Keeping your child’s teeth healthy and strong can be a challenge. No matter how well they brush, or how much they avoid sugary drinks or foods, there are times when kids still develop dental issues that need to be addressed. Below are the 4 most common dental issues for kids and what parents can do to address those issues.

  1. Baby bottle tooth decay

One of the earliest dental issues that pediatric dentists see in their young patients is baby bottle tooth decay. Also known as early childhood caries, nursing caries, or Nursing Bottle Syndrome, this is typically caused by prolong use of a baby bottle that contains milk or other sugary drinks, including fruit juices. The best way to avoid this condition from happening to your child is to not put them to bed (even for a nap!) with a baby bottle that contains anything other than water. Why? Having any kind of sugar or even milk in the mouth for a prolonged period of time allows bacteria to form, which in turn can cause tooth decay. Kids that are allowed to drink from a bottle all day, or are put to bed with a bottle increase the likelihood of prolonged exposure to this can of bacteria. This also applies to pacifiers dipped in sugar, honey, or any other sweet, sticky substance. After any kind of sugary drink, including fruit juices, wipe your baby’s gums with a soft, wet cloth to remove excess bacteria. Avoid prolonged exposure to these kinds of substances and you can greatly reduce the chance of baby bottle tooth decay.

  1. Thumb sucking

Thumb-sucking is a completely normal activity for babies and young children. It’s a natural urge many babies have, a way to soothe themselves, and helps them fall asleep. Other times, young children will suck their thumb as a way to comfort themselves when they feel hungry, afraid, restless, tired, or even bored. But like many other habits, excess can cause issues. When a baby’s permanent teeth begin to come in, thumb-sucking or sucking on any kind of object can push the teeth out of alignment, causing them to protrude or move out of place, possibly even causing an overbite.  It can also cause speech problems or teach children to eat incorrectly. This is a tough habit for parents to break, especially because the natural reaction is for parents to react negatively when a child continues to suck their thumb but remember: this is a soothing mechanism so actively negatively will only upset the child. The best approach is positive reinforcement when a child doesn’t suck their thumb or stops immediately when reminded.

  1. Canker sores

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers are small sores inside the mouth. They’re usually white or yellow and surrounded by red, inflamed soft tissue “halo”. These sores typically last one or two weeks, and they often recur. Pediatric dentists are unsure what exactly causes canker sores, but there are several contributing factors that may trigger a canker sore, including diet, mouth trauma, stress, nutritional deficiencies such as folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron, infection or allergies. Canker sores appear more often in children with weak or over active immune systems, but children with normal immune systems will get them as well. Typically, there’s no identifiable cause for a canker sore when a child gets one, and almost every child will experience a canker sore at some point. While your child likely can’t avoid canker sores altogether, there are a few actions you can take to reduce the number of canker sores they’ll get. The best approach is to make sure they’re using a soft bristle brush and that they’re brushing twice a day to remove bacteria. Also try to avoid toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulfate, which some dentists suspect promotes sores.

  1. Bad breath

Children with bad breath usually have it for the same reasons adults get bad breath. Excessive bacteria in the mouth, which can be caused by poor oral hygiene habits or dry mouth is fairly common. This can be avoided by again making sure your child brushes twice a day, flosses, and rinses their mouth well after eating, especially sticky, sugary foods, to keep bacteria from forming. There are other causes of bad breath in children, including sinus infections, tooth decay, allergies or tonsillitis, so if your child’s bad breath persists even after improving oral hygiene, see your pediatric dentist to rule out other medical causes for bad breath. The number one cause of bad breath is the tongue!!!

While these 4 common dental issues for kids can happen in babies and small children, contact your pediatric dentist if you have questions on how to avoid or treat these issues.