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Lifelong oral health problems often begin in childhood, which is why it’s important to develop good oral health habits when your child is young. While there are many different types of dental issues, here are some of the most problematic to look out for in children:
This is the most common dental problem found in children. Baby teeth are especially prone to decay because they’re softer and more fragile than permanent teeth. Tooth decay occurs when acids and bacteria break down enamel and penetrate deeper layers in the tooth. This penetration leads to a cavity, which can then cause pain, infection, and if left untreated — an abscess formation.
According to a 2019 report from the CDC, 80% of children in the U.S. begin brushing their teeth later than dentists recommend. To prevent this problem, begin a twice-daily brushing regimen (using fluoride toothpaste) with your child as soon as their first tooth appears. It’s also important for parents to teach their kids to eat a balanced diet and avoid excessive sugary drinks and candy.
Pediatric Gingivitis / Gum Disease
Gum disease, also referred to as gingivitis or periodontal disease, is caused by bacterial infections and can lead to bleeding gums and bad breath. Children who develop gum disease may need antibiotics or other medications. The best way to prevent gum disease is with regular visits to the dentist every six months.
Broken Teeth and Grinding
From the playground to the soccer field to backyard hide-and-seek, children are prone to accidents — and are therefore more susceptible to breaking or chipping their teeth. A fractured tooth can be extremely painful, so contact your dentist right away if this happens to your child.
Surprisingly, teeth grinding often begins during childhood or adolescence. If you are seeing patterns of headaches, neck pains, jaw pain, or earaches in your child, they could unknowingly be grinding their teeth. If left untreated this can cause long-term damage to enamel and dentin, so let your child’s dentist know if any of these symptoms come up.
Thumb sucking is one of the most common behaviors associated with early childhood. Excessive thumb sucking can have lifelong effects such as improper jaw alignment, overbites, crossbites, crowding of the teeth, malocclusion, and speech difficulties. If you notice your toddler excessively sucking their thumb, attempt to change their behavior by replacing it with pacifiers or finger foods such as carrots, celery, or apple slices (when they are old enough). If your child continues thumb sucking past age three, consult your dentist.
Dental Anxiety and Phobias
Some kids may experience extreme fear or anxiety over going to the dentist. This is normal but if it becomes too much, there are ways to help them overcome their fears. Scheduling regular checkups with your child’s dentist from a young age can help normalize the experience and ensure that any dental problems are caught and taken care of early on. It may also help to talk to them about oral health at home and set a good example by taking good care of your own oral hygiene.
Ready to take the first step on your family’s road to great oral health? Members have access to group rates on PPO dental plans! Visit our dental page to view plan details and enroll today.