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Big smiles

A child's development can be a turbulent time, and the big changes their bodies undergo can create a whole new set of problems for children's dental health. Here are the most common issues that affect young children, and some tips on how you can avoid them.

TONGUE-THRUSTING

Tongue-thrusting is the habit of sealing the mouth for swallowing by pressing the top of the tongue against the lips. Just like thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting puts pressure on your child's front teeth, pushing them out of alignment. This can lead to an overbite and even interfere with speech development. If you think your child might be tongue-thrusting you should consult a speech pathologist who will be able to develop a treatment plan for your child.

THUMB-SUCKING

It's normal for infants to suck their thumb, as it gives them a sense of support and comfort. But if thumb-sucking continues for too long, dental problems can occur.

BABY BOTTLE TOOTH DECAY

Sucking on a bottle or sippy cup for prolonged periods of time exposes your child's teeth to one long acid attack. The acid in the drink combines with bacteria in their mouth to erode your child's tooth enamel - leaving it more vulnerable to decay.

To help stop tooth decay, you should:

  • Try not to give your child sugary drinks through a bottle; try to give them water instead.
  • Don't dip your baby's dummy in sugar, honey or any sugary liquid.
  • Don't put your baby to bed with a bottle of sugary liquid; give them water instead.
  • Don't allow your baby to nurse continuously during the night, whilst asleep, as breast milk can also cause decay.
  • Don't add sugar to your child's food.
  • Use a wet cloth to wipe your child's mouth and gums after feeding.
  • Teach your baby to drink from a cup as early as possible.

EARLY TOOTH LOSS

The premature loss of your child's baby teeth is typically caused by decay, injury or a lack of jaw space. If the adult tooth beneath the gap isn't ready to come through, teeth either side of the gap could lean in and cause the adult tooth to grow at a crooked angle.

If your child loses a tooth prematurely your dentist might recommend a 'space saver' to prevent neighbouring teeth from leaning in.

Providing NHS Dentistry