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Oral Health Issues In Children

Oral Health Issues in Children.

Even though your child’s infant teeth will be supplanted with permanent teeth, keeping the infant teeth healthy is essential to your child’s general health & wellbeing.

There are numerous issues that affect the oral health of children; including tooth decay, early tooth loss, tongue thrusting, lip sucking and thumb sucking.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay is a growing problem among children under 2 years of age. It occurs when juice, soft drink, or milk is given to babies and infants at bedtime. Children that young should only get formula or breast milk in bottles and they shouldn’t have a bottle whilst sleeping at all.

Baby bottle tooth decay happens because the baby’s teeth has prolonged contact with sugary drinks. Like all foods, the sugar is broken down by the bacteria within the mouth, making a by-product of acid. This acid then attacks the baby’s teeth and strips away the necessary minerals found in the tooth enamel, triggering tooth decay.

If this is left untreated, the child’s decayed teeth will can cause pain and make it hard to eat. The other thing to consider is that baby teeth function as space savers for permanent teeth. In the event that the baby teeth are destroyed, they won’t be able to assist in guiding the permanent teeth into their proper position. This can lead onto crowded or crooked teeth.

Oral Health - Baby Bottle


  • At bedtime, give your baby a bottle filled with plain water instead of sugary liquids.
  • Don’t add sugar to your infant’s food.
  • Make use of a wet cloth or gauze to wipe your child’s teeth properly after each feed. This will help to remove any bacteria-forming plaque and excess sugar, which may have built up on the teeth and gums.
  • In the daytime – to calm or comfort your baby, don’t give a bottle filled with sugary liquids or milk; instead, give plain normal water or substitute a pacifier.
  • Don’t dip your infant’s pacifier in any sweet liquid.
  • By the time they turn one teach your baby to drink from a sippy cup, this will help reduce the teeth’s exposure to all kinds of sugar.
  • Ask your dental office with regards to your baby’s fluoride needs. In case your drinking water is not fluoridated, fluoride supplements or fluoride treatments may be needed.

Thumb Sucking

For baby’s and infants, it is perfectly normal to suck their thumbs as it offers a feeling of emotional comfort and security. However, thumb sucking over the age of 5 can cause numerous dental issues as the permanent teeth start coming in. The permanent teeth can be pushed out of alignment, where the teeth protrude and create an overbite. Other issues can be the misalignment of the upper and lower jaw and having some difficulty with speech.


  • Parents and other family members need to provide encouragement and positive reinforcement to help the child surrender the habit as in most cases it is a security mechanism. Punishing the child will in most cases only entrench the habit of thumb sucking.
  • Where possible, compliment or reward them for time successfully avoiding the habit. Younger children will initially require more frequent rewards. A tip for children who wish to stop is to cover the thumb or finger with a band-aid that will act as a reminder.
  • If your child has their thumb in their mouth after they fall asleep, gently take it out.
  • To assist older children, parents should try to determine why their child is doing it. What challenges or worries is your child facing, then try and help to correct the situation. In most instances when the issue is resolved, the child will naturally give up the thumb sucking habit.
  • If all else fails, there are special dental appliances a child can wear in the mouth that make thumb sucking harder and thus less pleasurable.

Tongue Thrusting

Just like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting places pressure against the front teeth, which in turn can push them out of alignment, thus causing an overbite, improper speech development and problems with eating.

Tongue thrusting seals the mouth for swallowing by thrusting the top of the tongue forward against the lips. Should you notice symptoms of tongue thrusting, consult a speech pathologist. They can develop a treatment plan that will help your child increase the strength of the chewing muscles and develop a new swallowing pattern.

Lip Sucking

Lip sucking can cause the same issues as both thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. Generally, lip sucking will involve holding the lower lip beneath the upper front teeth repeatedly.
To eliminate this habit, follow the same tips given for thumb sucking.

Oral Health - Tongue Thrusting


Oral Health - Missing Tooth

Early Tooth Loss

The premature loss of a child’s infant teeth usually occurs because of tooth decay, lack of jaw space or an injury. The issue with this is that if the permanent teeth are not ready to emerge, the nearby teeth can either tip or shift into the distance now made vacant. Because there is less room for the permanent tooth, it may now emerge tilted. Misaligned teeth can cause several issues such as interfering with proper chewing and jaw joint pain.

The good news is if your child has lost a tooth prematurely, your local dentist can use a space maintainer to hold open the space that the missing tooth has left and allow for the permanent tooth to emerge, then the space maintainer is removed by your dentist.

Dental Sealants for Children

One quick and easy way to protect children’s teeth and help prevent cavities is to use what is called a Dental Sealant. Dental Sealants can be used on both infant and permanent teeth, consult with your dentist to find out more.

Proper oral care is the key to preventing oral health issues in children. If you live on the Sunshine Coast (Noosa) give our friendly team at “The Dental Junction” a call or drop by and ask any questions you may have about your child’s dental needs. At “The Dental Junction” we genuinely care about children and their long term dental health 😊

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