The Main Dental Problems in Children

Dental problems in children affect how they eat, speak, and chew. In this article, we tell you about which are the most common issues, what causes them, and how to solve them.
The Main Dental Problems in Children

Last update: 17 July, 2021

Dental problems in children can affect the way their mouths work when it comes to speaking, chewing, and eating. These issues may also have an impact on the appearance of their smile, which can bring difficulties with self-esteem and insecurity.

For that reason, caring for your oral health from an early age is very important. And it’s the parents’ job to pay special attention to the development of the child’s teeth and jaw, and ensuring that the gums are healthy and the teeth don’t have cavities.

To be able to help kids include healthy habits in their lives from when they’re little is also the adult’s responsibility. Preventing dental problems is better than solving them later with uncomfortable treatments.

In this article, we’ll tell you which are the most common dental problems in children. We’ll also go into what causes them, how you can treat them, and what you can do to avoid them.

What can cause dental problems in children?

Many changes can happen in a child’s mouth and each one of them has a specific cause. Generally speaking, there’s a series of factors which are the most common:

  • Genetics: the shape and size of the jaw bones and teeth are genetically determined. In some cases, the child is predisposed to suffer from certain issues in the mouth.
  • Bacterial plaque: this is the film that the remnants of food and microorganisms form. It sticks to the tops of the teeth and gums. The accumulation of plaque and the acids the bacteria produce can lead to the most common problems developing.
  • Diet: the type and quality of the foods that you eat can cause many dental problems. Eating a lot of products that are rich in sugars can help bacteria to develop. Additionally, malnutrition and diets that are poor in calcium can also be responsible for several dental problems in children.
  • Bad habits: repetitive behaviors that children pick up and continue can affect their oral health. Biting your nails, breathing through your mouth, sucking your fingers/thumbs, using a pacifier or a baby bottle, or pushing your tongue through the teeth when swallowing are some examples of these bad habits.

Cavities: Common dental problems in children

These are one of the most common dental problems in children. This issue develops when the teeth demineralize as a consequence of acid action that forms bacteria in the mouth.

The microorganisms present in the bacterial plaque ferment the sugars in the child’s diet and produce acid which removes the minerals from the dental tissue. Consuming a lot of sweets and poor oral hygiene are the biggest causes of this issue.

At the beginning of this issue, you may notice dry white stains on the surfaces of your teeth. As it progresses, the damage will turn brown or black causing you to lose dental tissue and develop cavities and holes.

Baby bottle cavities or early childhood cavities are a variety of the issue that affects young children. This is where the damage advances quickly and mainly affect the front teeth. Frequently drinking sugary drinks that stay stuck to the surfaces of the teeth and bad oral hygiene cause these cavities.

cavities close up of a mouth and dental tool
Cavities in children can develop on both baby teeth and adult teeth. The kind of tooth determines the approach you should take to tackle the issue.

Complications of cavities in children

If this issue develops and you don’t treat it, it can cause some of the following complications in young children:

  • Pain: If the damage becomes serious, it can get close to the dental pulp. This is where we find the nerve endings. This causes an increase in sensitivity and pain in the affected tooth.
  • Destruction: As the issue develops, the child will lose dental tissue, and the affected teeth will break and become destroyed. The broken teeth can cause malocclusions and problems with the bite.
  •  Infections: The bacteria responsible for the cavities can cause infections in the tooth or in the tissues that surround it.
  • Damage to the adult tooth: If the cavities affect a baby tooth and it develops without treatment, it could affect how the adult tooth forms below it.

Cavity treatment for children

The treatment available will depend on the size of the damage, the tissues it affects, and the evolutionary time of the process. If a specialist detects the cavity early, applying fluoride and making some changes in the child’s hygiene habits can be enough to reverse the issue.

When the child loses tissue, it is necessary to clean the tooth and restore it with fillings that help regain the shape of the tooth. You have to treat them and stop the development as this can help to avoid complications.

Gingivitis

Although this issue isn’t as common in children as it is in adults, it’s closely linked to poor oral hygieneThis is where the gums become inflamed due to irritation thanks to an accumulation of bacterial plaque on the teeth.

The gingival tissue swells, becomes an intense red color and bleeds easily. Also, it can hurt or annoy the child and cause bad breath.

Controlling the bacterial plaque with good hygiene habits, like using a toothbrush and dental floss properly, is usually enough to treat this issue. Regardless, it’s a good idea to consult a dentist to get the right advice for your case.

Malocclusions: One of the most common dental problems in children

Malocclusions are common dental problems that appear in children. The way the upper jaw relates to the lower jaw or the position of the teeth in the arch is compromised.

These problems interfere with how the function of the mouth, like biting, speaking and swallowing. In addition, it affects the patient’s smile and the way their face looks.

It’s important to detect them as early as possible because early treatments are shorter and more effective and comfortable for the patient, For that reason, adults must pay attention to how their child bites and the position of their teeth as they come out. Frequent check-ups with a dentist also help to diagnosis any anomaly in time.

Different factors can cause this type of change to the bite.

  • Inheritance and genetics: the size of the teeth and the jaw is often similar in several family members.
  • Bad habits: sucking fingers/thumbs, using a baby bottle or pacifier for too long, breathing through the mouth, or atypical swelling are some examples of repetitive behaviors that can change the way a child bites.
  • Premature loss of baby teeth: if the child loses their baby teeth before ahead of time due to cavities, infections, or traumas, they don’t fulfill their function of guarding the space for the adult teeth. The permanent teeth then come through in the wrong places, which changes the jaw.

Treaments for malocculison in children

Orthodontic treatment is necessary to solve these kinds of dental problems in children. The choice of the type of tool the child will have depends on the type of malocclusion, their age, and the severity of the case.

Interceptive orthodontic care is useful when the child still has baby teeth in their mouth and is necessary to guide bone growth. When the adult teeth have finished coming through, fixed braces are a choice – and many options respond to different needs.

As of today, using transparent braces like Invisalign is also an option when it comes to treating these problems in children and teens.

Trauma

Trauma to teeth is another commonly occurring dental problem in children. The cause of these hits to the teeth are accidents that happen in domestic environments; like when the child is learning to walk, during games, or practicing sport.

Trauma can happen to both the baby teeth and the adult teeth. The upper incisors are the most affected as they’re in the most exposed position.

Damage to teeth can affect the dental crown, fracture the tooth completely, move the position, or push it out of the mouth. It usually comes with pain, white tissue bleeding, and a lot of tension and stress from the situation.

The treatments depend don’t on the kind of tissues affected and the type of teeth involved. However, the recommendation when facing a hit to the mouth is to immediately consult a doctor. If the tooth is completely pushed out of the mouth, you should find it and transport it in a physiologic solution or milk.

As we’ve already mentioned, the dentist will decide the best treatment for your particular case:

  • Using fluoride and aftercare
  • Restoration or fillings
  • Root canal treatments
  • Reimplanting a tooth and immobilization it with splints

Immediate dentist consultation, when the accident has only just happened, improves the prognosis of these dental problems in children. Aftercare with basic diets and careful oral hygiene, as well as following the dentist’s advice, can also help.

When should you go to the dentist?

It’s common for parents to be confused about when to take their children to the dentist. Some people believe that it’s only necessary when some kind of symptom appears in the mouth.

However, children should visit a doctor for the first time before turning 1, although there may not be any apparent problem with their mouth. In the consultation, the dentist will examine the mouth of the little one to detect any problem. Also, they discuss how the parents should be looking after their child’s mouth.

Detecting problems in the mouth early avoids complicated, uncomfortable, and often expensive, treatments. Also, this way you’re able to stop complications that developing issues and painful situations often cause in children.

Checkups every six months are necessary to ensure the correct development of the jaw and teeth coming through. Also, the dentist will diagnose any issue that has appeared at this time. In some cases, they can suggest more frequent check-ups if a child’s risk of suffering from certain issues warrants it.

child with rotten teeth showing the camera their teeth
Pain doesn’t always mean there’s an oral issue in children. Periodic check-ups allow dentists to detect any other invisible problems.

Recommendations for dental problems in children

Many of the dental problems in children we’ve mentioned are common but can be prevented. Good oral hygiene habits from an early age and practicing healthy behavior can make a difference.

Paying attention to the following tips can help avoid dental problems in children developing:

  • Practicing adequate oral hygiene: Cleaning a child’s mouth should start as early as possible, even before teeth even start coming through. You should do this with a damp cloth. The adult should do this until the child can do it properly themselves. They should clean the teeth, gums, and tongue three times a day with a toothbrush that has soft bristles and toothpaste that contains fluoride. You should complement the cleaning with dental floss and, if the dentist suggests, with children’s mouthwash.
  • Follow a healthy diet: Eating a varied diet, rich in nutrients and with good calcium and vitamin content will help the little ones to grow. You should avoid products that are rich in refined sugars like sweets, pastries, and sodas. Don’t offer sugary drinks to babies, or pacifiers dipped in honey or sugar to calm them down.
  • Control and remove bad habits: You should eradicate repetitive and harmful practices that affect the child’s oral health, like if they suck their thumb, or use a baby bottle or pacifier after 2 years old. You should also solve issues like onychophagia (nail-biting), atypical swallowing, or mouth breathing.
  • Use mouthguards: Using these when practicing sports can help prevent damage to the teeth.
  • Visit the dentist: Consulting a dentist early and periodically allows you to detect and treat any issue ahead of time. Also, this person’s job is to help adults care for the mouths of their little ones. Preventative practices in the consultation room, like selling cavities and holes, or applying fluoride topically, can help to avoid future dental problems in children.

Avoiding dental problems in children

Many dental problems can affect children. These don’t just affect the way their mouths function (eating, speaking, chewing); they can also hinder relationships by generating security and self-esteem issues.

For that reason, early and periodic consultations, in addition to healthy practices and good oral hygiene, are essential. A healthy mouth allows for a happy smile throughout childhood and beyond!

It might interest you...
Anxiety in Children: When Should I Be Concerned?
Step To HealthRead it in Step To Health
Anxiety in Children: When Should I Be Concerned?

The symptoms of anxiety in children can be diverse: Physical discomfort, problems falling asleep, and more.



  • Revelo Navarrete, Carlos Eduardo. Prevalencia y severidad de caries de la primera infancia y sus factores de riesgo en niños de edad preescolar. BS thesis. Quito: UCE, 2019.
  • Echeverria-López, Sonia, et al. “Determinantes de caries temprana de la infancia en niños en riesgo social.” International journal of interdisciplinary dentistry 13.1 (2020): 26-29.
  • Pitts, N., R. Baez, and C. Diaz-Guallory. “Caries de la primera infancia: La Declaración de Bangkok del IAPD.” REVISTA ODONTOLOGÍA PEDIÁTRICA 19.1 (2020): 45-48.
  • Cárdenas, Shyrley Díaz, Sthefanie del Carmen Pérez Puello, and Miguel Angel Simancas-Pallares. “Caries dental en niños de la primera infancia de la ciudad de Cartagena.” Ciencia y Salud Virtual 10.2 (2018): 51-62.
  • Chuchuca Mite, Givanna Doménica. Prevalencia de gingivitis en niños de 5 a 8 años de edad de la Escuela Coronel Luciano Coral de Guayaquil. BS thesis. Universidad de Guayaquil. Facultad Piloto de Odontología, 2019.
  • Lugo, Carmen, and Irasema Toyo. “Hábitos orales no fisiológicos más comunes y cómo influyen en las maloclusiones.” Revista Latinoamerica de Ortodoncia y Odontopediatría. Ortodoncia. ws edición electrónica marzo (2011).
  • López, Adriana Buitrago, et al. “Asociación entre maloclusiones y hábitos orales en niños de 4 a 11 años.” Revista Colombiana de investigacion en Odontología 4.10 (2013): 43-55.
  • Oliveira-del Río, Juan A., Alcira M. Alvarado-Solórzano, and Betty E. Guanotoa-Lincango. “Características de traumatismo dental en niños de 5-13 años de edad.” Polo del Conocimiento 3.5 (2018): 150-159.
  • Martínez, Ana Karen Garibay, et al. “Traumatismo dental en pacientes pediátricos que acuden a una clínica universitaria de odontopediatría: un análisis retrospectivo de historias clínicas.” Pediatría (Asunción): Organo Oficial de la Sociedad Paraguaya de Pediatría 45.3 (2018): 206-211.
  • García, B., and Ballesta–A. Mendoza–P. Planells. Odontopediatría. La evolución del niño al adulto joven. Madrid-España: Ripano, 2011.
  • Leache, Elena Barbería, et al. Odontopediatría. Masson, 1995.