little girl laying under grey blanket sucking her thumb

From their first teeth, to their first steps, and their first day of school, parents strive for healthy lives for their children. This includes promoting life-long oral health habits. Dental-related issues are prevalent among children, so preventative and proactive care is essential.

In this blog, we discuss six of the most common dental problems that affect young children and adolescents.

1. Cavities

According to the Center of Disease Control and prevention, about 1 in 5 children aged 5 to 11 years old have at least one untreated cavity. Why? In addition to sugar-heavy diets, most young children aren’t proficient at oral hygiene routines without supervision. Inconsistent and inadequate flossing and brushing often lead to dental decay.

When a sticky film of bacteria (plaque) isn’t removed from the tooth’s surface, the acid in the plaque erodes the enamel and eventually wears away at the tooth.

Dentists advise parents to supervise and help young children brush their teeth, ensuring that they remove plaque, bacteria, and debris twice a day to prevent cavities from forming. If tooth decay develops, dentists must treat it to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the mouth.

2. Dental Emergencies

Accidents happen, which means dental emergencies can happen at any time. As kids adjust to their growing bodies or are physically active, they are more prone to dental-related accidents. If teeth fracture or get knocked out completely, this is considered a dental emergency.

If a dental emergency happens (especially if the tooth is lost), immediately call the dentist and set up an emergency appointment. Early prevention, intervention, and treatment are vital to saving your child’s smile.

3. Excessive Thumb and Pacifier Sucking

Did you know that some babies suck their thumbs before they’re even born? Babies have innate sucking reflexes, which can cause them to place their thumbs or fingers in their mouths. Sucking thumbs and pacifiers is an appropriate and valuable self-soothing technique for very young children.

However, most medical professionals do not encourage children to suck their fingers past their fifth birthday. On top of relentless social difficulties, prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to abnormal bite and speech issues.

4. Gum Disease

Unfortunately, chronic gingivitis is common among children. Gingivitis is a reversible infection signified by red, swollen gums that may lightly bleed when your child brushes or flosses.

Generally, gum disease becomes more aggressive over time in children that do not practice adequate oral hygiene. Periodontitis (advanced gum disease) is irreversible and may involve gum recession, discomfort, and tooth loss if left untreated.  

5. Orthodontic Issues

Perfectly straight teeth without intervention are rare. Today, dentists expect up to 70% of American children to wear orthodontic devices to perfect their smiles. Orthodontic problems are typically genetic, with tooth and jaw size and shape playing a role in how teeth form and align.

Beyond aesthetic reasons, misaligned teeth can pose life-long health problems. It can be difficult for children to clean between crooked or crowded teeth, which may lead to the development of gum disease. Furthermore, overcrowded or misaligned teeth can cause jaw difficulties and fractured teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists advocates that children receive their first orthodontic checkup at age seven to evaluate jaw and teeth development and create a treatment plan (if needed).

6. Dental Anxiety and Fear

Dental anxiety is a common worldwide phenomenon that affects 36% of children. Sadly, this often learned behavior can result in serious oral health consequences. Parents have the power to change the narrative and foster a more positive relationship with the dentist’s office for their children.

Schedule an Appointment

At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt provides proven, kid-friendly dental care to help his young patients reach and sustain peak oral health. Contact our Overland Park, KS office today at (913) 685-9990 or message us online to schedule a consultation.

children running in the hallway in school

Welcome back! The back-to-school season is an exciting time for both parents and children. Here are five ways to support your child’s oral health while they are learning and developing away from home:

1.     Follow an oral hygiene schedule.

New year, new routines. The school year comes with many customs, including brushing and flossing before taking off to school and after dinner. Keeping kids accountable with their oral hygiene schedule helps prevent cavities and gum disease.

Does your child have trouble remembering to brush and floss their teeth? Posting a step-by-step oral hygiene instructional chart can help kids go through the motions of maintaining excellent oral health but can be more hands-off in the long run for parents who have busy mornings.

2.     Provide healthy lunches and after-school snacks.

The secret to healthy teeth might be in your child’s lunchbox. Food has a significant impact on dental development and preservation.

Here are some of the best foods that help kids have healthy mouths:

  • High-fiber vegetables and fruit scrub away plaque. Carrots, celery, and apples are great side and snack choices.
  • Dairy products are rich in calcium, vitamin D, and phosphates to fortify bones (including the teeth and jaws). Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese pack a nutritional punch and help keep kids feeling full with added protein.
  • Eggs are eggs-actly what kids need to receive essential minerals for excellent oral health. Eggs are packed with protein, Vitamin D, and phosphates.
  • Green veggies are filled with vitamins and minerals that support healthy tooth enamel.
  • Nuts and seeds are filled with minerals that contribute to tooth remineralization and fight cavities.

3.     Send students to school with a water bottle.

Is your child drinking enough water daily? An easily accessible water bottle can encourage kids to rehydrate while working through hours of lessons and after physical education.

According to a study published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, children are most vulnerable to dehydration, and dehydration can adversely affect cognitive performance (brain function). When the brain is not performing at its mental peak, it weakens focus, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills.

Water with fluoride is safe to drink and helps prevent tooth decay. Almost all drinking water in the United States is fortified with fluoride. However, some bottled varieties don’t, so check the label to make sure.

4.     Schedule your child’s back-to-school dental visit.

Most dentists recommend dental checkups twice a year, and August and September are popular months for parents to schedule them for their children. At this visit, the dental team:

  • Examines overall dental health
  • May take an x-ray to check for cavities
  • Professionally clean the teeth to eradicate harmful bacteria

5.     Prepare for dental emergencies.

Dental emergencies aren’t common, but they can happen anytime and anywhere. Signs of a potential dental emergency are:

  • A permanent, “adult” tooth is loose or has fallen out
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Severe toothaches or jaw pain
  • Bleeding or swelling that won’t stop

If a dental emergency does occur, it’s essential to visit the dentist as soon as possible so that he can save the tooth or treat the discomfort conservatively.

Schedule a Back-to-School Checkup

Education helps children’s brains develop. Parents can support their children’s dental development by assisting kids in sticking to oral hygiene regimens, offering balanced meals and fluoridated water, scheduling routine exams, and preparing for dental emergencies.

Call (913) 685-9990 or message us online to book a back-to-school checkup in Overland Park, KS, with Dr. Matt today.

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