Dental problems can affect a person at any age, even in infancy. Indeed, teeth need to be taken care of as soon as they appear in infancy to avoid oral health issues.
Oral hygiene and regular visits to an Ottawa pediatric dentist can help you avoid common pediatric dental problems.
Tooth decay is a common dental problem that is highly preventable. Bacteria that live in the mouth cause tooth decay; and this bacteria is ever present as it lives off food deposits left on teeth to create plaque.
Foods rich in carbohydrates will leave deposits on your child’s teeth. These foods include sugary foods such as candy, fruit roll-ups, cookies, soft drinks, and fruit juices. They also include starchy foods, such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. Formula and breast milk also contain sugars that could be harmful to the teeth of young children, hence the need for oral hygiene early on.
Plaque creates acid that damages the mineral structure of the teeth. Tooth decay is the result of excessive damage and causes painful cavities and infection. Tooth decay appears as black or brown patches on teeth.
Your child’s dentist can treat tooth decay by cleaning your child’s teeth and filling the cavity with a composite resin.
In severe cases of tooth decay, the dentist may place a crown on your child’s tooth as a corrective measure until the tooth is ready to fall out. Your dentist, however, would much prefer to help you prevent tooth decay through regular dental cleanings.
Infants can also experience tooth decay—known as baby bottle tooth decay. When milk and foods stay on teeth for too long, the bacteria will form plaque, resulting in acid production and tooth decay. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often caused by allowing them to fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
It is important to encourage good habits and avoid bad ones, like sleeping with a bottle. You should also start wiping your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear with a clean and wet towelette.
Thumb sucking is a natural behavior among infants and children below the age of 5. It provides a sense of comfort and security. It can, however, cause damage to permanent teeth when your child is older.
Thumb sucking can affect teeth alignment and jaw structures, which may result in protruding teeth.
Use positive reinforcement and encouragement to help stop your child from sucking on their thumb.
Take the thumb out of your child’s mouth after they fall asleep. Your dentist can also recommend an orthodontic treatment to help realign your child’s teeth if necessary.
DEPOSITS IN TEETH
While plaque is a soft deposit that is easily brushed away, hard deposits known as tartar or calculus are not so easy to remove. Poor brushing techniques and misaligned teeth are common causes of calculus buildup.
Calculus is what plaque turns into when it is left on a tooth and hardens. It can lead to bad breath and gum disease if left on for too long.
To properly remove calculus deposits, your child’s dentist will perform a mechanical removal procedure known as dental scaling, which scrapes off the calculus.
To prevent these deposits from forming on your child’s teeth, have your dentist teach them the proper way to brush their teeth. Supervise the child until they are old enough to brush their teeth properly on their own.
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is an automatic habit that often occurs when children sleep. Grinding teeth can wear down both baby teeth and permanent teeth. It also causes pain in teeth, jawline, and ears.
If you notice that your child grinds teeth at night, talk to your pediatric dentist getting a customized night guard. A night guard will help protect your child’s teeth from damage.
Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums caused by plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth and below the gum line. It can be prevented with flossing and brushing every day.
Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, is characterized by gums that are red, swollen, and that bleed easily.
Other indicators of gum disease include bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth. Gum disease can worsen over time if left untreated. Advanced stages of gum disease can lead to bone damage and tooth loss.
Dentists can help prevent and treat gum disease with professional cleanings, special rinses, antibiotics, or other medications as needed.
Sensitive teeth is a result of worn down tooth enamel, receding gums, and microscopic cracks forming in the teeth. All of these problems make the nerve endings in the tooth’s interior more exposed to and irritated by, external temperatures.
If your child experiences tooth pain from hot or cold foods and beverages, or even from breathing in cold air, your dentist can treat your child’s teeth with fluoride treatments.
Your dentist may also recommend dental restorations, a night guard, brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush and a sensitivity toothpaste.
MISALIGNED TEETH & CROWDING
Misaligned teeth is usually a result of a lack of space in the mouth and crowded teeth.
Misaligned teeth (crooked, protruding and oddly placed teeth) is not only a cosmetic problem since it can also interfere with your child’s ability to speak, chew, and practice proper oral hygiene as it can be difficult to clean between crowded teeth. Problems like tooth decay can, therefore, appear over time.
Your child’s dentist can recommend orthodontic treatments to help realign your child’s teeth.
TIPS TO PREVENT THESE PROBLEMS
Ottawa professionals recommend that infants start visiting a pediatric dentist for regular checkups six months after their first teeth appear.
Since tooth decay can affect a child’s teeth at any age, start practicing proper oral hygiene early on. Ask your family dentist for tips on how to get started and how to maintain good habits. Your child’s diet will also affect their oral health. Try avoiding sugary and starchy foods that will lead to deposits, plaque buildup, and tooth decay.
With proper oral hygiene and dental care, you can prevent many of these common pediatric dental problems.
Dr. Hanan Taraf is an experienced dentist. Her first practice was in Morocco, where she was born and raised. In 2005, she came to Canada, studying at the Université de Montréal where she earned her Canadian DMD Degree, graduating in June of 2010. She’s never stopped learning, however; Dr. Taraf’s dedication to continuing education led her to take further studies so she could offer oral sedation to ensure even the most anxious patients are able to enjoy stress-free treatment. Dr. Taraf is also a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Mini Implant Residency with associate professor Dr. Mark Lin.