New parents are told to prepare for many situations that happen in early childhood. However, most parents are surprised to discover when their child needs dental work. An unexpected trip to the dentist for tooth pain may lead to a much bigger procedure than parents were prepared to handle.

While most parents know the value of proactive dental care, they may underestimate the risk of missing a dentist appointment for their toddler or young child. Even baby teeth need proper care to maintain a healthy mouth! Common dental problems in children can become bigger problems in adulthood when they aren’t addressed early.

When parents anticipate pediatric dental issues, they can take care of their children’s teeth before painful problems start. Here are the seven most popular child dental problems to look out for.

1. Extended Thumb Sucking

It’s common for babies to start sucking their thumb to self-soothe. Many parents don’t realize that prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can cause issues in how their child’s teeth and mouth develop.

If your child continues using a pacifier or sucking their thumb beyond age four, they may develop an open bite. An open bite is a gap between their upper and lower front teeth, which can make chewing and biting difficult. This gap can also lead to speech delays and impediments if left untreated.

A pediatric dentist may be able to help encourage your child to stop sucking her thumb. In some cases, an open bite can fix itself once the pacifier or thumb sucking stops, without causing lasting damage. Otherwise, your child may need braces or surgery when they get older.

2. Teeth Grinding

Many children grind their teeth in their sleep or when they’re concentrating. Some kids may also channel stress through teeth grinding. Over time, grinding can cause tooth sensitivity, chewing pain, and headaches or ear pain.

If your child often complains of headaches, check whether you can hear them grinding their teeth while they sleep. A dentist may provide your child with a mouth guard to decrease night grinding. While children may grow out of teeth grinding, it can also cause them substantial discomfort that can easily be avoided.

Your dentist can also speak with your child to determine if stress might be causing them to grind their teeth. Developing a teeth grinding habit at a young age can cause damage to your child’s teeth when they grow up, too. Addressing their stress in a healthy way can reduce teeth grinding and improve their overall health.

3. Cavities

Tooth decay from plaque build-up is extremely common in children. While most parents know to expect cavities, their instinct may be to only bring their child in for an appointment if he’s already in pain. With regular preventative treatment and oral hygiene, cavities are completely avoidable.

When brushing teeth is a daily battle, parents may be inclined to give up the fight. Don’t! Poor hygiene habits are the leading cause of cavities, and developing good habits early can help your child grow into a happy, healthy adult.

Decreasing sugar intake is just one step parents can take to help children avoid cavities. These tips can make avoiding cavities easy in some unexpected ways, like chewing bubblegum!

4. Pre-Gingivitis

Swollen gums are common pediatric dental problems to look out for. For many children, inflamed gums can make brushing and flossing hard to tolerate, even though that’s when they need good oral hygiene habits most.

When gum tissue gets inflamed, it can cause bleeding or recessed gums over time. Children who don’t develop healthy brushing and flossing habits early may be at risk of losing their teeth to gum disease later in life.

When adults aren’t regular flossers, it’s likely their children aren’t either. Flossing is one of the primary ways to avoid gum disease, or gingivitis. Teaching your child to floss can make a huge difference in their oral health over their lifetime.

5. Uneven Teeth

Underbites, overbites, and tooth gaps can make children uncomfortable and less confident. When these issues are addressed in children, teeth can easily be moved and aligned to create a straight smile. If left untreated, misaligned teeth can lead to future pain from temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), teeth clenching, and chewing pain.

Orthodontic treatment is a great way to help alleviate discomfort and avoid further dental problems in children. Treating alignment or crowding issues early can reduce the chance of jaw issues down the road. Braces can also reduce speech impediments like lisps, whistling, and pronunciation issues.

If your child is concerned about the look of braces, there are plenty of modern options to help straighten their teeth.

6. Bad Breath

Bad breath can often be the first sign of plaque and cavities. As children develop healthy habits, they may still experience bad breath from time to time. However, if your child consistently has bad breath, it’s likely time for a trip to the dentist.

Diseases, dry mouth, or something stuck in their nose or mouth may be to blame for bad breath. Visiting the dentist can ensure that your child’s bad breath isn’t a bigger dental issue. Bad breath is a crucial first sign for many health issues, so regular dental checkups can be your first indicator of more serious health concerns.

7. Fear of the Dentist

Treating small pediatric dental issues can be tricky when a child is scared of the dentist’s office. Regular visits can start to normalize going to the dentist, but many parents may be resistant when a trip to the dentist causes their child distress. If discussions around oral hygiene habits mention the dentist, children may assume the dentist will be mad at them or mean to them for not regularly brushing and flossing.

Creating positive associations with the dentist means making sure your child is comfortable with their dentist. A dedicated pediatric dentist is experienced in setting children at ease, but occasionally personalities just don’t mesh. If your child is afraid of the dentist, consider trying a new dentist and reading books about going to the dentist to ease their fears.

Avoid Common Dental Problems

Child dental problems are a commonly overlooked part of a child’s overall health. These common dental problems will only get worse if left untreated, so visiting the dentist every 6 months is crucial for young children. With proper attention, your child can maintain good mouth health and strong teeth into adulthood.

If your child has at least one tooth, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Our friendly, compassionate staff is committed to helping your child build healthy oral hygiene habits at any age. We can’t wait to see you!