It is a misconception that dental problems only occur in older children. In fact, children are more prone to getting dental diseases as compared to adults. Oral health care of a child must begin from the first day after birth. Healthy teeth and smile always contribute to the youthful personality of the child. There is a wide range of dental problems that affect the oral health of children. However, tooth decay is the most prevalent among all.
The National Institute of Health has reported that around 42% of children between the age of two and eleven years to suffer from a high risk of early childhood caries. The majority of these cases go untreated because of a lack of care. It is essential to understand that the health status of the primary teeth has a significant effect on the growth and development of the permanent teeth.
Why should you take care of a child’s teeth?
It is a fact that children require extra care when it comes to maintaining good oral health and hygiene as compared to adults. This is because the tooth enamel of the primary teeth is not as strong as that of the permanent teeth.
Enamel in the primary teeth is said to be around 50% thinner than the enamel of an adult tooth. It is more likely to get damaged by the cumulative effect of dental plaque and bacteria in the mouth. If left unchecked, it can lead to the damaging impacts like extensive cavity formation, premature tooth loss, and initiation of gum disease. (1)
Teaching good oral habits to children right from an early age is essential to eliminate the incidence of dental problems. The best way is to become a role model for your child and perform oral health activities together. Regular dental check-ups play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the child’s teeth and gums.
Primary teeth fall out, but they are equally important as permanent teeth. These teeth allow the child to chew the food properly and absorb nutrition for proper growth and development. Moreover, primary teeth help the child to speak correctly. Premature loss of teeth can not only have a severe effect on the growth of permanent teeth, but it can also impact the appearance of your child’s smile.
What are the different dental problems faced by children?
Most parents are not bothered by the dental problems that occur in children. However, it is essential to understand the cause behind some of the common pediatric dental issues so that you can prevent it at an early stage. Most of the dental problems are treatable. Let’s take a closer look at all the pediatric dental problems –
Tooth decay is the most prevalent dental disease in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that around 20% of the children between the age of five and eleven years in the United States have at least one decayed tooth. The percentage of adolescents suffering from tooth decay sums up to 13% across the country.
Tooth decay mainly forms as a result of poor oral hygiene. Dental plaque is a yellowish sticky biofilm that forms on the surface of the teeth after every meal. It acts as a host for the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the mouth. Often children consume more sugary food and drinks. The bacteria thrive on these food items and produces bacterial acids that eat away the tooth enamel. (2)
The early signs of tooth decay are often reversible and do not require dental treatment. However, most of the times, parents ignore the development of tooth decay in primary teeth. This leads to the formation of extensive and painful tooth cavities. Tooth cavities are the prime cause of premature tooth loss in children. Moreover, it can have a debilitating effect on the development of permanent teeth.
Often children experience tooth irritation and discomfort on eating hot and cold food. This dental condition is referred to as tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is not a dental disease. However, it can be a potential sign to the beginning of a severe dental problem.
Children are more prone to tooth sensitivity as compared to adults because of thinner tooth enamel. The weak tooth enamel quickly wears away by the eating habits of the child that mainly involves sugary food and acidic drinks. Progression of such condition can lead to the weakening of the tooth enamel, gum recession, and in extreme cases, it may trigger tooth decay and cavity formation. (3)
The inflammation of the gum tissue typically characterizes gum disease. Often the main culprit behind the formation of gum disease is dental plaque formation. The early signs of tooth decay are often described as swollen and red gums that may recede and bleed easily while tooth brushing or flossing. Typically, gum disease can be categorized into three stages –
- Chronic gingival disease – chronic gingivitis is most prevalent in children and is usually characterized by swollen puffy gum tissue that may bleed easily
- Periodontal breakdown – periodontal disease is more prevalent among adolescents and adults. It is characterized by gum recession and tooth mobility. (4)
- Generalized periodontal disease – aggressive stages of periodontitis lead to widespread disease progression, which may have significant damaging effects on the oral health of the person.
Malocclusions are one of the most common dental problems that occur in children. Several reasons may lead to misalignment of teeth in children. Most of the times, malocclusions arise as a result of bad oral habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and lip biting. (5)
One of the main techniques that are typical in all of these oral habits is an effect on the alignment of the upper front teeth. Malocclusions can also be caused by delayed or improper tooth eruption of the permanent tooth. This occurs as a result of over-retained primary teeth or premature loss of the primary tooth. Some of the common types of malocclusions that are prone to children include –
- Anterior open bite
- Forwardly placed upper front teeth
- Increased overjet
- Crowding or spacing of the teeth
- Misalignment of the jaws
- Skeletal discrepancies
- Discrepancies between the tooth size and jaw size
- Improper bite
All these malocclusions can either have a single root cause, or it can occur as a cumulative effect of more than one reason. It is essential to consult a dentist to identify the underlining reason and treat it before it impacts the health of the teeth and gums. Usually, orthodontic interception is required to regulate the growth of the permanent teeth and correct the alignment of the teeth in the jaw. (6)
Delayed tooth eruptions
The primary teeth often act as a guide to the permanent teeth to erupt properly in the jaws. Usually, the primary teeth fall out to allow the permanent teeth to erupt. However, over retention of the primary teeth can cause delayed tooth eruption. Sometimes, the permanent teeth may erupt out of alignment and cause malocclusion.
Another cause of delayed tooth eruption is the premature loss of the primary teeth. This takes away the guiding force and allows to the permanent tooth to erupt abruptly in the mouth.
Over retention of the primary teeth may be due to the presence of tooth abscess or obstructions caused by traumatic injury, pathological reasons, or misalignment while premature tooth loss may be a result of extensive tooth decay, cavity formation, or progressive gum disease.
Bad breath, clinically known as halitosis is another common dental problem that children suffer from in their daily life. Often, parents blame the occurrence of bad breath on the food that the child eats. However, it is essential to understand that chronic bad breath always has a deeper root cause than eating stinky food. (7)
One of the prime causes of halitosis in children is poor oral hygiene which indicates excessive growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria that reside in the mouth mostly feed on the food that a child consumes. They ferment the food particles and produce volatile sulfur-containing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide. These volatile sulfur-containing compounds are fouls smelling and provide a chronic characteristic foul breath.
As the bacterial build-up increases, it can lead to the formation of potential dental diseases like gum disease, digestive problems, sinusitis, and tooth decay.
How to take care of children’s teeth?
The best way to ensure proper oral health and hygiene in children is to educate them about the importance of oral health right from an early stage. Teach them suitable oral health activities and become a role model. Following are some of the fun ways you can teach your child to take care of their oral health regularly –
- Teach them to brush the teeth by moving the toothbrush in a gentle circular motion. Perform this activity together to make it fun and exciting. A good tooth brushing habit must last for at least two minutes. You can buy fancy themed toothbrush to attract the child to wake up every morning and brush the teeth.
- It is better to use fluoridated toothpaste that helps to strengthen the tooth enamel and reduce the incidence of tooth decay or cavity formation in children. Always choose a fluoride toothpaste that has a good flavor, as children are very peculiar about the taste.
- Use a themed floss that immediately captivates the child’s attention. Flossing can be very annoying for children. Make this activity a team task to maintain enthusiasm. Always look at the flossing technique of your child and make sure they do not snap the gums. (8)
- Our mouth is the portal to overall health and well-being. This is why you must take the utmost precautions in ensuring that your child eats healthy food. A nutritious diet is the best gift you can give to your child. Fresh fruits and vegetables form the main component of a healthy diet. You can also incorporate dairy products and nuts to provide an extra portion of protein and calcium.
- Regular dental check-ups are mandatory to keep a check on the oral habits of the children. Identification of early tooth decay or gum disease can help to save your child from the misery of tooth pain and expensive dental treatments. Moreover, routine dental visits can have a positive impact on your child’s mind which will encourage them to follow proper oral hygiene practices at home.
Take away message
As parents, you always want the best for your child in terms of health and well-being. Oral health of the child plays a crucial role in contributing to the overall growth and development. Tooth decay, cavity formation, gum disease, and bad breath hare some of the common dental problems that are prevalent in children as compared to the adults.
It is essential always to get it treated immediately. This is because healthy primary teeth and gums affect the growth and development of the underlying permanent teeth. By reading this article, you must now be aware of the common dental diseases that affect a child’s oral health. Follow proper oral health care practices and keep a check on any unusual signs or symptoms.
Consult your dentist immediately, and seek treatment. Regular dental check-ups should be strictly followed for children. Moreover, discuss changes in oral health practice if necessary.