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Careington 500 Dental Plan

Common Dental Problems in Children

 Many of us underestimate dental hygiene in our toddlers. We assume that, since baby teeth are temporary, a young child's teeth can be more or less ignored. This could not be further from the truth. The teeth of a toddler may be temporary, but their place in the mouth is not, and damaged or infected child teeth can lead to real dental problems later.

Toddlers are, of course, a magnet for dental problems. They take in lots of sugar, they often suck their thumbs, and their tooth-brushing is inconsistent. While these bad habits can cause real dental issues, their impact can be lessened by visiting a dentist at a young age.

Caries: Early childhood caries (ECC) are forms of bacterial decay common in young toddlers. In fact, they are often referred to as "bottle rot" or "bottle mouth" due to baby bottles being a major culprit. Bathing the teeth in sugar is obviously bad for them, but the problem is often exacerbated in bottle-drinking babies. They are sometimes given too much sugary liquid in their bottles, especially at night, leading to major early tooth decay. (White spots on the front teeth serve as a good first indicator for caries.) As a result, it is important to brush a toddler's teeth consistently and give them water to drink as frequent "breaks" from juice - and also to begin dental treatments at age 1.

Malocclusion : This is a misaligned bite caused by uneven upper and lower placement and often leads to underbite or overbite. This can be another unfortunate result of too much "bottle time," or extended periods of thumb-sucking or pacifier use. As a result, parents should discourage use of a bottle once the child can drink from a cup, and sucking habits should cease by age 3. The end result of malocclusion can be surgery, so it's important to stay on top of it.

Other forms of misalignment can result from "tongue thrusting," in which the child swallows by sealing his or her mouth with the top of the tongue. The resulting pressure put on the front teeth can push them out of alignment, so this is another habit to monitor and report to your child's dentist.

Early Tooth Loss: There are several factors that can lead to your child losing teeth before permanents have arrived: decay, injury, or overcrowding in the jaw. While this can be distressing, it can be treated fairly easily with a space maintainer, a device inserted into the unexpected gap and designed to hold position and prevent the teeth from growing improperly. (The space maintainer can be easily taken out once permanent teeth begin to emerge.)

Stains/Discoloration : Like adults, toddlers can experience excessive staining or discoloration of the teeth. This results, of course, from a lack of brushing and overall dental hygiene. But the overuse of fluoride can also be a culprit. (Swallowing fluoride can also be dangerous to children under 2, so avoid its use altogether in very young kids.) Inspect your toddler's teeth regularly for discolored stains, and make a dental appointment if you find any.