Right from the moment the first tooth erupts or even before that, the oral health of a child needs to be actively taken care of. Dental problems can start from a very young age. Baby bottle tooth decay is not uncommon. Oral health, when affected at a young age, can have a detrimental effect on the permanent teeth that comes out later.
Childhood habits that affect dental health
Childhood is the time when children develop certain habits like thumb sucking, grinding of teeth, or relying too much on pacifiers. These are usually formed calming habits that end when they grow older. However, in certain children the habits can persist well past toddler years.
Parents need to make sure they wean the child from these habits. Thumb sucking and use of pacifiers are known to cause problems in the teeth formation. Speech development may also be adversely affected due to such habits.
Nutritional deficiencies, especially that of vitamin D, have known to cause severe damage to tooth development. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium which in turn aids in the formation of bones and teeth. The complete oral health of a child gets affected when there is less than the required amount of calcium absorption in the body. Undeveloped teeth, tooth decay and gum diseases may be the results of vitamin D deficiency.
Toothache in children
The tooth begins to ache and your child may start complaining when the pulp of the tooth gets infected. Inflammation is also typically seen in that area. The pulp is the interior part of the teeth that has nerves and blood vessels. Injury or trauma to the teeth, dental cavities etc. also cause toothache. Sensitivity to hot/cold food, pain getting alleviated while consuming food, fever etc. are also symptoms associated with toothache. If unchecked, decay can spread to other parts of the mouth and affect other teeth as well. Oral health gets compromised greatly.
As far as the treatment goes, a complete dental check-up is first conducted to assess the reason for the toothache. X-rays may also be taken id required. If the cause of the toothache lies below the visible area of the tooth, then X-rays will help.
Causes of toothache
Here, we examine some of the major causes of toothache in children.
Cracked dental enamel
Dental enamel is the outer covering of the teeth. It protects the inner soft area of the teeth. But this dental enamel can crack or fracture by accident if a child bites into hard food. Sports injury or trauma to the teeth can also cause fracture to the teeth. Even a slight crack on the enamel can cause immense pain. Teeth sensitivity is also quite severe in the case of cracked enamel. However, you may see no change in the shape of the teeth.
Decay in the teeth
A tooth has various layers protecting it. After consuming food, if the mouth is not cleaned properly, food debris can stick to the tooth surface. This is the case if sugary food has been consumed. This food will attract bacteria and the bacteria releases acid which erodes the enamel. If unchecked, the decay spreads to the inner layers of the teeth and cause cavities.
Unchecked tooth decay, can lead to an abscess in the teeth. In this condition, the toothache is severe and the decay develops to an abscess. There will pus formed at the root of the tooth. This can be seen in a pocket at the root base. This pocket will have a high concentration of disease causing bacteria and can rapidly bring down oral health. The teeth can be lost completely if not treated at the earliest.
Similar to decay or infection in the teeth, infections can also be seen in the gums. The soft tissues of the gum lining become red and inflamed. Irritation can also be seen in these tissues. Bleeding is also seen in some cases. Pain is felt increasingly while brushing. Treatment should be given on time, as this infection can affect the gum tissues and also loosen the teeth.
A variety of options are available for treating toothache. This will be decided after the dentist diagnoses the reason for the pain. Pain killers may be used and infections are generally treated with antibiotics. If the situation requires more attention, then the dentist may suggest root canal treatment or treatments remove the pus in the case of tooth abscess.
On the other hand, simpler methods like gargling with salt water or removing food lodged in the teeth can help if the toothache is minor. A cold compress or medicated oil can also help to reduce the pain.
As seen above, a toothache can be caused due to a variety of reasons. To reduce toothache in children, parents can help children develop good oral hygiene. Brushing teeth twice a day is important, especially after meals at night. After consuming food at night, if teeth are not cleaned, food debris will stick to the teeth. This will attract bacteria and bring down dental health and cause toothache.
Flossing is also important as it helps to remove food that is lodged between teeth. Young children will need the help of parents for flossing. Once they learn, they will be able to do it on their own.
Healthy food habits also help in promoting oral health and also reduce the causes of tooth ache. Sugary and junk food do not provide the nutrients needed for healthy growth. These food are rich in starch and sugar and they usually stick easily to the teeth. It is important to reduce juices or sugary food in a child’s diet. They should be exposed to healthy food from childhood, this will help in children adopting healthier food habits.