5 Common Dental Problems for Kids

  1. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Also called early childhood caries, nursing caries, or Nursing Bottle Syndrome, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a result of a baby’s teeth coming in frequent, prolonged contact with sugary drinks, such as fruit juices, milk, formula, and sugar water.

As with all foods, the sugar is broken down by bacteria in your mouth, producing a byproduct of acid.  The acid then attacks your teeth and strips away the minerals found in your enamel, causing tooth decay.

How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

As a general rule, you want to keep your baby’s bottle or pacifier as clean and sugar-free as possible. Here are a few tips to do so:

  • Never dip your baby’s pacifier into sugar, honey, or any sweet liquid before giving it to them.
  • Don’t clean a dropped pacifier in your own mouth.  Cavities are contagious, and you could be passing on your own cavity-causing bacteria.
  • The less sugary drinks they consume, the better. Try to limit drinks other than water to only mealtimes.  In between meals and during snack time, only put plain water in their bottle or sippy cup.
  • Don’t add unnecessary sugar to your child’s food.
  • Before your baby cuts their first tooth, make sure you’re wiping their gums with a clean, wet piece of gauze or a cloth.
  • Don’t put your baby down for bed or a nap with a bottle.  If they absolutely have to have a bottle, make sure you fill it only with water.
  1. Thumb Sucking

You’d be hard pressed to find an infant that doesn’t suck on something – whether it’s their fingers or their pacifier.  Generally, this habit isn’t anything to be alarmed about, unless it continues until a later age.  When a baby’s permanent teeth begin to come in, sucking on an object can push the teeth out of alignment, causing them to protrude or create an overbite.  Beyond the aesthetic consequences of sucking, it can also cause speech problems or teach children to eat incorrectly.

How to Stop Your Child from Sucking Their Thumb

Thumb sucking doesn’t become a huge problem until a child’s permanent teeth start to erupt.  Once the first tooth starts to emerge, parents and family members should offer positive reinforcement to encourage a child to stop sucking.  Because it’s generally a coping and security mechanism, negative reinforcement could have the opposite of the intended effect, driving the child to suck their thumb even more.

Instead, give praise and rewards for a designated span of time that the child refrains from the habit.  Then gradually increase the time that they need to avoid sucking in order to get the reward.

For older children who haven’t gotten rid of the habit, it’s important to figure out exactly why your child is still doing it.

  1. Tongue Thrusting

Tongue thrusting is the habit of sealing the mouth for swallowing by thrusting the top of the tongue forward against the lips.

Like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting puts extra pressure against the front teeth, which could ultimately push them out of alignment, causing improper speech development, eating problems, and an overbite.

How to Stop Your Child from Tongue Thrusting

If you notice your child tongue thrusting, contact a speech pathologist to help correct the problem – the earlier, the better.  They’ll develop a treatment plan that helps your child to increase the strength of their chewing muscles and to develop a new swallowing pattern.

  1. Lip Sucking

Lip sucking involves repeatedly holding the lower lip beneath the upper front teeth, which results in the same overbite, speech impediment, and eating habits caused by thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.

How to Stop Your Child from Lip Sucking

Like thumb sucking, lip sucking is best stopped with the use of positive reinforcement.

  1. Early Tooth Loss

If a child loses a baby tooth before the permanent teeth is ready to move in, it’s generally because of tooth decay, injury, or lack of jaw space.  If left untreated, the remaining teeth could crowd into the space intended for the permanent tooth.

How to Prevent Early Tooth Loss

To prevent tooth decay, start your child out on a proper oral hygiene routine from the day they’re born.  Since nutrition is a large factor in our dental health, make sure to provide healthy, sugar-free foods.  If your child’s tooth falls out early, your dentist will most likely recommend a space maintainer, a plastic or metal device that holds open the space left by the missing tooth.  Once the permanent tooth erupts, the device will be removed.