Dental problems are some of the most common health problems that children face. In fact, tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood disease in the United States. But it’s not just tooth decay that affects children—a wide variety of dental problems can have a negative impact on their oral health and overall well-being.
Around 20% of children aged 5 to 11 have at least untreated decayed teeth, and 13% of individuals aged 12 to 19 have untreated cavities. Fortunately, most of these problems are preventable with proper dental care. The following is a list of the six most common dental problems in children, along with information on how to prevent and treat them:
One of the most prevalent dental problems in children is tooth decay. It occurs when plaque and bacteria build up on teeth and produce acids that eat away at the enamel. If tooth decay is not treated, it can lead to cavities, infection, and even tooth loss.
The best way to prevent tooth decay is to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and eating a healthy diet. It’s also important to visit the dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
If it gets worse, your dentist would likely recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Dental filling to repair a cavity
- Dental crown to cover a damaged tooth
- Root canal to treat an infection
- Tooth extraction to remove a severely decayed tooth
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that can lead to gum disease. It’s usually caused by plaque and bacteria build-up. Still, it can also be the result of poor oral hygiene, certain medications, or health conditions like diabetes.
The early stages of gingivitis may not cause any pain or discomfort, which is why regular dental checkups are so important. During a checkup, your dentist will look for signs of gingivitis, such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums.
If caught early, gingivitis can be reversed with good oral care and professional dental cleanings. More advanced cases may require medication or surgery. These surgeries may include scaling and root planning (deep cleaning), gum grafts, or flap surgery.
Enamel erosion is the loss of tooth enamel due to acid attacks. Enamel is the hard, outermost layer of the tooth that protects against decay. The tooth becomes more susceptible to cavities and other problems when it’s eroded.
Many things can cause enamel erosion, including acidic foods and drinks, GERD, dry mouth, and teeth grinding. The best method to avoid enamel erosion is by maintaining good dental hygiene and avoiding acidic foods and beverages. If it gets worse, your dentist might recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Tooth sealants
- Fluoride treatments
- Dental crowns
- Teeth whitening
A complete crossbite is a dental condition in which the upper teeth bite on the inside of the lower teeth. This can happen on both the front and back teeth. Crossbites can cause problems with chewing, speaking, and teeth alignment.
A crossbite is one of the few orthodontic problems that require treatment at a young age (7 to 8 years) to avoid growth problems. Some common causes of complete crossbites are thumb sucking, dental crowding, or having teeth that are too small or too large for the mouth. Crossbites can also be caused by jaw problems like a misaligned bite.
The best way to prevent a complete crossbite is to see a dentist or orthodontist early on so that any dental problems can be corrected before they get worse. In some cases, dental appliances like braces or dental arch (palate) expanders can be used to correct a crossbite. Different dental arch expander techniques can be used depending on the severity of the crossbite. This will help avoid future dental problems and ensure the teeth grow correctly.
Plaque is a slimy film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. If you do not get rid of plaque, it can harden into tartar, leading to gum disease. Plaque can also cause tooth decay, which is why it’s so important to remove it daily.
Brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing are the best methods to get rid of plaque. If plaque build-up is severe, your dentist may recommend a dental cleaning or scaling and root planing (deep cleaning). The procedure involved removing tartar (scale) collected above and below the gum line. It also smooths rough spots on tooth roots where tartar tends to accumulate again.
Many dental problems in children are the result of injury-related accidents. Common accidents that can damage teeth include falling, being hit in the face with a ball, or being in a car accident.
See a dentist immediately if your child has an accident that results in a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth. The sooner the problem is fixed, the less likely it is to cause problems down the road. They might need an emergency dental visit, dental bonding, dental veneers, or dental crowns.
All in All
If your child does have a dental problem, the sooner it’s treated, the better. With early diagnosis and treatment, most dental issues can be easily resolved. So don’t wait; if you think your child may have a dental problem, call your dentist immediately. Help your child keep smiling—and stay healthy—by taking good care of their teeth!