- Oral Health Problems in Children Center
- Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth
- Teeth Whiteners That Work
- Dental (Oral) Health Quiz
- Find a local Doctor in your town
There are a number of problems that affect the oral health of children, including tooth decay, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking, and early tooth loss. Even though baby teeth are eventually replaced with permanent teeth, keeping baby teeth healthy is important to a child's overall health and well-being.
Baby bottle tooth decay
Baby bottle tooth decay (also called early childhood caries, nursing caries, and nursing bottle syndrome) occurs when a baby's teeth are in frequent contact with sugars from liquid carbohydrates, such as fruit juices, milk, formula, fruit juice diluted with water, sugar water or any other sweet drink. Human breast milk can cause tooth decay as well. As these liquids break down in the mouth into simple sugars and are allowed to sit in the mouth, bacteria start feeding on the sugars, causing tooth decay.
If left untreated, decayed teeth can cause pain and make it difficult to chew and eat. Also, baby teeth serve as "space savers" for adult teeth. If baby teeth are damaged or destroyed, they can't help guide permanent teeth into their proper position, possibly resulting in crowded or crooked permanent teeth. Badly decayed baby teeth could lead to an abscessed tooth, with the possibility of infection spreading elsewhere.
How do I prevent baby bottle tooth decay?
Some tips to prevent baby bottle tooth decay include:
- During the day, to calm or comfort your baby, don't give a bottle filled with sugary liquids or milk; instead, give plain water or substitute a pacifier.
- At anytime, don't dip your baby's pacifier in sugar, honey, or any sugary liquid.
- At bedtime, don't put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with sugary liquids (watered-down fruit juice or milk still increases the risk of decay). Give plain water.
- Don't allow your baby to nurse continuously throughout the night while sleeping, since human breast milk can cause decay. Use a pacifier or give a bottle filled with plain water instead.
- Don't add sugar to your child's food
- Use a wet cloth or gauze to wipe your child's teeth and gums after each feeding. This helps remove any bacteria-forming plaque and excess sugar that have built up on the teeth and gums.
- Ask your dentist about your baby's fluoride needs. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, fluoride supplements or fluoride treatments may be needed.
- Teach your baby to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday. Moving to a "sippy cup" reduces the teeth's exposure to sugars; however, constant sipping from the cup can still result in decay unless it is filled with water.
Generally, it's normal and healthy for infants to suck their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or toys. Object sucking gives children a sense of emotional security and comfort. However, if thumb sucking continues beyond the age of
Tips to help your child stop thumb sucking
First, remember that thumb sucking is normal and should not be a concern of parents unless the habit continues as the permanent teeth begin to emerge.
The child must make the decision on their own to stop sucking their thumb or fingers before the habit will cease. To help toward this goal, parents and family members can offer encouragement and positive reinforcement. Because thumb sucking is a security mechanism, negative reinforcement (such as scolding, nagging, or punishments) are generally
To help older children break the habit, parents should try to determine why their child is doing
IMAGESSee pictures of dental procedures and oral health conditions See Images
Tongue thrusting is the habit of sealing the mouth for swallowing by thrusting the top of the tongue forward against the lips.
Just like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting exerts pressure against the front teeth, pushing them out of
If you notice symptoms of tongue thrusting, consult a speech pathologist. This person can develop a treatment plan that helps your child to increase the strength of the chewing muscles and to develop a new swallowing pattern.
Lip sucking involves repeatedly holding the lower lip beneath the upper front teeth. Sucking of the lower lip may occur by itself or in combination with thumb sucking. This practice results in an overbite and the same kinds of problems as discussed with thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. Stopping the habit involves the same steps as described for stopping thumb sucking.
Early tooth loss
Premature loss of a child's primary teeth typically occurs due to tooth decay, injury, or lack of jaw space.
If teeth are lost before the permanent teeth emerge, the nearby teeth can tip or shift into the space now unoccupied. When a permanent tooth tries to emerge into its space, there may not be enough room. The new tooth may emerge tilted. Crooked or misaligned teeth can cause a range of problems from interfering with proper chewing to causing temporomandibular joint problems.
If your child loses a tooth prematurely, your dentist may recommend a space maintainer. A space maintainer is a plastic or metal device that holds open the space left by the missing tooth. Your dentist will remove the device once the permanent teeth begin to erupt.
Reviewed by the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Reviewed by Jay H. Rosoff, DDS, on March 1, 2007.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD, on May 1, 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005
Latest Oral Health News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Oral Health Problems in Children Related Articles
Abscessed ToothAn abscessed tooth is an infection within a tooth that has spread to the root. Symptoms of an abscessed tooth may include pain, swelling, tenderness, redness, and the presence of a pus-filled lesion on the gum. A dental professional diagnoses an abscessed tooth and dental X-rays may be required. An abscessed tooth is treated with a root canal.
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
Brighter, Whiter TeethWant brighter, whiter teeth? Brushing up on these photo tips can help keep your teeth white. Discover which smile-whitening ideas will make your teeth shine their brightest and how to avoid future stains.
Choosing a ToothpasteToothpaste, or dentifrice, is a paste, gel, or powder that helps maintain dental health. Toothpastes may contain different compounds to minimize the risk of cavities, tartar, teeth sensitivity, and stains and yellowing.
Dental Care for BabiesGetting in the habit of cleaning your baby's gums after each feeding will help prevent future oral health problems, like bleeding gums and cavities. Also, it's important to be able to recognize the symptoms of teething. The symptoms include increased drooling, tender gums, rash on the cheeks, ear pulling, and placing objects in the mouth and biting down on them. Treat teething pain by massaging your child's gums, allowing your child to suck on a chilled teething ring or cold, wet cloth, or applying an over-the-counter teething ointment to numb the gums.
Common Dental ProblemsLearn about dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and oral cancer. Explore procedures such as root canals, crowns, and dental implants that help improve dental hygiene.
Dental Health QuizTake the Dental Health Quiz to test your IQ of oral hygiene, cavities, and common tongue and gum diseases. This quiz covers healthy mouths and teeth from brushing to flossing and everything in between check-ups!
FillingsDental fillings are used to treat cavities and teeth that have been cracked, broken, or worn down. Filling materials include cast gold, silver amalgams, composite fillings, ceramics, and glass ionomer. Amalgams containing mercury are considered safe. Regular dental cleanings, brushing, and flossing will help maintain fillings.
Marfan syndrome is hereditary (genetic) condition affecting connective tissue. A person with Marfan syndrome may exhibit the following symptoms and characteristics:
- Dislocation of one or both lenses of the eye
- A protruding or indented breastbone
- Flat feet
- Aortic dilatation
- Dural ectasia (a problem with the sac surrounding the spinal cord)
- Stretch marks
- Collapsed lung
Though there is no cure for Marfan syndrome, there are treatments that can minimize and sometimes prevent some complications.
Mouth GuardsThere are three types of mouth guards: stock mouth protectors, boil and bite mouth protectors, and custom-fitted mouth protectors. Custom mouth guards provide the most comfort and protection and offer the best fit; they are made from a hard, durable material that is molded to your teeth. They function to protect the teeth from sports injuries and grinding during sleeping (bruxism).
Teeth PictureThe teeth are the hardest substances in the human body. See a picture of the Teeth and learn more about the health topic.
TeethingTeething in babies typically starts between 4 and 10 months of age. Symptoms and signs of cutting teeth include rash, drooling, decreased sleeping, fussiness, bringing the hands to the mouth, and rubbing the cheek or ear. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be used to treat teething pain. Do not give aspirin to babies or children due to a condition called Reye's syndrome, which can be deadly.
Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome is a disorder that causes symptoms like pain, clicking, and popping of the jaw. TMJ is caused by injury to the temporomandibular joint. Stress, poor posture, jaw trauma, genetic predisposition, and inflammatory disorders are risk factors for the condition. A variety of self-care measures (application of ice, use of over-the-counter pain medication, massage, relaxation techniques) and medical treatment options (dental splint, Botox, prescription medications, surgery) are available to manage TMJ. The prognosis of TMJ is good with proper treatment.
ToothacheA toothache is pain on or around a tooth. It may have a variety of causes, including a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis. Toothache symptoms include pain, headache, earache, bad taste in the mouth, and gum swelling. Dental X-rays and other tests performed by a dentist are used to diagnose the cause of a toothache. Toothache treatment depends on the underlying cause. Taking proper care of the teeth and gums can help prevent toothache.
Top Mouth ProblemsLearn about some of the most common problems in your mouth such as sores, oral cancer, TMJ, painful gums, bad breath and more.