Caring for your children’s health is a serious responsibility of being a parent. As your children grow and learn, you help train them to care for themselves. Until they are old enough and/or mature enough to do so, the bulk of the burden falls on the parents.
Unfortunately, children are not just miniature adults. They have unique oral health needs and their experience of oral health problems is often different from that of adults.
In this article, we will explain the five most common oral health problems affecting children.
Most people are familiar with the oral health problem of cavities. While the cause of cavities is the same among both children and adults, the progression and effect of cavities is not. Cavities are bacterial infections of the hard structures of the teeth.
The most important difference between children and adults when it comes to cavities is the physical makeup of the teeth. Children have primary teeth, commonly called “baby teeth”. These are not simply miniature teeth. They actually have a different configuration. Most notably, primary teeth have a much thinner layer of enamel covering and protecting them than permanent teeth do. This means that once a cavity starts, it does not take long for it to break through the enamel and penetrate the softer, weaker structure beneath.
Cavities on children’s teeth often grow more quickly than those on adult teeth do.
Another consequence of the different configuration of baby teeth is the high risk for dental abscesses. An abscess forms when the bacteria from a cavity reach the hollow nerve chamber in the center of the tooth. This means that the infection is not just affecting the hard tooth structures anymore; it has spread into the soft tissues.
An abscess on a child’s tooth will often appear in a different location than it would on a permanent tooth. Infections tend to spread to the area just between the baby tooth’s roots, so the pimple-like swelling often appears near the edge of the gums instead of toward the end of the roots.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissues, caused by toxins produced by the bacteria living in dental plaque. Children are at high risk for gingivitis because they usually are not skilled at plaque removal with brushing and flossing. You, the parent, should be vigilant of your child’s oral hygiene routines and follow-up with any additional brushing or flossing as needed. The general rule is that your child should not brush or floss without supervision unless he can tie his shoes and write his name legibly.
Another predisposing factor to gingivitis is mouth breathing, which is a problem for many children. The dry mouth caused by consistent mouth breathing often leads to inflammation in the gums, especially around the front teeth.
Many parents report hearing or seeing their children grinding or clenching their teeth during sleep. This habit may be temporary or long-term. Often this habit is due to airway constrictions caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
If you notice teeth clenching or grinding in addition to snoring, choking sounds, gasping for breath, and overall poor quality of sleep, you may need to speak with your pediatrician about your child’s airway. Some children need removal of their inflamed tonsils and adenoids so they can breathe properly.
Young children, especially toddlers, are at a higher risk for injuries affecting their teeth, gums, lips, cheeks and tongue. As they learn to walk, run, ride a bike, and play sports, they often fall or crash into things. Sometimes the injury is as simple as a “busted lip”.
In other cases, trauma to the mouth can break or dislodge a tooth. Mouth injuries often bleed profusely, making them look worse than they truly are. It is important to have a good relationship with your child’s dentist in the event of an emergency.
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today and schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts. Our specialists can answer any question you have about your child and his or her oral health. Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!