What Every Parent Should Know About Oral Health in Children

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Of all the challenges you face as a new parent, taking care of your child’s oral health can get really stressful. Hence it is essential that you get the basics of oral health in children right and monitor your child’s oral health right from their birth. This is because even baby teeth are prone to decay.

Some of the most common symptoms of tooth decay in children include white spots which change to a light brown colour as the cavity develops. If left untreated for long, tooth decay in toddlers or young children can not only cause severe pain but also lead to serious dental issues such as gum diseases and tooth loss.

Let’s understand what type of dental changes you can expect, related common problems and tips to tackle these dental issues in kids, according to specific age groups.

0-3 years

Expected Changes

Around 20 baby teeth will pop up by the time your child turns 3. As your child moves on to solid foods, these teeth will help with chewing and will serve as placeholders in the jaw for adult teeth.

Probable Dental Issues

When the baby teeth will start growing, the biggest issue you will face is teething pain in your child. This phase will pass quickly but if the baby teeth are not properly cared for, it might increase the risk of dental issues in near future. Continuous nursing or letting your baby sleep with a bottle in his or her mouth can cause what are known as early childhood cavities.

Solutions

Wipe down the baby teeth with a soft damp wash cloth after feedings. Ask your dentist about brushing your child’s baby teeth. If prescribed, brush the baby teeth very gently with a soft brush and a tiny dab of baby toothpaste. Don’t let your baby sleep with the bottle in his or her mouth. Don’t allow the child to snack on sticky, sugary, hard or chewy foods.

Consider scheduling your child’s first appointment between the ages of 1-2. Even though your child hasn’t developed teeth completely, the dentist will be able to give you an idea about what to expect in terms of oral development in your child in the coming years.

3-6 years

Expected Changes

Few of your child’s baby teeth may start falling and some permanent teeth may start erupting. Your child may be able to start brushing the teeth without any help from you.

Probable Dental Issues

Thumb sucking is a common habit seen in kids who fall in this age group. All kids do not necessarily develop this habit, and most of them with this habit generally stop doing it by the time they turn 4.

Solutions

Supervise the brushing sessions of your child to ensure that they are doing it correctly. Lead by example when it comes to following a healthy oral hygiene routine. Simple habits like brushing twice a day will go a long way in ensuring that your child enjoys good oral health. Break the habit of thumb sucking because if it isn’t taken care of at an early stage, your child may develop protruding teeth in the near future which can further lead to dental issues.

6-12 years

Expected Changes

More permanent teeth will start erupting in kids who fall in this age bracket.

Probable Dental Issues

Depending on the growth of these teeth, your child may or may not require braces. As the baby teeth are outnumbered by the permanent teeth, the dentist will able to judge more accurately whether or not your child requires braces. It isn’t uncommon for kids this young to get braces these days. Your dentist may recommend an orthodontist for children depending on your child’s need for braces.

Solutions

Talk to your dentist and find out whether or not your child needs braces to ensure proper development of his or her permanent teeth. If you address the requirement for braces early enough, you may be able to lessen the duration for which your kid needs to wear braces.

12-17 years

Expected Changes

Except the wisdom teeth, all of your child’s permanent teeth will have erupted by now. Wisdom teeth don’t erupt until your child is in his or her late teens or early 20’s.

Probable Dental Issues

Cavities are one of the most common issues your child may face during these years. This is mainly because their choice of food during these years won’t exactly be healthy. They are more likely to snack on sugary, chewy, hard and unhealthy foods which can wreak havoc on their teeth and gums, thus making them prone to serious dental issues.

Solutions

Teach them early on about the benefits of eating healthy and maintaining a good oral hygiene. Schedule regular dental check-ups for them. Protect the teeth with mouth guards if you child is involved in physical sports such as soccer, hockey, football or basketball.

One of the simplest steps you can take to ensure that your child enjoys good oral health is instilling good oral hygiene habits early on. Schedule regular dental check-ups and ensure that your child doesn’t miss any dental appointment because dentists can detect early signs of oral health issues and can help reduce the related risks.


Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Dental Clinic in Goodyear, AZ. While working for the dental clinic, he’s gained first hand experiences into the questions and concerns that dental patients have. He has been writing to inform people about various dental topics to help his readers improve their oral health. When he’s not working, you can find him on a hiking trail with his dog or having a Sunday cook-out with friends.

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