i am a dentist with bachelor's degree. i will be soon pursuing masters in health care management.
Most common dental issues in kids
13 September 2021
Since children have a temporary set of teeth, parents and guardians often neglect their need for dental care. There is a huge misinterpretation in developing societies like ours that milky teeth are not important as they are anyway going to shed. But it is imperative to intervene at the earliest possible because temporary dentition is equally important.
Why are your kids’ first teeth so important?
Since primary teeth guide permanent dentition into the oral cavity, they have their own set of significance.
If deep caries of primary teeth are not treated, it may affect the growth of a subjacent permanent tooth.
They guide the development of facial muscles as well as bone growth
Premature loss of milk teeth leads to malaligned permanent dentition which impacts oral hygiene maintenance as well as the esthetic appearance of a child
Premature loss can also lead to the formation of pathologic habits such as tongue thrusting which may result in wisping and other speech problems
Now that you know the significance of temporary teeth, let us look at a few very common dental issues in children.
Children are a susceptible group to develop caries due to the following reasons:
They have a diet based on simple carbohydrates(sugar)
Most of the children frequently consume milk-based eatable and dairy products that contain lactose sugar
They have no definite snacking time
These reasons promote factors such as time given to bacteria to proliferate on the tooth surface, sugar available in the oral cavity for bacteria and the bacteria itself. Consequently, bacteria produce cavities.
Baby bottle syndrome/ early childhood caries
If a child has a habit of drinking sweet milk at night or sleeps with a milk bottle in the mouth then they are vulnerable to developing baby bottle syndrome where there are multiple caries in primary dentition.
This is another most common issue surfacing these days. Bad breath in the morning is common in kids as well as adults due to the inactive oral cavities at night where bacteria have a chance to grow. Besides, salivary flow at night decreases which is another factor in proliferation of bacteria.
This issue can be challenged by:
brushing teeth before bed.
Tongue scrapping to reduce bacterial load
Avoiding cariogenic food( sugary, sweet food) at night
If the problem persists, there might be another issue such as an undiscovered dental cavity or a habit like a mouth breathing at night. In cases where the reason remains unknown, contact your dentist.
Thumb sucking habit
It is normally seen in kids up to 2 years of age. Infants suck their thumb for gratification. However, if the habit persists beyond 2 years of age, then a child must be weaned off the habit. Prolonged thumb sucking habit after most of the teeth have emerged in the oral cavity, can damage the teeth arrangement. This not only affects a child’s looks but also poses orthodontic and functional problems. Apart from that, it can lead to gum problems.
If you notice your child sucking on a thumb beyond its normal age, then the child must be consulted to a dentist for habit elimination.
Tongue thrusting habit
Ideally, tongue thrust happens to help us swallow the food. The tongue pushes in between upper and lower front teeth while swallowing to make a seal. Whenever there is premature loss of a tooth, the tongue involuntarily moves into that space to fill it. Pathologic tongue thrusting impacts swallowing procedure. It will also cause abnormal pressure on teeth which will create an open bite. Open bite or inability to close down front teeth will subsequently cause other issues like mouth breathing, speech problems, inability to close lips and a few more.
Children play and learn. While playing, they often fall or meet with various kinds of mishaps that might be traumatic. During such misadventures, often their front teeth get a blow or impact. It can be only a chip off from a tooth, a crack line or a fracture. While a chipped-off tooth might not be a major issue, a broken tooth should be treated as an emergency. A fractured tooth, if treated in time, can be saved otherwise it has to be extracted due to the risk of infection.
Not just that, there is a possibility of the cheek or other soft tissue laceration due to trauma Therefore, it is inevitable to contact the dentist on an emergency basis if there is a traumatic injury to children’s oral cavity.
Fluorosis is a common condition in particular geographic regions in India where drinking water contains a high amount of fluoride. It affects tooth buds in their developmental stage. If children get exposed to too much fluoride during their formative years, it affects the tooth’s enamel(outermost) layer, which then appears yellowish with a pitting surface.
Now that we have discussed the common conditions that children face in their temporary dentition period, let us look at how we can prevent or intervene the pathology at an early stage.
1) Brushing twice
Brushing a child’s teeth twice a day with non-fluoridated toothpaste or paste with less fluoride which is available especially for children is the best prevention. Cheeriogel is one of the fluoridated toothpaste available out there for children at risk of developing caries.
Parents can intervally check for white, opaque spots on tooth surfaces or cusps of back teeth of their child. Such white spots are early signs of caries. At this moment, parents should visit the dentist for preventive treatments like the application of topical fluorides or sealants.
2) Fluoride varnish
Fluoride is the key mineral in the mineralization of teeth. In other words, fluoride makes teeth strong and protects them from caries. When your child is at high risk of caries( due to cariogenic diet, lack of maintenance of oral hygiene and so on) fluoride varnish is an excellent option.
Fluoride varnish is a concentrated form of fluoride available in liquid or gel form. Dentists apply it to teeth surfaces as a part of topical treatment. It is best to intervene with topical fluorides at an early stage of decay.
3)Pit and fissure sealants
These are topical paints that are applied on pits and fissures( narrow and deep grooves on teeth). Pits and fissures are anatomical structures on the tooth surfaces that tend to collect food particles in them. Therefore, they have significance in initiating caries)
Dental sealants must be applied when children’s first permanent molars appear in the mouth. This means children undergo sealant application twice in their lifetime i.e; at the age of 6 and 12-13 years.
4)Early diagnosis and prevention
Any abnormality noticed in your children’s oral cavity should be taken seriously and checked by the doctor. This is how you can make sure to diagnose any pathology at the earliest and prevent it from developing into the irreversible stage
5) A non-cariogenic, healthy diet
Children should be made to avoid processed foods, frequent consumption of sweets and acidic beverages. If consumed, the mouth must be cleaned thoroughly by brushing.
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