As young as kids may be, they aren't spared severe and discomforting dental problems. Fortunately, it's encouraging to know that as enticing as they are to sugar-heavy food, you still have a chance to help them. Yes, kids learn mostly by imitation. Simply following your steps can avoid the severe consequences of a nonchalant oral hygiene attitude. In this article, you will find the five most common dental problems for kids and how to avoid them.
Tooth Decay (Cavities)
Unchecked intake of sugary foods like cookies and fruit juice, alongside an inconsistent brushing habit, is responsible for the prevalent tooth decay amongst American children today. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention stated that more than half of kids between 6 to 8 had experienced tooth decay. The same goes for the permanent teeth of adolescents between the ages of 12 to 19.
Tooth decay has its root in certain bacteria with the mouth as their natural abode. But when kids leave their teeth unkempt for a while or are used to shoddy brushing, these bacteria accumulate on the teeth to form a sticky buildup called a plaque. This plaque, stuck to the teeth, releases acid that corrodes the teeth' hard, protective outer surface. This process then leads to tooth decay.
Fortunately, tooth decay is preventable. With your conscious supervision of your kids' brushing time and techniques, you can help them build healthy oral health habits and avoid tooth decay. Have them brush and floss twice daily with a proper toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Also, regular visits to the dentist shouldn't be an unfamiliar experience to them.
In addition to their dental checkup, a dentist will form a relationship with your kids that'll pique their interest in good oral hygiene. He'd also teach them to give up sugar-heavy diets, especially before going to bed.
Unlike the general "type of food" excuse, a chronic and persistent bad breath case has deeper roots. Bad breath is also known as "halitosis" and is caused primarily by bacteria living in the mouth. According to a 2014 study, 37.6% of children that participated had halitosis.
Comparable to the case of tooth decay, these bacteria grow and multiply off leftover food particles and fluids in the mouth. As they mature, they produce a stinky gas known as hydrogen sulfide, responsible for the bad odor. Bad breath, however, doesn't have to be a big struggle. With proper oral hygiene—brushing twice daily with the right techniques, kids can wash off any dirt and bacteria before it accumulates into a plaque.
Furthermore, sulfur-containing foods like onions and garlic are also identified as culprits behind bad breath. You'd notice the smell for up to hours after eating such foods. Nevertheless, it wears off with time and consistent mouth cleaning. You can also get an antibacterial mouthwash for your older kids.
An increased teeth sensitivity can also be a serious challenge to a child. In this case, the child overreacts to hot or cold food and drink. Although sensitive teeth aren't a disorder, they're often a pointer to a bigger dental problem. Some people see this condition as exclusive to older people, but kids are also affected.
The reason is that the teeth's hard protective coating called the enamel is thinner in children and thus, easily destroyed by plaque acid. If this corrosion is left unchecked, the child's gum will collapse, leaving cracks on the tooth surface. As a result, previously buried nerve endings are exposed and easily stimulated on contact with hot or cold substances.
Teeth sensitivity might also be a pointer to undiagnosed tooth decay. Dentists use a sealant to close up cracks and strengthen the enamel. A soft-bristled toothbrush will help your kid best as hard ones can scrape the enamel surface, exposing the teeth to attack further.
This amazing habit starts right from the womb for some children. Thumb-sucking children do it instinctively and resort to it to relieve anxiety. Although you can be encouraged that the habit fades as the toddler clocks two or three, it's best to take informed steps to curb this habit early. This is because of its potential negative effects if prolonged. If the habit gets to the time for permanent teeth development, it can affect normal development and alignment.
This misalignment is called an "open bite,"—where the upper and lower teeth do not meet on closing the mouth. The formed gap disturbs the child's chewing and speech. Also, the intensity with which the child sucks determines the severity of tooth damage. Thumb-sucking should stop finally by age four, but if for some reason it doesn't, do ensure to see your dentist. They would give expert support and advice to break the habit.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
The term "Gingivitis" leads one to think it's a serious disease exclusive to adults. Unfortunately, it doesn't spare innocent kids. Gingivitis means "inflammation of the gums." It stems from the gradual deposition of plaque and tartar at the base of the teeth. Encouraged by poor dental hygiene, it progresses into gum damage and tooth loss.
The symptoms of gingivitis are often not palatable for children, starting from swelling and reddening of the gums. The gums also collapse from the teeth and are easily injured on flossing. Bad breath can also be a sign of gingivitis in a child's mouth. For kids, gum disease can show up in three forms:
- Chronic gingivitis: A common condition in children that puffs up the gum tissue, turns them bright red, and causes them to bleed easily on a slight injury.
- Aggressive periodontitis: It is more common among adolescents. Aggressive periodontitis patients lose their alveolar bone, one of the tissues that prop up the teeth.
- Generalized aggressive periodontitis: This condition affects the whole mouth, unlike others that go for the gums. Inflamed gums, large plaque deposits, and loose teeth are some obvious symptoms of generalized aggressive periodontitis.
The good news about gum disease is that it's preventable with simple oral hygiene habits—brushing twice daily and regular dental checkups. However, severe cases might require deeper cleaning. The dentist might also suggest antibiotics to treat a progressive infection.
Because kids have little experience catering to themselves, they need guidance and intentional tutoring on building and maintaining good oral hygiene practices. As they imbibe this consciousness during childhood, it sticks with them going forward and keeps them away from the common dental problems mentioned.
If you need more clarity or would love to speak with a professional dentist with experience in kids' oral health, our experts at Newcastle Dental would love to be of help.
Published by Samantha Brown