Taking care of your child’s oral health is just as important as taking care of your child’s physical health. After all, studies show that oral health and overall health are closely related; poor oral health has been linked to a number of health concerns, including heart disease and diabetes. Yet, many parents have the misconception that caring for baby teeth isn’t vital since those teeth will fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth anyway. That’s simply not the case. For your child’s overall health and well-being, it’s essential to establish good oral health habits from day one. Let’s discuss some of the most common oral health concerns facing children below:
- Losing teeth too early. Sometimes, children lose their baby teeth too early; typically, this is the result of injury or severe tooth decay. This is problematic because baby teeth serve as space savers for eventual permanent teeth. When they fall out too early, the remaining baby teeth may shift, leaving little or no room for the permanent tooth to emerge. This results in a permanent tooth that is titled or otherwise misaligned. How can you prevent early tooth loss? Help your child establish good oral hygiene habits from day one. When your child engages in contact sports, make sure he wears a mouth guard to protect his teeth. When early tooth loss does occur, consult with your child’s dentist. He or she may recommend a device known as a space maintainer that works by holding the space open until the permanent tooth beings to emerge.
- Bottle-related tooth decay. It’s no secret that sugar is not a friend to teeth—baby teeth included. When bottles are filled with sweet drinks—think milk, formula, juice, diluted juice, and soda—the teeth are in frequent contact with sugars. This is especially true if a baby falls asleep with a bottle in his mouth. To help prevent bottle-related tooth decay, never let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his crib or bed. Avoid dipping pacifiers in sugar or sweetened liquids. Between meals, offer water instead of sugar-loaded fruit juices. After giving a bottle, use a wet wash cloth to gently wipe residue from your baby’s teeth.
- Thumb sucking. Infants and toddlers suck their thumbs or fingers as a self-soothing measure. Doing so provides them with a feeling of comfort and security. However, when thumb sucking continues beyond the preschool years, it can create oral health problems. For example, thumb sucking can cause the teeth to protrude and become misaligned. It can also result in children having difficulty making certain speech sounds. Thumb sucking can even cause the upper and lower jaws to become misaligned. To help your child give up his thumb sucking habit, offer positive reinforcement when he abstains from sucking. Avoid scolding, shaming, and punishment, all of which typically result in more thumb sucking. Consider placing a Band-Aid over your child’s thumb of choice to serve as a gentle reminder that he’s giving up thumb sucking. For older children, dental appliances are available that work by making thumb sucking more difficult, and thus less pleasurable.
- Thrusting of the tongue. When preparing to swallow, some children develop a habit of tongue thrusting. This involves thrusting the top of the tongue forward so that it presses against the lips. Not surprisingly, this habit can cause the teeth to protrude, as the tongue puts pressure against them. Children who engage in this habit long-term often have overbites; some even develop speech problems. To help combat this habit, it’s often recommended that a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is consulted. The SLP can develop a treatment plant that helps the child learn how to swallow in a way that doesn’t involve tongue thrusting.
To learn more about the oral health problems commonly impacting children, contact TruBlu Dentistry in Burbank and Chicago today.