Dental Problems in Children

Childhood is a fantastic time of adventure, exploration and limitless play. However, sometimes this can be marred by occasional dental issues. From chipped teeth caused by bumps or scrapes to a spot missed during brushing leading to cavities, children’s teeth are more delicate than you might think.

While many of the problems that can affect children’s teeth can also occur in adults, children can often be more susceptible to issues. Their teeth are still developing, and milk teeth are softer than the permanent ones that will eventually grow through. If problems aren’t addressed early on, teeth can become misaligned or not develop correctly later.

Here are some of the most common paediatric dental conditions. Understanding these and why they occur will help you and your child take steps to prevent them.

  1. Tooth Decay

Children often have problems with brushing and flossing their teeth to a standard that is high enough. Alongside diets that are all too often high in sugar, cavities and tooth decay are common in small children.

Cavities are caused by a build-up of plaque on the surface of teeth. Plaque is acidic, which means it can erode a tooth’s enamel, eventually wearing it away and causing cavities.

Thankfully, cavities are relatively straightforward to prevent through supervised brushing and flossing. Until your child is old enough to properly grip and manoeuvre a toothbrush, you should watch on and help them if they need it. This will help your child remove any plaque, bacteria and food particles from their teeth, preventing tooth decay.

Should a cavity develop, the most common treatment is for a dentist to fill it. This involves drilling away the decay from the tooth and then filling the hole with a hard, composite material. This can be an unpleasant and unnecessarily costly experience, so it is in your best interest to avoid it.

  1. Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity is another widespread affliction in children (and adults). The sensation of overly sensitive teeth can be unpleasant and is often distracting. This can have knock-on effects on your kid’s focus and their routines as they grow older.

Sensitivity can be caused by various problems, and pain can be triggered by different things. For example, if your child has an area of decay on a specific tooth, they might have a cavity that is causing them discomfort. As permanent teeth grow through, they can often be sensitive. Other potential causes include acid erosion, teeth grinding, cracked or missing fillings or orthodontic treatments like braces. 

There are many treatments available that can help to reduce the symptoms associated with sensitive teeth. However, if you believe that the problem is caused by a dental problem like a cavity, you should book an appointment with your dentist to sort it out.

In London, a dentist in Fulham, like Fulham Road Dental, can help to diagnose the cause of tooth sensitivity. You can find out more about the Fulham dentist at

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  1. Gingivitis and Gum Disease

There is a common misconception that only adults can suffer from gum disease. However, this is not the case, and this can be a relatively common paediatric condition. Gingivitis is the precursor to full-blown gum disease and is often characterised by red and swollen gums. Additionally, if you or your child notice any blood from brushing or flossing, it could indicate gingivitis.

If a child has poor dental hygiene, they are more at risk of developing aggressive gum disease. This can translate to a higher level of pain, gum recession and swelling. However, most of the time, preventing gingivitis and gum disease is a relatively straightforward process. Proper brushing and flossing can help to avoid the condition.

Sometimes, the ailment can be caused by teeth growing crooked. This can make it difficult for children to clean in between their teeth properly and lead to gum health problems. If this is the case, you might need to consult a dentist to discuss orthodontic treatments.

  1. Thumb Sucking

Many children continue to suck their thumbs during their development. This is often a habit that kids pick up to soothe anxiety and pacify their mood. While this is a relatively standard and innocuous practice, if a child continues to suck their thumb for too long, it can cause issues with the development of their teeth. Therefore, as a parent, you should take steps to prevent your child from sucking their thumb or a dummy once they are older than a toddler.

Excessive thumb sucking can cause a child to develop an open bite as they grow older. This means that the top and bottom teeth do not align properly, leaving a gap between the child’s teeth when they close their mouth. Ultimately, this can cause difficulties with biting and chewing, and sometimes even speech. Dental procedures can rectify this problem, but they involve orthodontics, which takes a long time to work and can be uncomfortable.

  1. Halitosis

Bad breath can affect anyone at any age. Numerous factors can contribute to halitosis, and, more often than not, it can simply be due to foods we have eaten or other innocuous reasons. However, if you notice that your child is suffering from chronic bad breath, it could indicate a more insidious underlying condition.

Ultimately, bad breath is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria can grow on leftover food particles in the mouth, as well as fluids and plaque. When these bacteria digest these substances, they produce the chemical hydrogen sulphide. This is the leading contributor to bad breath.

Bad breath is more common in the morning, after waking up for both children and adults. This is because as you sleep, bacteria can multiply unchecked, leading to the dreaded “morning breath”. While this is common, if you notice that your child’s bad breath doesn’t dissipate after brushing and flossing but persists throughout the day, it could be cause for concern.

Persistent halitosis can be caused by problems with gums, like gingivitis or gum disease. Additionally, inadequate brushing and flossing techniques or an excessively dry mouth can also contribute to the problem. While these are relatively easy to treat, foul breath can also be caused by more severe conditions like diabetes, chronic sinusitis or digestive issues.

Therefore, if you notice that your child regularly has bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away despite proper brushing, flossing and hydration, you should consult a medical professional. Additionally, you could try to integrate an antibacterial mouthwash into their tooth-cleaning regimen.

The Takeaway

To summarise, these are five of the most common dental problems that can affect children. While it is almost inevitable that your child will experience tooth problems during their life, there are some steps you can take to avoid serious problems.

You must teach your child the proper brushing and flossing technique and supervise them until they show they can do it independently. Additionally, you should educate your kid about the importance of good dental hygiene to foster long-lasting habits that they will carry into adulthood.

Also, you should attempt to make your child comfortable with visits to the dentist. It is common for children to fear having a stranger picking at their teeth (sometimes with drills). Therefore, finding an experienced paediatric dentist who creates a safe environment for your child will help them develop positive associations with dental check-ups.