Dental Problems

Maintaining a child’s overall oral health and preventing dental problems has always been our top priority.  However, between tooth eruption (teething), gingivitis, cavities/tooth decay, thumb sucking, common dental diseases and various other dental problems, it is an unfortunate reality that dental problems do happen in the mouths of children.  Our job is to assist parents in minimizing these, treating them when they occur, and promoting positive oral health in all of our patients and their families!

Many dental problems are not serious, but consulting a pediatric dental professional is often necessary to help maintain a healthy smile and pain-free teeth and gums.  The good news is that all dental problems in children have treatable solutions.  Here are some common dental diseases and problems found in children.

Tooth Eruption

Baby Teeth

Usually by 6-12 months of age or, possibly, as early as 3-4 months of age, baby teeth will start to make their way through the gums. Teething can often be very uncomfortable for the child.  Fortunately, once the tooth is visible, the pain usually subsides. Some symptoms to look for if you think your child might be teething include:

  • swollen gums
  • Increased redness of the gums in the area of eruption
  • warm red cheeks
  • irritability
  • increased drooling
  • and (occasionally) low grade fever

To help ease the pain of teething, parents can give their baby a chilled (not frozen) teething ring.  If pain seems extreme, contact us by calling 317-571-8000 and we can recommend medication that might be appropriate for the circumstance.  By the time your child is 2-3 years old, all of their primary teeth should have erupted.

Permanent Teeth

As children begin to lose their baby teeth, permanent teeth begin to erupt (usually around the age of 6). Late tooth eruption is not uncommon. The primary teeth, or baby teeth, act as “placeholders” in the jaw for permanent teeth.  They help the adult teeth erupt into their proper position and promote the proper growth and development of bone that supports the adult teeth that come in later.  Therefore, it’s important to maintain clean and healthy primary teeth, which helps these natural space maintainers to stay in place. Infected, decayed or missing primary teeth can lead to a loss of proper adult tooth spacing, as well as, cause damage to the permanent teeth that are developing underneath.

Tooth Decay

While baby teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth, if dental problems such as tooth decay occur and damage or destroy a child’s baby tooth, such that the baby tooth is lost, without proper space maintenance, there is a risk that the permanenet tooth will not erupt into it’s proper position due to a lack of guidance that could have been provided by the missing primary tooth.  This can result in mal-positioned or “crooked” permanent teeth and cause additional problems down the road that will require more money, time or effort to correct later on in the child’s life, because of the need for additional orthodontic procedures.

Frequently, the enamel found in a Child’s tooth isn’t as strong as the enamel in an adult tooth, so Children’s Teeth are at more of a risk of suffering decay when their teeth come into contact with sugars (from liquid carbohydrates like sugary drinks or sodas). Contact us for more information about how you can prevent tooth decay in your baby or child.

Here’s what the American Dental Association says about baby bottle tooth decay.

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking (or finger sucking) is comfortable to many children.  It also seems like a natural substitute for a pacifier.  However, thumb sucking can be habit-forming and cause long-term dental problems as children grow up.  Sucking your thumb puts pressure on your upper front teeth, pushing them forward and on the lower front teeth, pushing them backwards – causing a greater than normal overbite and overjet, which can lead to the need for braces later in life. Additionally, the jaws or the teeth can become misaligned.

Thumb sucking is considered healthy and normal as long as the child has not had their permanent teeth erupt yet.

To help your child stop sucking their thumb, focus on positive reinforcement. Reward and praise them during the times they successfully avoid sucking their thumb. If you scold or punish them for sucking their thumb, it could cause more harm than good since thumb sucking is usually a security mechanism.  If the habit persist, please contact us, as we may be able to assist your child in breaking this habit.