While it’s easy to think of a child’s baby teeth as temporary, they can actually make a permanent difference when it comes to his or her oral health. Without their baby teeth in place to act as a space holder, children can experience trouble with the development of their adult teeth. Common problems can included crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth. Children face a number of unique oral health problems that can affect their baby teeth, and lead to these and other serious oral health problems. With that in mind, here are a few of the most common oral health problem children face.
Normally, thumb, finger, and pacifier sucking are a healthy part of a young child’s development. The act of sucking on an object provides a child a feeling of emotional comfort and security. However, when thumb sucking continues past the age of five, the age where the majority of a child’s adult teeth begin to form, oral health problems may occur.
Dependant on the intensity, frequency, and length of the sucking, a child’s teeth may become misaligned, causing them to protrude and creating an overbite. Children who chronically suck their thumb may also develop misaligned upper and lower jaws, in addition to a speech impediment or trouble correctly pronouncing words.
To help your child overcome his thumb sucking, the first thing you should remember is that the habit is normal and should only be corrected when done after permanent teeth have formed. In order to get them to stop, the decision to quit sucking their thumb must be your child’s. To further this goal, parents and family members need to offer positive reinforcement and encouragement to a child. Trying to get your child to quit through scolding or punishment will only encourage her to engage in this behavior more often. Keep in mind that thumb sucking is the result of security mechanism, and the more you push a child, the more she will seek the comfort provided by this mechanism. When your child is prepared to stop, try placing a band-aid over her thumb as a reminder, and remove the thumb from her mouth after she falls asleep.
You should also look for any potential stressors in your child’s life that could act as a trigger for his thumb sucking. By identifying and eliminating the problem, you can remove what’s causing your child to thumb suck. Children generally have an easier time stopping thumb sucking once the underlying issues has been resolved.
A habit where a child thrust his tongue against the upper teeth and lips to seal the mouth prior to swallowing, tongue thrusting can lead to misaligned teeth. Similar to thumb sucking, tongue thrusting places excessive pressure on the front teeth, causing them to become misaligned. This can result in a child’s teeth protruding out, and lead to an overbite or the potential for the development of a speech impediment.
When you notice the symptoms of tongue thrusting, you need to contact your dentist to seek treatment options. You may eventually need to consult a speech pathologist that can create a treatment plan to improve your child’s chewing muscles and to develop a new swallowing routine.
Lip sucking occurs a child repeatedly holds her lower lip underneath the upper front teeth. The habit of sucking on the lower lip may develop simultaneous with thumb sucking or as an independent habit. Children who indulge this habit for a prolonged period develop an overbite and other symptoms similar to those caused by tongue thrusting or thumb sucking. To get your child to stop sucking their lip, use the same type of positive reinforcement as described above in treating thumb sucking.
Timothy Lemke blogs about methods to correct oral health problems for Dr. Jacob Marrow, a Portland dentist at South Waterfront Dental.