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Common Dental Problems in Children and their Preventive Measures


Dental diseases are common among children of all ages. According to the dental health facts and figures, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about 55% of the 6 year olds and 48% of 12 year olds had experienced tooth decay. Apart from tooth decay, several other oral conditions can be noted in children from infancy till puberty. These conditions not only cause pain and discomfort but can also affect the child’s overall health and nutrition status. Let us look at few common dental problems in children related to oral health and also their preventive measures.

Common dental problems in children – Discussed by Dr Prashant Silas

Mountain View

Baby bottle tooth decay

Tooth decay is not restricted to older children and can be noted in infant’s teeth too. This usually occurs due to frequent contact with the newly formed teeth with sugary drinks or even milk. Any such liquids which stay on the teeth for long duration can lead to tooth decay (or caries). The bacteria in the mouth act on these sugary substances over the teeth eventually causing caries. This condition, generally noted in babies, is also known as nursing bottle syndrome, nursing caries or early childhood caries. A general practice that leads to this is letting the baby sleep with a feeding bottle in mouth. This condition affects several teeth and the teeth appear to have a brown or black patch. A considerable amount of tooth structure may also be lost in many.

Preventive measures

  • Start cleaning the baby teeth as soon as they appear. A soft brush with water will suffice
  • Do not let the baby fall asleep with unswallowed milk in his/her mouth

Tooth decay a common dental problem in children’s

Tooth decay is one of the common dental problems in children that can lead to pain and discomfort. Poor oral hygiene, frequent consumption of sugary foods and caries-prone tooth structure are some of the customary causes of tooth decay in older children. It is commonly associated with pain while eating sweet or cold foods and discoloration or cavity formation in the affected tooth. If left untreated, it can lead to severe infection of the tooth which can give rise to continuous pain, swelling and eventually lead to loss of the affected tooth.

Preventive measures

  • Schedule a visit to the dentist at least once in six months for a routine check up
  • Ensure that the children follow correct oral hygiene measures

Thumb sucking

Newborn infants and children below 5 years often tend to suck their fingers, thumb, toys or pacifiers for long durations (during the day or night). Such habit is believed to provide them with a sense of comfort and emotional security. While it is normal at this younger age, some tend to continue this habit beyond 5 years, which can be problematic. Continued thumb/finger sucking can affect the teeth alignment and jaw structure causing teeth to protrude. Leading to difficulty in pronunciation of certain words.

Other common dental problems in children that are similar to thumb sucking include tongue thrusting and lip sucking.

Preventive measures

  • As it is an emotional issue, positive reinforcement and encouragement can help break this habit
  • Taking the finger or thumb out of the mouth after the child falls asleep can also be helpful

Deposits on teeth

Another problem associated with poor oral hygiene is the formation of deposits on the teeth. While the soft film that forms on the tooth (known as plaque) can be removed by brushing, the hard deposits called, tartar or calculus cannot be removed by brushing. Calculus requires mechanical removal, a process commonly referred by dentists as scaling. Poor brushing techniques, mal-aligned teeth are often the common causes of calculus formation. The soft deposits when left uncleared tend to become hard over time because of bacterial action. Such deposits not only cause bad mouth odour, it can also cause gum disease, eventually leading to loss of teeth.

Preventive measures

  • Supervise the brushing in children until they are about 7-8 years old
  • Schedule a visit to the dentist who can teach them the correct brushing method

Misaligned teeth

Teeth in growing children can often be misaligned owing to several reasons. While it is a natural phenomenon for gaps to appear during the formative stages, teeth may get misaligned due to lack of space. Common dental problems in children associated with misaligned teeth can include overlapping of teeth, protrusion of teeth, gaps between the teeth and abnormal positioning of the teeth. Such problems may often be triggered by habits such as thumb sucking. Misaligned teeth are not only a cosmetic problem but may also interfere with oral hygiene, speech and chew in many children.

Preventive measures


Many of the common dental problems in children are preventable. Taking preventive measures at early stages not only restricts the progress of such conditions but also helps avoid further complications. Ideally, a visit to dentistry should be planned soon after conception as the tooth starts forming during the first six weeks of pregnancy. While proper nutrition is vital for a healthy baby, it is also important for healthy teeth.

Care of teeth should start from the day they appear in the mouth and regular visit to the dentist is helpful in inculcating healthy oral hygiene habits at a young age. Such visits can also facilitate early identification and treatment of dental problems.

 Tooth care tips to curb common dental problems in children


Age Group Tooth Care Tips
0-12 months
  • Do not put the baby to sleep with milk bottle or sweetened water
  • Start brushing the teeth with a soft toothbrush and only water (no toothpaste) when they appear
12-18 months
  • Brush the teeth twice daily with a soft toothbrush and water (no toothpaste)
18 months to 5 years
  • Use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste to brush the teeth using a soft toothbrush
  • Children may need assistance until they are eight year old

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