Is your child complaining that his or her teeth are painful when drinking hot or cold beverages or when biting down on something? This is not something you should ignore, as it could be a symptom of an underlying problem, such as cavities or tooth grinding. Here's a look at the most common causes of tooth sensitivity in kids and what you can do about them.
Cavities and Tooth Decay
This is not an emergency, but you should make an appointment with the dentist at your earliest convenience. Sensitivity, especially in kids, is often caused by cavities and tooth decay. Since not all cavities can be seen with the naked eye, the only way to know if your child has one is to see the dentist. He or she will examine your child's teeth and also take x-rays to look for cavities between the teeth.
If a cavity is found, the dentist will fill it. Your child may still experience a little sensitivity in the first few days or weeks after having the filling put into place. However, the discomfort should subside on its own. If it does not, you should bring your child back to the dentist.
If your child has not been brushing and flossing properly, then it is likely he or she is suffering from a bit of gum disease. Gum disease is essentially an infection of the gums with oral bacteria. As it progresses, it causes the gums to peel away from the base of the teeth, exposing the more sensitive tooth tissue that's usually hidden beneath the gums.
The good news is that you can start "treating" your child's gum disease before you visit the dentist. Make sure your child is brushing twice per day for at least two minutes. Supervise your child's brushing a few times to make sure he or she is getting all of the teeth, not just focusing on one or two sections. Also, help your child floss so you know all of the teeth are being addressed. You can also have your child rinse their mouth out with salt water daily. This will help kill the bacteria that are causing gum disease.
If the sensitivity starts to subside once you start treating your child for gum disease, then you can rest assured that this was likely the case. It is still a good idea to schedule an appointment with the dentist. If the gum disease is severe, the dentist may recommend additional treatments like deep cleaning or antibiotic rinse to help get it under control before it leads to bigger problems -- like loose teeth.
Many kids grind their teeth when they are stressed. This behavior is especially common at night. Observe your child when he or she is sleeping. Do you hear grinding noises? Does your child seem to be clenching his or her jaw? Grinding can wear away the enamel on the teeth, exposing the nerves and causing sensitivity.
Your dentist should also be able to detect signs of grinding, too. The child's teeth may appear worn, or their jaw may be stiff. If grinding is suspected, your dentist will design a special mouth guard for your child to wear to bed. This will prevent the grinding and, in time, alleviate the sensitivity. Note that a mouth guard from a drugstore is not a suitable substitute. These are not designed to be worn for long periods of time and may push the teeth out of alignment, leading to bigger problems.
Tooth sensitivity in kids is not uncommon, and luckily, the major causes are easy to treat. Don't hold off on seeking treatment for your child's sensitivity. Whether caused by cavities, gum disease or tooth grinding, the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner your child will be comfortable again. If you have any questions about your child's tooth sensitivity, call a local dentist, such as Village Family Dental, to discuss your concerns.