Common dental problems for kids
Your kids won’t know instinctively what to do with their teeth. Which means it’s up to you to help keep them strong and healthy. This means keeping up with a good diet and a regular brushing routine, so you can watch their teeth turn into a beautiful smile.
Plaque and tooth decay
Milk teeth are pretty much just smaller versions of our adult teeth, but their enamel is around 50% thinner which means they have less to protect them against sugary foods and drinks. Once plaque and tooth decay set in, they can create cavities faster than on adult teeth. Which is why it’s important to start brushing each of these precious teeth once they come through.
A common spot for plaque build-up and tooth decay is the molars at the back of the mouth. Each one has little grooves on the top called fissures, making an uneven surface that helps us chew foods more easily. This is an area easily missed when brushing. But by teaching your child a proper brushing technique, they learn to thoroughly clean every tooth to remove any plaque or lingering foods for themselves.
Gum disease (gingivitis)
Gums also have a big job to play, including protecting the bones that hold each tooth in place. The gum line, where the tooth disappears into the gum, is an area where plaque normally hides and, if left alone, plaque can irritate the gums which can then even cause them to bleed when touched. This is a sign of gingivitis, gum disease, but thankfully, it can be resolved by thorough, effective twice-daily brushing. While your child is young and you are helping them brush, always try to get right down to the gum line, so you know your child’s mouth is as clean as it can be.
Finding a sugar balance
All kids like sugary foods and sweets. But plaque can use these sugars to make acids that attack enamel and can lead to decay. Try and limit sugary foods to mealtimes. Sticking to more tooth-friendly snacks in-between like fruits, vegetables, cheeses, yoghurts and nuts.
Fruit juice and fizzy drinks are also something to watch out for as they generally contain sugar. Even sugar-free ones can be harmful if your child drinks a lot of them, the acids can start to erode the enamel in their teeth. This is different from tooth decay, as it's the drink that attacks the teeth directly – rather than plaque bacteria making acids from sugary foods. This means acid erosion can attack the whole surface of the tooth at once, and if left untreated can lead to permanent damage. But like sugary foods, the secret is to not have too much.
- Try to limit fizzy drinks and fruit juices to mealtimes, giving them milk or water in between.
- Try drinking using a straw that is directed to the back of the mouth. Helping any acidic parts have less contact with their teeth.
- Sugars and acids can still eat away at their teeth during the night. So after their nightly brush, only give your child water to drink before going to bed.
Some children find thumb-sucking comforting, and of course there can be times when they need to self-comfort. However, thumb sucking can be a problem if it hasn’t stopped by the time your child has their adult teeth as it can put pressure on their teeth and start pushing them forward. Which could mean their dentist will recommend they wear a brace for a period of time.
If possible, try to encourage them to break the habit if it’s already started. Try talking to your child about it. Help them understand why they should stop, and gently point out when you see them do it so they gradually learn. If you’re having trouble, try giving them a reward (like an extra bedtime story) for each day they don’t suck their thumb. Helping them feel like they’re doing a good job.
Teeth don’t always grow quite the way we want them to. They can sometimes overlap or point a little in the wrong direction. And if this happens, braces are a common fix that your dentist may recommend.
Braces can either be removable or fixed. Removable braces have a plastic plate that can be easily taken out for cleaning or playing sport, while fixed braces are made up of a metal bracket with wire that is glued to each tooth. Both are perfectly safe and make it easy to get on with day-to-day kid life.
However, it can be difficult to keep your teeth clean while wearing braces and extra brushing is often recommended during this time. Your dentist should be able to give you advice.
Knocked out teeth
Children are naturally very active, and this is good. But if a tooth ever gets accidentally knocked out, you should contact your dentist immediately to try and arrange an emergency appointment.
The amazing thing about knocked out teeth is that they can often be put right back in again.
For adult teeth only (never try to do this with milk teeth) until you can see a dentist, just hold the tooth by the enamel not the root, clean off any dirt, and gently put it back into position. Then get your child to bite on a handkerchief to hold it in place and go to see the dentist as an emergency.
If this doesn’t work, put the tooth in a cup of milk or a clean safe place, until you see the dentist.
If you child knocks out a milk tooth, you should never try and put it back in because you might damage the tooth growing underneath but you should still arrange to see a dentist as an emergency.
Set an example for healthy teeth and brushing early on and your children will reward you with a healthy smile. Discover our range of specially developed Aquafresh kids' toothbrushes and toothpastes to help make sure your little one’s teeth get all the care they need.