continues after 5 years, it pushes the teeth forward and results in protruding teeth. The child will develop faulty teeth alignment and bite problems. This may even lead to nutritional problems causing infections. The habit of thumb sucking should be actively discouraged after 3 years and must definitely be overcome by 5 years of age.
Some children thrust their tongue against the lip to swallow food. This puts pressure on the front teeth, pushing them out to form protruding teeth. Protruding teeth causes overbite and may interfere with proper speech development. A speech pathologist will help by suggesting a health plan to improve chewing muscles and develop new method for swallowing.
Lip sucking involves sucking the lower lip between the front teeth and lower teeth. The pressure on the front teeth makes them protrude resulting in overbite and same problems associated with thumb sucking.
Tips to prevent dental problems
To calm the baby, give water in a bottle rather than sugary drinks or milk. Do not allow the baby to nurse on the breast or bottle continuously in the night. Use clean gauze to wipe the baby’s mouth after feeds.
Motivate your child to stop thumb sucking by positive reinforcement. Do not hold him because thumb sucking is a security mechanism which may increase if criticized. Wrapping gauze or band aid on the thumb may work.
Removing stresses from the child’s life will reduce the habit of thumb sucking. In extreme cases, dental appliance that makes thumb sucking painful will be of use.
Prevention is better than cure. It advisable to inculcate good dental hygiene habits early on. As soon as your child gets first two to four teeth, start using a baby brush to introduce regular brushing of teeth later on. Avoid a diet too high in starch and sugar. Plan regular visits to the dentist, at least once every six months. This should help avoid dental problems in children.