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Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Common Issues and Strategies for Prevention In Dental Health of Children 

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published February 15, 2024

Sustaining strong dental health is important for a child’s comfort. Bad dental habits can lead to physical and psychosocial effects in childhood advancing to adulthood. As a parent or guardian, it’s important to teach a child healthy dental habits and observe if they are experiencing any teeth issues. 

Causes of Poor Dental Health 

Some causes of poor dental health may be more apparent than others and knowing children’s dental milestones will help you tackle problems as they happen. Addressing causes of dental issues can significantly contribute to children’s dental well-being.

Lack of Dental Care Education

Failing to teach children proper brushing and flossing techniques can significantly contribute to poor dental health. Without adequate instruction, children may not fully grasp the importance of thorough brushing and flossing, leading to inadequate cleaning of their teeth and gums. Insufficient brushing and flossing can result in the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that coats the teeth. Over time, if not properly removed, this plaque can harden and form tartar, which is more challenging to remove and can contribute to dental issues. If the problem persists cavity development on teeth surface will occur.

Prolonged Bottle or Sippy Cup Use

Allowing children to fall asleep with baby bottles or sippy cups, or using them beyond the recommended age, can lead to dental issues. The prolonged exposure of teeth to sugary liquids or milk can promote the growth of bacteria, leading to cavities of teeth and other problems.

Thumb-Sucking

Persistent thumb-sucking can negatively impact a child’s dental health. It can potentially cause misalignment of the mouth and teeth, resulting in bite issues and the need for orthodontic intervention to correct.

Excessive Sugar Consumption

Consuming too much sugar, whether through sugary snacks, drinks, or processed foods, significantly increases the risk of tooth decay and cavities. The presence of sugar provides an ideal environment for bacteria in the mouth to produce harmful acids that erode tooth enamel, leading to dental problems.

Insufficient Fluoride Intake

Lack of fluoride in water or diet can compromise dental health and increase the susceptibility to tooth decay. Fluoride naturally found in certain foods and water helps strengthen tooth enamel and provides protection against dental issues.

Common Dental Issues

Awareness of common dental issues is important in avoiding them. From tooth decay to tongue thrusting, gaining insights into these common dental problems, parents can work with dental professionals to avoid them. 

Cavities 

Tooth decay, commonly known as cavities, results from poor oral hygiene and excessive sugar consumption. Cavities occur when bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode the tooth enamel, leading to the formation of small holes.

Malocclusions (Bite and Alignment Issues)

Malocclusions refer to dental issues related to improper alignment of the teeth and jaws, which can affect biting, chewing, and overall oral health.

Premature Tooth Loss

Premature tooth loss can occur due to various factors, such as dental trauma, decay, or genetic conditions, leading to gaps and potential issues with speech and chewing.

Gingivitis and Gum Disease 

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial plaque, which, if left untreated, can progress to gum disease (periodontitis) in adulthood and can result in gum recession and tooth loss.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, involves clenching or grinding the teeth unconsciously, often during sleep, leading to tooth wear, jaw pain, and potential damage to the teeth.

Bad Breath

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be caused by poor oral hygiene, gum disease, certain foods, or underlying health conditions, resulting in unpleasant breath odor.

Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity refers to discomfort or pain experienced when exposed to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic stimuli due to exposed dentin or tooth root surfaces.

Canker Sores

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are painful lesions that develop inside the mouth, often triggered by factors like stress, injury, or certain foods.

Tongue Thrusting 

Tongue thrusting is a habit where the tongue pushes against or between the teeth during swallowing, speaking, or at rest, potentially causing dental misalignment.

If any of the issues arise, promptly consult a dentist to prevent further complications. 

Prevention of Dental Issues 

Developing healthy habits, which include providing education and guidance from a young age, can help avoid common dental issues.

Proper Education 

It’s vital to teach and observe children on how to brush and floss their teeth. Until they are confident in their ability, it is advised against allowing a child to brush their teeth independently. In addition to teaching a child how to keep their teeth healthy, educate them on what a cavity is and the importance of avoiding tooth decay and other common dental issues. 

Sugar Consumption 

Sugar is a leading cause of tooth decay because the acid found in sugar can dissolve minerals that make up the enamel of teeth. Try to avoid hidden sugars and have children consume less than 25 grams of sugar a day. 

Minerals and Vitamins 

Besides avoiding an excess of sugar, teeth need a variety of minerals and vitamins from certain foods to help sustain dental health. For example, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are an essential part of comprehensive dental health. Proper nutrition helps avoid problems associated with vitamin deficiencies.

Fluoride  

As previously mentioned, fluoride in water can help slow tooth decay. Check if there’s fluoride in your drinking water or if you need to incorporate fluoride into your diet (i.e. well water) by checking voluntary public disclosure or contacting the community’s water provider (utility).  

Utilize Sealants 

A common practice provided by dentists to keep children’s teeth protected is dental sealants. Sealants are painted on the back teeth of chewing surfaces to prevent cavities. Sealants act as protective shields blocking out germs and food. These are usually applied to adult molars and premolars.

Regular Dentist Appointments 

Finally, a best practice to help prevent common dental issues in a child is by taking them to the dentist. Dentists advise bringing a child at 12 months of age or 6 months after their first tooth comes in. Continue to schedule dentist appointments for a child about every 6 months (aim for 2 appointments a year). A pediatric dentist will be able to examine if a child’s mouth is on the correct developmental path and prevent dental issues. 

Schedule an Appointment at a Pediatric Dentistry 

Schedule a dentist appointment at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa to help educate your child in the prevention of common dental issues. Our staff is registered and certified with the Iowa Board of Dental Examiners and meets the highest standards of continuing dental education. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment! 

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