Common Problems

Thumb Sucking or Pacifiers

Sucking is a natural reflex that relaxes and comforts babies and toddlers.  The use of the pacifier or thumb normally stops on its own by the time they start daycare or school.  Typically, children stop between the ages of 2 and 4 years.  There is no safe age at which the thumb sucking or use of the pacifier will cause bite changes. Sometimes it happens as early as age one and sometimes by age three or four.  Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of primary teeth can cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of the teeth. It definitely has to stop by the time the adult teeth start to come in. This is the last chance the patient will have to have the teeth come in normally. Once the adult teeth come in with an open bite, they will need the help of an orthodontist.  There are many tricks to help children quit sucking their thumb or using a pacifier. Please ask your dentist what they recommend you should do.

Here are some ways to help your child outgrow thumb sucking:

  • Praise them when they don’t suck their thumb, especially during difficult periods.
  • Focus on eliminating the cause of anxiety—thumb sucking is a comfort device that helps children cope with stress or discomfort.
  • Place a bandage on the thumb or a sock on their hand at night.
  • Do not let them know that their habit upsets you or they will do it on purpose, trust me!
Tooth Grinding

Many young children grind their teeth. There are many theories as to why teeth grind, the reality is that we do not know exactly why. However, one thing is for certain, most will stop on their own by the time their six year molars come in or by the time the rest of the adult teeth come in. If it is a severe problem and the patient is substantially grinding tooth structure away, the teeth can be crowned. Of course, there are no assurances that they will not grind through the crowns. Teeth grinding is not normal but it is common. Always mention this at your next dental appointment.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)

It is very helpful to brush your child’s tongue since most bad breath comes from the back of the tongue.  Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the buildup of food particles, plaque and bacteria in your child’s mouth. Food particles left in the mouth deteriorate and cause bad breath. Bad breath is also common in patients with sinus issues or allergies.  We can provide you more information regarding this concern.

Bleeding After a Baby Tooth Falls Out

Fold a clean wash cloth or piece of gauze and place it (tightly) over the bleeding area. Have your child bite down on the gauze for 15 minutes; the area must have firm constant pressure for the bleeding to stop.

Orthodontic Problems

A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may cause malocclusions. At every exam appointment, the bite is checked and when indicated, the patient is referred to an orthodontist for their expert opinion.

Gum Disease (Gingivitis) in Young Children is Common

This is why it is important to start healthy habits early. Gum or periodontal disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing.

Canker Sores

Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur and generally last one or two weeks. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border and is very tender the first three days to a week. Even after the pain improves, the ulcer leaves a sore that looks very much like a scar. This eventually goes away. Children often mistake the pain from a canker sore with a tooth ache.

Bites After Dental Treatment

After dental treatment involving the use of anesthetic, it is not uncommon to have a patient bite their lip on accident or on purpose. It is actually a very interesting sensation for the child, so they play with their lip and cheeks. Some bites can look scary and can show swelling, no matter how bad it looks, it will get better, usually on its own. The best thing to do is to prevent the bite by reminding the child not to play with their numb lip. Once it happens, keep the area clean, have the patient rinse with warm salt water and let it heal.