What Are The Biggest Childhood Dental Problems That Dentists See?

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

April 30, 2022

childhood dental problems, children's dentistry, dental care, parents guide to dentistry

Dentistry for children is very important. In fact, the moment you spot their first tooth, you should also set up their first dental checkup. Early dental care helps create healthy dental habits for life. You and your dentist together help your child develop healthy habits to reduce the risk for gum disease and tooth decay. Your dentist will also identify common dental problems and solutions in children as they mature. Here we list the biggest childhood dental problems and how your dentist helps prevent them.

Biggest Childhood Dental Problems

Tooth Decay


We start with tooth decay because 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have untreated tooth decay. Your dentist will not just identify tooth decay and recommend treatment but also offer preventative care to avoid it. For example, it is not uncommon for kids to have pits and caries on the surface of their molars. Your dentist can apply a sealant to prevent tooth decay by helping repel debris that can lead to cavities.

Also, during your child’s checkup and dental cleaning, your dental team looks for signs of poor brushing and flossing technique. They can offer tips to show your child how to brush more effectively, so they can remove more plaque and avoid damage to their enamel. Last but not least, your dental hygienist’s professional cleaning removes the hard-to-reach plaque, to promote healthy teeth and gums.

Gum Disease


Gingivitis, or gum disease, is often thought of as a dental issue for older people. However, because kids can lack proper brushing and flossing skills, or also might avoid the task altogether, they are just as prone to developing gum disease as adults. Irritation from plaque buildup along the gum line or between the teeth can increase the risk for gum inflammation.

If the early stages of gum disease aren’t corrected, this can lead to serious issues including tooth and bone loss. When your dentist spots the telltale signs of gingivitis such as swelling and bleeding, they can provide tips to improve oral hygiene at home. You should also mention to your dentist when you notice redness or find red or pink spit in the sink when your child brushes their teeth.

Chronic Thumb-Sucking


Although all babies have an instinctive thumb-sucking impulse, they should naturally stop sucking their thumb by the age of two. If your child continues to suck their thumb or use a pacifier beyond the age of three, they are at higher risk of impacting tooth and palate development. The roof of their mouth as well as the development of their permanent teeth can be severely damaged by thumb-sucking, especially when it goes beyond the age of four.

Your child is more likely to require braces as sucking interferes with tooth alignment. Your dentist can spot issues with thumb-sucking, but can also recommend how to help your child break the habit. If your child is still sucking their thumb at age three, be sure to mention it to your dentist.

Baby Teeth


The average child starts losing their teeth by the age of six. However, some kids have stubborn baby teeth that don’t come out as easily. Either the tooth doesn’t become loose, or becomes loose but never falls out. Your dentist keeps an eye on your child’s development and looks for issues with permanent teeth development and eruption. If you notice your child’s teeth are not falling out, or a tooth is hanging on too long, call your dentist. They will take a look and determine if the tooth should be pulled to allow the adult tooth to come through.

Sensitive Teeth


If you notice your child suffers when they enjoy a bowl of ice cream or a hot cup of cocoa, it could be they have sensitive teeth. There are many reasons teeth become sensitive, including tooth decay, gum disease, and receding gums. As mentioned, kids can suffer from gum disease just like adults, which can cause the gums to become inflamed and separate from the teeth. This exposes the sensitive area below the gum line. Your dentist will find the cause of your child’s sensitivity and recommend treatment to keep your child comfortable.

Tooth Grinding


Also known as bruxism, it is not uncommon for school-aged children to start grinding their teeth. Although this can be perfectly harmless in some cases, it can also lead to issues such as wear and tear. As well, if your child is grinding their teeth because their top and bottom teeth are misaligned, this is an issue your dentist should address. Mention your child is grinding so your dentist can check for alignment issues.

They will also note any excessive wear and tear during their exam. In some cases, your dentist might recommend a night guard for your child to help protect their teeth from the pressure of grinding.

Canker Sores


This is another common, but not particularly serious, issue for kids. However, these small mouth sores can be quite uncomfortable, There are many reasons a child might get canker sores, from stress to infections, and poor diet to biting their cheek.

Letting your dentist know your child has canker sores is important, even if they go away quickly. Your dentist can look for possible underlying issues such as aggressive brushing, that they can help correct. If your child experiences canker sores often, your dentist can also provide topical products to reduce pain as well as antimicrobial mouthwash to help with the healing process.

Over-Retained Primary Teeth


Some children’s baby teeth don’t fall out at all. This leads to issues with their adult teeth which can’t push through or develop properly. It is possible the adult teeth may push through the gums behind the baby teeth, creating two rows of teeth. Or your child might not have permanent teeth at all. This condition is referred to as “over-retained primary teeth.”

There are a few possible causes for over-retained teeth, from obstructions to infections and trauma to misalignments. Your dentist will take x-rays to see what’s happening below the gum line to determine what course of action is required.

If you notice any of these common childhood dental problems in your children, give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.


Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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