Good oral hygiene is a lifelong pursuit. It’s important to instill good oral health practices in kids from an early age so that habits like brushing and flossing become second nature. However, no matter how proactive a parent is, unforeseen dental issues can still occur. Spotting these issues early and knowing the best methods to treat and prevent them is essential for keeping your kid’s smile healthy for years to come. That’s why we’ve put together five of the most common children’s dental health issues to help you stay ahead of the curve! 

1. Cavities

It’s the word no parent wants to hear from their child’s dentist. Cavities are permanently damaged areas of the teeth that eventually develop into small holes capable of causing a tooth infection. A recent study found that about 43% of American kids from ages 2 to 19 had suffered from cavities, making cavities the leading dental issue among children in the U.S. 

There are many potential causes of cavities, but the following are a few of the most common: 

  • Poor or inconsistent brushing 
  • Frequent consumption of sugary drinks
  • Frequent consumption of candy or other processed snack foods

If left untreated, cavities can lead to serious dental health problems, including tooth infection, gum disease, and tooth loss. That’s why it’s important to treat them early. If your child complains of a toothache or experiences chronic bad breath, contact their dentist as soon as possible.

2. Teeth Misalignment

Also known as malocclusion, misalignment refers to teeth that are crowded, crooked, or otherwise incorrectly aligned. Depending on their severity, misaligned teeth can contribute to chewing problems, difficulty maintaining proper hygiene, or even breathing issues. 

Malocclusion is most noticeable in children between the ages of 6 and 12. Common causes include: 

  • Narrow jaw
  • Wide jaw
  • Prolonged thumb or finger sucking  

By far, the most common treatment methods for misaligned teeth are orthodontic treatments, such as braces or clear aligners. But, if caught early enough, pre-orthodontic treatments like Myobrace can be utilized to address the underlying causes of misalignment, possibly avoiding the need for orthodontic treatment later on. 

3. Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding– or bruxism –affects between 14% and 17% of children. While most kids eventually outgrow this issue, teeth grinding still has the potential to cause lasting damage in the form of the following:

  • Worn down tooth enamel
  • Chipped teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Face, ear, or jaw pain

For these reasons, parents are advised to look for the warning signs of bruxism and address them as soon as possible. 

What makes teeth grinding difficult to diagnose is that most kids don’t even realize they’re doing it. Some signs to watch for are: 

  • Grinding noises during sleep
  • Chewing pain
  • Complaints of a sore jaw in the morning

Routine dental visits are the best way to find and treat this issue. Pediatric dentists have devised therapeutic methods for addressing bruxism. If you notice your child grinding their teeth, contact their dentist to schedule an appointment. 

4. Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity commonly occurs when the tooth’s protective enamel is worn away. While adults also suffer from sensitive teeth, this issue is more common with children due to baby teeth having thinner enamel. 

A common sign of sensitive teeth is tooth pain or discomfort when consuming hot or cold drinks and food. 

In-office fluoride treatment is a great way to restore enamel. Otherwise, proper oral hygiene, such as daily brushing and flossing, will reduce teeth sensitivity and help maintain healthy tooth enamel. 

5. Bad Breath

While bad breath (or halitosis) may seem harmless enough, it is often indicative of more serious underlying oral hygiene issues. Occasional bad breath after a meal is nothing to be concerned about. But, if it becomes a recurring issue, it might mean that food particles have been left in the mouth to deteriorate. These deteriorating food particles could cause issues like cavities or infection. 

The best way to prevent bad breath is to teach your child good oral health habits, including: 

  • Twice-daily brushing
  • Daily flossing
  • children’s Dental checkups every six months
  • Limiting consumption of foods high in sugar and starch

It may be difficult at first, but once these daily oral health habits are established, taking care of your child’s teeth will become much easier. If you continue to notice chronic bad breath, schedule a children’s dental exam with your preferred pediatric dentist.