Across the entire country, people are facing an unprecedented amount of uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, affecting millions of families. While most essential businesses closed down for several weeks, many are now back up and running, especially medical facilities. A patient’s health and safety is always the main concern for any medical provider, dentists included. Despite the precautions of staying at home and social distancing as much as possible, oral health should not suffer on the sidelines.
As a parent, you are responsible for instilling good habits into your children, helping them grow into healthy and responsible adults. While it sounds simple, the task is not always easy when dealing with little humans whose brains are still developing and can’t always grasp logic and reason. However, mouth health is absolutely not something that should ever be compromised as dental health is a major part of a person’s overall well-being. That means that many parents are facing dental-related challenges at home from the time their children are tiny toddlers to tumultuous teenagers. While the scary stigma surrounding visiting the dentist is something that hygienists are still trying to tackle even with modern day advancements making checkups and procedures painless and comfortable, there are preventative measures you can take to ensure your children will have adequate long-term mouth health.
Dentistry has made great efforts to improve the previously “scary” reputations that many dentists undeservingly get. Many parents today can think back to times where going to the dentist was one of their greatest fears, and many of the devices used by hygienists looked like archaic torture devices. Thankfully, with the aid of scientific developments, going to the dentist has become much less intimidating and painful than it was some 30 years ago. Even so, many kids still begin to fear the dentist at an early age, even if they haven’t yet had a bad experience or extensive dental work done. Just like adults, children relay information to one another, and many times these irrational fears of the dentist can come from stories they hear from other children or the portrayal of dentists as scary in children’s books and cartoons. This, of course, makes your job as a parent much more difficult, especially because going to the dentist is an important event in early childhood and can prevent major problems down the line.
Many of us don’t give too much thought to our bite patterns, especially if we were lucky enough to have good dental genes that have been passed down from our parents. However, some of us were the kids who had to have more than one round of braces and even the dreaded headgear that came along with extensive bite issues that we developed as children. Since the 1990s, orthodontics have greatly advanced, but no parent wants their child to experience the pain and discomfort that can come with bite issues and extensive braces, expanders, and other mechanisms that are used to correct irregular bite patterns. While it’s not always possible to prevent bite misalignment, there are steps to take to ensure you are monitoring your child’s jaw and bite development as they are growing in order to take action early on, if it’s needed.
The best course of action to keep track of how your infant’s bite is developing is to schedule their first dental visit with a pediatric dentist by their first birthday and an orthodontist visit by the age of 6 years old. This is the best time to stop any misalignment in its tracks and take early precautions to correct any bad habits. As baby teeth give way to adult teeth, you want to monitor their growth carefully making sure they are coming in straight and correctly next to surrounding teeth without any excessive gaps or crowding. The upper teeth should come down ever so slightly over the lower teeth when jaws are shut.
These are the most common abnormalities to look for in your child’s bite:
Ideally, the front teeth should close on top of the bottom teeth, ever so slightly overlapping when the jaw is shut. With an underbite, however, the opposite occurs, and the bottom jaw sticks out slightly more than the top. This is also called a Class III malocclusion or prognathism. This kind of condition is hereditary for the most part, and children with one parent who has an underbite are likely to show symptoms early. Thumb sucking during infant and toddler stages can also play a major role in causing underbites. The thrusting motion used for thumb and pacifier sucking can cause major strain in the teeth and jaw muscles and should be treated as soon as possible.
An overbite happens when the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth, but in a more exaggerated fashion than what is natural. To some degree, everyone has a bit of an overbite, excluding people with underbites. The bigger issue with this bite misalignment is that it causes unhealthy wear and tear on the teeth and can cause major jaw pain and lead to conditions like TMJ. Overbites are generally measured regarding percentages, making the ideal rage from 5-25%. Treating an overbite above that range can become tricky, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for this abnormality in your children starting at the age of six.
When the upper and lower teeth to not connect when the jaws are closed, there is a type of malocclusion called an “open bite.” There are a handful of reasons an open bite may occur bit the most common two are thumb sucking and “thrusting” of the tongue. Thrusting is caused by an involuntary action of pushing the tongue outwards while speaking and swallowing. There are ways in which this habit can be stopped with various kinds of devices that can be temporarily installed in the mouth. This is much easier to treat when a child is still young, and much more difficult to handle later on in adult life. TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is another issue closely associated with an open bite. The combination of tongue thrusting and a skeletal genetic issue can cause a lot of strain on the jaw, causing it to be malformed and reposition improperly.
Sometimes teeth don’t fix quite perfectly over each other, sometimes straying to one side more than the other. This is often most prominent in childhood, but it does not usually correct itself as other alignment issues may. If left untreated, the effects of a crossbite can cause major health issues later on in life, so it’s important to make sure you are monitoring any signs in your toddler of this malalignment in your child’s mouth development. There are several treatment options including palatal or maxillary expanders, removable expanders, surgically assisted rapid expanders, and standard braces that are used in combination with expansion to help fix the crossbite and straighten teeth.
Adult teeth should come in next to each other without too much crowding or gaps that are too wide. However, it’s not uncommon for these things to occur, causing many children to eventually seek the aid of braces to correct these flaws. Most of the time, these spacing problems are a result of a discrepancy between the size of the jaw and teeth but can be corrected, even if it calls for removing several teeth to create more room to solve a crowding issue. There are various kinds of bite issues that can occur in both lower and upper teeth, the best way to resolve these matters is to seek an orthodontic professional to make an early assessment as adult teeth begin to come in.
Certain protrusions may occur in which the upper teeth in the jaw come in outward facing, or retrusion where the lower teeth appear to be too far back. These issues can be dealt with early on in childhood and mostly occur due to primary teeth being out of position or lost prematurely.
Beautiful and straight teeth are not just important for aesthetic purposes. Bite issues calling for orthodontic intervention can also be a health hazard that can develop into painful and debilitating conditions later on that could require surgery if left unattended. Genetics play a big role in your child’s bite pattern, so if you have struggled with orthodontic issues in your own life, pay especially close attention to your kid’s teeth as they grow in and develop in their formative years.
Parenting can sometimes feel like a never-ending uphill battle, especially when you are trying to guide young developing minds to become self-sufficient little humans who can take care of their own teeth. Sometimes kids will rebel, or they don’t understand the importance of brushing their teeth before bed after a day of snacking and drinking fruit juice. Trying to appeal to toddlers rationally with explanations doesn’t always seem to do the trick, so what else does a parent have in their arsenal? Lead by example. Children are like little sponges that observe and often imitate things they see. If your child sees you taking good care of your teeth, it’s the first and most important step in helping them develop good oral habits, but it certainly doesn’t end there. There are several other tips and tricks to keep in mind when raising your kids and teaching them good oral hygiene.
Starting your child off with proper oral hygiene early on is vital, but you may run into bumps along the way. Brushing at least twice a day is standard and healthy for developing teeth, but sometimes bad breath can happen for a multitude of reasons that aren’t always directly related to brushing. There are other health issues that may be at play here so bad breath is not something you want to dismiss lightly. Make sure you are aware of your kid’s bad breath and take action early on if you notice it to be a persistent problem once you’ve ruled out that poor brushing may be the culprit.
When baby teeth start to form it can be a painful and stressful process for a child who is unable to articulate what they’re feeling. This is often accompanied by crying fits, understandable crankiness, and major stress on parents who do not enjoy seeing their children suffer. For centuries, there have been holistic methods to deal with teething infants that have been passed down from generation to generation, and some people swear by them. However, dentists prefer to use science-backed information on how to help your teething baby while they are developing.
Your child’s pacifier is one of their first best friends in the world; they can offer comfort, interaction, communication and help reduce stress, just like any best friend would. There does come a time, though, when it’s important to consider reducing your child’s exposure to their pacifier or binky because it can begin posing serious issues when it comes to the alignment of their jaws, mouth, and teeth.
Once your toddler begins to grow their first baby teeth, it’s an exciting time with lots of changes and challenges ahead. It’s recommended to begin caring for their teeth even before these first few adult teeth begin to grow. Preparing your infant for oral hygiene is a great first step, and their progress, along with your guidance, will help set your child up for healthy teeth and gums in the future.
Getting your child started on the right track to optimal oral hygiene can be one of the greatest things you can do for them. Teaching them proper brushing and flossing habits at toddler age can prevent your child from having major, potentially painful, issues in the future. Although 100% preventable, tooth decay is one of the most common of childhood diseases. While checkups and cleanings are an essential part of overall health, about 20% of childhood cavities go untreated, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). With the help of your pediatric dentist, you can come up with a good plan to ensure your child’s dental hygiene is exactly where it should be, from infancy into adulthood.