In this blog from Miles of Little Smiles, we’re going over the four most common dental problems in young children. To learn more about dental anxiety, baby bottle tooth decay, prolonged pacifier use, and premature tooth loss, read on.
1. Dental Anxiety
Dental anxiety is a very common phenomenon, especially among children. While experiencing anxiety in anticipation of visiting the dentist isn’t inherently damaging to your child’s oral health, it does have consequences.
If a child’s dental anxiety is severe, they may avoid the dentist altogether and forgo necessary dental treatments which can get worse and result in infection. Early detection and prevention are important to stop tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease in their tracks.
Without regular dental cleanings and checkups, your child is at an increased risk for tooth decay and gum disease. This will end up costing them in the long run as they will be more likely to need more complex dental procedures such as root canals or extractions, which take more time and cost more money.
At Miles of Little Smiles, we offer dental sedation to put your child at ease during their dental treatments. This will help them feel relaxed and sleepy and they likely won’t even remember anything when it wears off. This allows us to get more work done while your child feels less stressed.
2. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a term for tooth decay that forms in children as a result of excessive late-night bottle feedings. To avoid tooth decay in young children, you should try your best to wean them off of baby bottles by the time they are one year old and encourage them to drink out of a cup.
Baby bottles containing sugar from juice, milk, or soft drinks can lead to cavities. Cavities form as a result of bacteria feeding off of food particles in the mouth, specifically starch and sugar, which the bacteria turn into acid. These acids cause enamel erosion and lead to holes in the teeth, known as cavities.
You should also never pass your saliva onto your baby by sharing oral devices or cleaning anything that goes into your baby’s mouth with your saliva. Do not put a pacifier in your mouth to clean it. Rinse it with soap and water before giving it back to your baby.
Sharing saliva is another way to pass bacteria onto your baby, which increases their risk of tooth decay. Try not to use baby bottles excessively to soothe them or to help them go to sleep. They should not use the baby bottle right before sleep.
3. Prolonged Pacifier, Thumb, or Lip Sucking
While a baby’s instinct to suck on something is completely natural and soothing for them, it can cause harm if it goes on for too long. Thumb-sucking should be discouraged altogether as it is unsanitary and a harder habit to break.
You should try to wean your baby off of pacifiers soon after they turn one to prevent the development of oral health problems such as:
- Crooked teeth
- Changes in the roof of the mouth
- Bite alignment problems (open or overbite)
- Buck teeth
- Tooth decay
- Speech and eating problems
Your child is at an increased risk of developing these oral health problems the longer they use pacifiers, especially if it continues at about 4 or 5 years old. Within the first year of life, the pacifier can be a useful tool to soothe your baby and help them feel at ease to go to sleep.
Between the ages of 2-4, this is when your child would typically naturally cease using pacifiers. If you notice pacifier use is continuing, you should try to reduce the use of the pacifier and wean them off of it using positive reinforcement.
4. Premature Tooth Loss
A child can lose a tooth too early due to tooth decay or injury. It’s important to protect your young child’s teeth by helping them practice good oral hygiene by brushing their teeth and regularly visiting the dentist. If the tooth loss is due to injury, consider getting them a mouthguard when they play sports or at night if they suffer from bruxism to protect their teeth.
While it may not seem like a big deal for your child to lose a baby tooth, it can have consequences on the surrounding teeth and their permanent teeth. Baby teeth act as placeholders for permanent teeth. When a tooth is lost, the space needs to be filled or the surrounding teeth will shift around, which can cause overcrowding and crooked teeth.
It can also cause the surrounding teeth to lean into the space and leave no space for the permanent tooth to grow into. Failure to fill the space will result in bone loss which can cause changes in the facial structure. If your child loses a tooth prematurely, they should visit the dentist to get space maintainers.
Schedule Your Child’s 6 Month Dental Checkup at Miles of Little Smiles
One of the best ways to prevent oral health problems in young children is to regularly attend dental cleanings and checkups every 6 months. We will perform oral exams, screen for cavities and gum disease, apply dental sealants, and use fluoride treatments to protect your child’s teeth. Contact us at Miles of Little Smiles today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mila Belgrade.