There are a variety of problems that can negatively impact a child’s oral health, including tooth decay, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and premature tooth loss. While your child’s baby teeth eventually fall and are replaced with permanent teeth, maintaining the health of their baby teeth ranks as vitally important to his or her overall well-being.
With that in mind, here are a few common oral health concerns for kids that every parent should know.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Also referred to as childhood caries and nursing bottle syndrome, baby bottle tooth decay occurs when a child’s teeth receive frequent exposure to liquids that contain sugars, such as milk, formula, fruit juice, sugar water and any other type of sweet beverage. Even a mother’s breast milk can cause tooth decay. As these types of liquids begin to breakdown into simple sugars and allowed to sit in a child’s mouth, bacteria begins to feed on the sugars, resulting in the development of tooth decay.
When left untreated, tooth decay can cause a child severe discomfort and make it difficult for her to eat and chew. Additionally, baby teeth act as placeholders for a child’s adult teeth. If baby teeth become damaged or destroyed, they can no longer serve in their role of helping to guide adult teeth into the proper position. This could result in a child developing crooked or crowded permanent teeth, and the need for orthodontic treatment later in life. In extreme cases, decay could lead to the development of an oral abscess and the potential for an infection to spread to other parts of the body.
You can avoid baby bottle tooth decay by never laying your baby down with a bottle that contains any liquid other than water. Parents should also take the time to wipe down their child’s teeth with a clean damp cloth follow each feeding. Once your child develops teeth, gently brush his teeth and gums using a child-sized toothbrush. Avoid using toothpaste until your child is old enough to know when not to swallow.
For young children, thumb sucking is a completely normal and healthy habit. Sucking on pacifiers, toys, fingers and thumbs provides infants and toddlers with a sense of comfort. However, if a child should continue to thumb suck past the age of five – roughly the age her permanent teeth will start to develop – oral health problems may begin to occur.
Depending on the duration, frequency and intensity of the sucking, a child may cause their teeth to become pushed out of alignment, resulting in the development of an overbite or teeth that are crooked or crowded. A child could also develop problems with word pronunciation, and her upper and lower jaws may become misaligned.
When trying to encourage your child to break the habit, keep in mind that thumb sucking is completely normal and should not rank as a concern until teeth begin to develop. Your child needs to quit thumb sucking on her own, as harassing or punishing a child for the habit could only make her more self-conscious and anxious. Remember, kids typically use thumb sucking as a soothing mechanism. Stressing your son or daughter out about their habit will only cause more sucking, not less. Provide gentle and positive encouragement should your child not stop on their own, and consider placing band aids or string around a child’s thumb as a reminder not to suck.
Tongue thrusting occurs when a child seals his mouth when swallowing by thrusting the top of his tongue towards his lips. This action places excess pressure against a child’s front teeth, causing them to eventually shift out of position, resulting in the potential for an overbite and potential speech problems to develop.
If you notice your child exhibiting the symptoms of tongue thrusting, he may need the help of a speech pathologist to overcome the habit. A pathologist can help to create a plan that enables your child to improve the strength of his chewing muscles and develop a new way think about swallowing.
Looking for the best in dentistry Beaverton, Oregon has to offer, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.