A number of dental issues begin at early childhood, acquired from habits such as thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting, and frequent eating of sweets. When neglected, a child may experience toothaches, the pain of which can be beyond their tolerance.
But as much as we’d love to send our kids to a skilled and experienced pediatric dentist right away, their fears tend to hold them back, and it can be difficult to make an anxious child overcome their fear of the dentist. How can you help them, then, and what serious dental issues are at risk of happening when you keep delaying your dental appointment?
Common Dental Issues in Children
- Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in children is also known as baby bottle tooth decay, nursing bottle syndrome, early childhood caries, and nursing caries. This occurs when a baby frequently consumes sugary drinks, such as milk, fruit juice, sugar water, or any other sweet beverage. Unswallowed breast milk may also cause it.
Symptoms of tooth decay include pain that makes your child encounter difficulty in chewing. Severe cases can lead to an abscessed tooth, which can cause an infection that can spread throughout their body.
The best way to prevent tooth decay is by limiting your baby’s sugar intake. Avoid putting them to bed with a sweet drink, and give them plain water or just a pacifier to comfort them. If they’re still too young to brush their teeth, clean their mouth with a wet gauze or cloth after each feeding.
- Misaligned Teeth
Misaligned teeth can be acquired from thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting, and other habits that involve getting their teeth pushed. When the teeth become misaligned, it may result in an overbite, or the roof of the mouth becoming malformed. These problems may affect a child’s pronunciation skills.
Thumb-sucking is a normal habit in kids, so they shouldn’t be forced to stop until they’re old enough. When it persists after their first teeth have grown already, find out what makes them do it, and help them break the habit using positive reinforcement, and if necessary, with a professional’s involvement. For tongue-thrusting problems, a speech pathologist offers the best solution.
- Early Tooth Loss
A child losing their baby teeth isn’t always normal, as it could be a case of premature tooth loss. If they lose all their teeth before the permanent ones emerge, the new teeth may grow titled, resulting in a crooked set of pearls. A dentist would recommend an appliance to be worn temporarily until the issue gets solved.
Convincing Your Child to Go to the Dentist
Kids usually find the sight of a dental chair and apparatuses frightening, so be understanding when they express their fear. That’s why it’s important to start taking them to the dentist at a very early age, specifically at 1 year old, right when their teeth start growing. Tell your kids why you’re bringing them to the dentist, emphasizing its benefits instead of your child’s dental problems.
Avoid using the words “pain”, “hurt”, “shots”, and other terms that may scare your child. Let their dentist interact with them to ensure that they’ll be hearing the right words. This way, trust between your child and their dentist forms.
Playing pretend at home will also help, as it will make your child know what to expect at the dentist’s office. Do not take them to your dentist — exposing kids to adult dental treatment will only increase their fears.
Most importantly, be patient, and accept that whining, crying, and fussing will be normal. Overcoming their fear is a process. By continuously imparting the good effects of visiting the dentist, your child will eventually realize that there’s nothing to be scared of. Never resort to bribery as well; it may only make them more dubious.