Children’s Dental Health: What Parents Need To Know
Learn what parents need to know about their children’s dental health!
Tooth decay and cavities
Cavities (also known as dental caries) are the most common chronic disease of childhood, more common than even asthma. Just like adults, the biggest and most common children’s dental health problems today are tooth decay and cavities. Some parents wrongly believe cavities in baby teeth aren’t a big deal because they’ll just fall out anyway. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Tooth decay and cavities are always serious.
If a child gets a cavity in a baby tooth and it’s left untreated, the consequences can be serious:
Cavities can be painful and affect a child’s ability to eat and chew comfortably.
If decay spreads and reaches the inner layers of the tooth, a serious and painful infection can occur. This type of infection can lead to hospitalization and even death!
Serious tooth decay may require extraction of the tooth before the adult tooth is ready, leading to bone loss in the jaw and misalignment in neighboring teeth.
Baby bottle decay
Even parents of infants and young children should be aware of tooth decay. We often see what we call “baby bottle decay” in young children who are given a bottle before bed. Milk (or juice with slightly older kids) is very acidic and sugary. When left on the teeth overnight, bacteria thrive and lead to serious decay. Instead of brushing, use a clean damp cloth to gently wipe your baby’s teeth and gums before putting them to bed after a bottle containing anything other than water.
Kids and toothpaste
Kids aren’t always able (or willing) to spit out their toothpaste when they’re very young. So until kids master this skill, start with a tiny bit of toothpaste. For very young kids, use a blob about the size of a grain of rice. Then work up to a bit of toothpaste as big as a pea when they are able to spit. Don’t overdo it. That’s really all you need.
Don’t forget: You child’s first dental appointment should happen around their first birthday or when they get their first tooth.
Poor brushing and flossing habits
Lifelong habits start at a young age. Inconsistent brushing and flossing as a child is closely linked to poor dental health as an adult. The best ways to help develop good children’s dental health habits include:
Using an electric toothbrush - Timers and apps make it easy for kids with short attention spans to stay engaged for the 2 minutes, twice a day it takes to brush.
Be a good example yourself - Even if you’re busy, set aside time to brush and floss as a family. Be the good example your kids need. Plus you’ll get the added benefit of taking care of your teeth, too.
Ask your dentist and hygienist - We want to help you and your family take good care of your teeth and gums. At your next appointment, talk to your dentist and ask for instructions on how to brush and floss properly. It’s easy and we love it when our patients ask for help.
Lend a helping hand - Younger kids don’t have the manual dexterity and motor skills adults take for granted. You will need to help your kids with brushing and flossing to make sure they’re doing a thorough job until they get the hang of it on their own.
Misaligned or crowded teeth
Crooked teeth or teeth with gaps aren’t just cosmetic issues. These imperfections can act like magnets for bits of food. The little nooks and crannies can make it difficult for kids to brush and floss thoroughly.
Additionally, misaligned and crowded teeth can create a sort of domino effect where the problem just gets worse over time, leading to pain, headaches, and other symptoms down the road.
Thumbsucking and overreliance on pacififers can contribute to crooked teeth, but generally speaking the problem is related to the development of the teeth and the jaw bones. The best thing to do is to stay on top of your regular checkups and let your dentist monitor the development of your child’s teeth.
Riding bikes and playing sports are part of being a kid. Unfortunately, these rough and tumble activities often lead to slips, falls, bumps, and bruises. They’re also one of the most common causes of tooth damage. And it’s not just contact sports. Studies show cheerleading produces more injuries than tackle football.
If your kiddo breaks a tooth or injures their mouth in an accident, it’s worth getting it checked out by a dentist. Fractured teeth might let bacteria in and lead to serious infections. Find an emergency dentist near you like our practice in Harrisonburg!
Nearly 10% of people don’t have wisdom teeth at all. The rest of us, however, aren’t so lucky. In the past, it was common practice to remove wisdom teeth as soon as possible. Many dentists now believe wisdom teeth don’t necessarily need to be removed. If they’re not causing any pain, aren’t crowding other teeth, and aren’t making it hard to brush, we ought to just keep an eye on things and leave well enough alone.
However, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having your teen’s wisdom teeth removed. You may consider:
Dental insurance — If your plan will cover the extraction, it might be a good investment.
Recovery and healing — Kids bounce back faster than adults and once it’s done they’ll never have to worry about it in the future. Plus, kids have spring and summer vacation which gives them plenty of time to heal without interrupting their schedules.
Older kids — taking responsibility for their dental health
As kids enter their teenage years and become more independent, it’s time for them to take responsibility for their own health, including their dental health. But teenagers sometimes need a helping hand. As a parent, you may consider allowing your teen to:
Schedule his or her own dental appointments
Drive to the dentist on their own
Select an electric toothbrush and their own toothpaste and floss
See the out-of-pocket costs of dental care so they can begin to understand how cavities and other preventable issues will affect them financially in the future.
Schedule your appointment today!
If you’re looking to learn more about your children’s dental health, let’s talk! Schedule your appointment at Caitlin Batchelor Dentistry in Harrisonburg today. We can’t wait to see you.